by Kathryn Mockler
There was snow. There was ice on the sidewalk. He kept slipping in his runners. His mother called them runners, but they were really called running shoes—although truth be told, he never did much running. Some people call them sneakers. But he never did much sneaking either.
What he did do? He raced remote control toy dune buggies whenever he got the chance. In between taking his mother to doctor appointments. In between shifts at the laundry. On hot days. On cold days. Christmas morning. He didn’t smoke. He didn’t drink. He just liked dune buggies.
She wouldn’t let him practice in the house. She didn’t like the noise. She didn’t even like the noise in the yard, so she sent him to the park. But the park was a problem because all the dogs that chased her. Her as in his dune buggy who he called Gretta—not her as in his mother. The dogs would chase Gretta as if she was a toy. They would bark and slobber and bite.
And then the gas station near their house closed, and they got rid of the pumps and the building and put a wire fence around the lot. A dream come true. A dream come true. His own space where he could practice with no distractions, with no kids asking if they try Gretta out. No dogs. Maybe the odd old nosey bugger, but he could put up with that.
His mother told him to put on winter boots when she saw him in his runners.
—I’m a grown man, Ma, he said. Don’t tell me what to do.
And then he pushed her a little.
Not too hard. It was just a little push, but she stumbled back and tripped on her slippers or her housecoat—he couldn’t tell which.
Sometimes his mother didn’t get dressed and that depressed him. Sometimes she smelled bad because she didn’t shower often enough. Sometimes he wished she wasn’t alive to give him such a hard time.
She hit the floor before he could grab her. She hit the floor with loud thud. Something fell off the table. Maybe a dish of peppermints or a candle.
In the commotion, he accidentally turned on the power, and Gretta swerved and turned and hit his mother’s veiny leg and then the coat closet. The only sound was Gretta’s motor vibrating against the solid wooden door.
His mother was right. His shoes didn’t have enough treads, and he was slipping and sliding all the way to the vacant lot. It was hard to steer Gretta when he felt so off-balance. So he walked a little slower over the ice, and when he could, he walked on the street. But he was worried about Gretta and feared she might get hit by a car, so he steered her close to him.
He just had to open the fence a little and eased old Gretta through ahead of him, her motor buzzing softly in the cold winter air. And then he let her rip. And she was flying through the snow like a bird.
Each time she lunged through the air, his heart lunged too. And his body felt like a body feels when it’s in love.
Kathryn Mockler is a writer, poet, and screenwriter. Her third collection of poetry, The Purpose Pitch, is forthcoming from Mansfield Press in 2015. She is the Toronto editor of Joyland: a hub for short fiction and the publisher of The Rusty Toque.