Just before the Bib by John Gorman
It’s another Buick day. While the other valets toss dice and recount Friday night’s shenanigans, Zeke takes your ride for a spin, peeling out with Le Mans moxie, the cool night air whipping his hair like it’s a Muppet wig. He’s celebrating the anniversary of his first Corvette, a transcendental, all-engrossing, unrepeatable rush. He compares it to slapping a high-five with Neil Armstrong.
He sniffs the factory-installed leather as if stepping into an herbal bath. All his troubles melt away. He even forgets that Vera wears a greasy apron over her bulging belly while she flips burgers at the drive-in. He’s antsy from the word go. Only the rubbery whirl of Goodyears fuel his engine. He donuts by the gaudy porpoise fountain, flaunting all its marble glory for the sirloin-lusting tribe. A pigeon’s spit to the right, camps an ungainly clutch of bonsai the other valets pluck from and roll into their joints. Zeke misses the good shit, the hydroponic mamajamba mixed with bonsai shavings because he needs to drive. He gets his high from gearshifts, whistling pistons, the centrifugal, hypnotic swerve of rounding bends.
And then his world skids. G-Spliff breaks the news, inks it into a flattened Camel pack. Vera’s water broke while dumping a bin of frozen fries under the heating lamp.
G-Spliff offers to drive the soon-to-be-daddy. Zeke is tapioca. G-Spliff has no other choice, grabs his homeslice like a moldy, secondhand rug, and stuffs him into the backseat. Zeke’s coiled like a fetus. Everything G-Spliff says either sounds like a lullaby or Morse code. Plymouths and Buicks fade to Jags and Mercedes. Camaros tail Alfa Romeos. Porsches nose past Infinitis. Lamborghinis luge.
They hit something and the tire rips. No spare. Zeke’s pudding head cranks into consciousness. Serendipity is cruel and heartless, a wet eel. He curses his fate. What if he doesn’t see his firstborn? What if he misses this miracle? He’s lived to drive, he drives to live, but right now, the road’s a toothless abyss. He runs. It’s all he can do. He pumps, churns, and chugs. His scuffy shoes smell like tar and his head is oily. He’s never wished time to cool. He promises to park Hondas for a month, bite stickers off windshields, give CPR to carburetors and sparkplugs. He’ll donate his pancreas. In the distance, a nursery of cicadas hums. Maybe he’ll never drive another Corvette. As the blisters are piping under his soles, he knows he must pony up. The glint from the hospital flickers like a votive candle. His tongue is gauze. He cuts a deal with the Great Motorhead in the clouds, giving up his ultimate fantasy. It’ll cost him his grandmother’s name, and Vera’s too. Neither family will be honored.
Lamborghini will sleep in his arms, rock in her crib. Lamborghini will bounce on his knee, spit up on his chin. She’ll crawl and cry, sniff and smile. Lamborghini will someday poke her head out the back window of a mint green Plymouth.
Before John Gorman‘s stories made it into print he snapped the Eyesore of the Week for The Queens Ledger. Now he spits wine for a living. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Writer’s Digest, The Summerset Review, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere. His debut novel, Shades of Luz, is published by All Things That Matter Press. He snagged his MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University.