dropped off

Long before my sister Lea and I began to bicker over the rules of calling “Shotgun,” we were comfortable in the back seat of our Mother’s cars.  Just about every year it was a different car.  A rental.  Neglected looking, used, maroon or pale blue, cars that Mother called “jalopies.”  I believe a factor in my parents’ divorce were all of those National Car Rental heaps.   My father always had the latest model two-door Cadillac; they smelled like leather.  Our mother was stuck with a four-door station wagon, or even worse, a Pinto with bucket seats and torn “pleather” patched with duct tape colored to match.  Lea and I liked the station wagons.  We’d fold down the middle seat and sprawl out on our backs, putting our bare feet against the cool glass trunk door.  Watching the heat from our feet make disappearing prints on the glass.  On long car rides, after the excitement of grooming and playing with our Barbies wore off, after making obscene gestures at the passengers in other cars, and once the string for Cats & Cradles became knotted, Lea and I would fight.  At first it was playful.  When my mother would turn the car up a ramp or along the sway of a road, I’d exaggerate gravity and shove Lea against the door.  She’d do it, too, but she was smaller and didn’t weigh as much as I did.  We laughed and shoved until it got painful.  Lea would begin to moan, scream, and laugh again.  This went on for a while punctuated with our mother’s occasional warnings that she was going to drop us off on the side of the road if we didn’t “Cut it out!”  One day, I remember finally yelling at her to go ahead and do it.  I must have done something to really get to her because I remember not wanting to get out of the car as soon as she stopped it short.  She actually got out of the car and tried to rip me out of it.  I was screaming, red, and trying to grip onto the roof of the car from the inside as I kicked at her.  She finally did rip me out onto the ground, slammed the car door, and left me sitting there on the hot tar road, tiny pebbles sticking to my thighs.  Lea was screaming, hair in her mouth, and I remember looking down at the ground when she drove the car off.  An ant crawled over my fingernail.