Left by Benjamin Tyrrell
Her parents were in the car when Bev got there, which was odd. They could only sit in the heat for so long, but sometimes, Bev was convinced that they’d been transformed into something inanimate, like action figures or lawn gnomes. Bev got in the car, and her mother greeted her with a sneer.
“What time is the appointment?” she said, which translated into “Where have you been?”
“We’ve got time,” Bev said.
Her father looked at her with his glassy eyes and smiled an I’m here sort of smile, which was good because his therapy was in fifteen minutes. If he was not here, he would not be there.
“You alright, Pop?” she said, and he responded with, “Mm-hmm,” which, roughly, meant “No,” or “I don’t know,” or “Do you remember a time?”
“Answer her,” her mother said.
“I said, Mm-hmm,” said her father.
Bev shook her head. When they locked horns like this, even momentarily, her father was almost himself. He turned his head as far to the left as it would go and raised his voice.
“I said, Mm-hmm.”
But it was gone as soon as he was facing forward.
They pulled out of the driveway. They really would be late; she could get her mother to physical therapy in fifteen minutes, or her father to the shrink, but not both. She took a left, running the stop sign.
“Where are we going?” Bev’s mother said, which could be translated as “Don’t drive like an idiot,” but was tricky.
“You know where we’re going,” said Bev, and for a moment, her mother gave her a look that wore Bev out. But then she looked out the window.
“I know where we’re going.”
“Where are we going?” said her father.
This she could handle. She patted his hand.
“You know where we’re going.”
Her father’s smiled an absentee smile.
At the top of the hill, Bev took a left, and then at the second stop sign took another left. She was tired, and the simplicity of the directions gave her pleasure.
“Left, left, left, left,” she sang, and gave her father a smile she would give to a child.
“Left, left, left, left,” he intoned.
She took the final left and parked the car perhaps a little hastily. She went to open her mother’s door.
“What are you doing?” said her mother.
“You know what we’re doing,” Bev said, and reached into the car to haul her out, but the woman pulled her hands back like a boxer.
“What?” she said.
She looked at their house, and Bev followed her gaze. They were back where they’d started.
“How—?” Bev said.
She got back in the car and pulled out of the driveway. Her mother watched her in the mirror. At the stop sign, Bev took a left. She took a left at the top of the hill, and again at the second stop sign. She pulled into the drive and looked at her parent’s house. She knew these directions. How could she mess this up?
“We’re going to be late,” her mother said. Somehow, she’d found bifocals, like she wore when her grandsons were children. There was a measure of sanity in her look, but who knew how far that went? She was like a subterranean lake in the bowels of a cave; all you could see was the dark.
“No, we’re not,” Bev said.
She pulled out of the driveway and made a left at the stop sign. Behind her, the woman stared out the window. She was doing something with her hands, something like crocheting. But that wasn’t right. The woman couldn’t do that anymore, with her hands; she didn’t crochet or make pottery or even cook.
As they turned at the top of the hill, they passed an old poplar tree, twisted and reaching. Her father chuckled and nudged at her.
“Remember?” he said, pointing.
She gritted her teeth.
She said, “Dad—”
And then she saw. This was where her brothers had fought after their grandmother died. This, here, was the Calhoons’ old house, where she’d spent every night of the summer after eleventh grade. This was where she’d broken her foot jumping out of a tree when she was seven, and had screamed until her father came and carried her home. She took the last left at forty-five, careening into the driveway so that both her parents jerked forward in their seats. She looked at the house where she grew up.
“Where are we going?” her father said.
She looked at him, and he smiled a smile that said, I’m here. She pulled out of the driveway and ran the stop sign. Beside her, her father’s smile softened into nothing. Her mother watched the neighborhood pass until, gently, she reached up and put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder.
Benjamin A Tyrrell is a working writer out of Greensboro, North Carolina. He waits tables to fund his writing habit. His work has appeared in The Blotter and at Frostwriting.