by Sarah Daniels
The Puke Yellow Lada has a pool of water in the footwell of the passenger seat. When you get in you’ve got to be careful not to drop your dance bag, or your books, or your doll down there or they’ll come back sopping and crumbed with dirt.
In winter it freezes. You can, if you want, ice skate on it. My school shoes are perfect for skating. I’ve done a good job of smoothing down the soles by dragging my feet along the pavement, so now, as soon as it gets cold enough, I’ll be able to slide on the ice. I’ll hold myself up between the seats. My legs will go all blurry like that bird being chased by the coyote. I’ll only have a minute, mind, because if Mum catches me she’ll threaten to smack the back of my legs.
Once, on our way to the seaside, the Puke Yellow Lada broke down. It was the fan belt my dad said. Me and my brother were in the back snuggled into a den of duvet. Our bodies fluffy and tingling hot under the covers, our faces exposed to the night air that kept Dad from falling asleep at the wheel. The traffic rushed by in fast forward, each passing lorry making our tiny capsule rock. I watched the shadow of my dad moving through the gap between the bonnet and the engine. That’s why you always keep a pair of tights in the glove box, my dad said, in case you need to replace the fan belt. I wondered why you wouldn’t just keep a spare fan belt in the glove box.
‘What d’you call a Lada at the top of a hill?’ Vicky From Down The Street says when we’re hanging upside down from the swings in her back garden. Dandelion faces stare up at us from the long grass – the yellow ones, not the clocks – and there’s a dog shit hidden somewhere nearby, I can smell it. ‘A miracle.’ Vicky laughs so hard a line of green bogey shoots out her nose. So I pinch the fleshy bit at the top of her arm until it goes blotchy red and the finger marks go white and there are little half moon nail marks. Her face is ugly when she cries. My mum says Vicky From Down The Street will have a baby before she’s 13 so I needn’t worry what she says about us.
The Puke Yellow Lada has rubbish in the boot. Dad’s asked me not to say anything about it to Mum and I quite like having a secret that’s just ours. The rubbish is mostly boxes with little spouts for pouring whatever was inside. They slosh swampily like they’ve still got dregs at the bottom. Each box has a painting of a sunny day on it; a yellow meadow and a tiny house. While Dad’s dragging another black bin liner out from the garage I put my nose inside one of the spouts and sniff. It scratches my throat and smells like a version of Dad’s breath. As he adds more boxes to the wobbling box mountain he says it won’t happen again. I believe him, although I’m not entirely sure what it is. He drives away with the mountain in the boot before Mum gets in from work. When he comes back the boot’s empty apart from the smell.
Mum and Dad sometimes sit in the Puke Yellow Lada by themselves. They listen to music turned up loud so that the deep parts thud around in my tummy. Me and my brother wait on the concrete of the front step so Mum can watch us from the drive. I run my fingers over the broken patch that looks like a giant took a bite out of it. There are ants trailing across the path and up the side of the house, getting lost in the pebbledash. We arrange blades of grass and stones so that they have to go around or climb over. When she gets out of the car Mum will have a face on her for the rest of the day and Dad will stay out in the garage until it’s dark.
Mum sometimes cries in the Puke Yellow Lada. Her hands grip the steering wheel and her shoulders shake and she turns her face to the window so we can’t see the tears. Her knuckles go white like Vicky From Down The Street’s skin did when I pinched her. Mum’s packed some of our clothes into plastic Tesco’s bags; school jumpers and my ballet leotard. I wonder whether this time we’re going on holiday. My brother asks me the same thing and I shush him and tell him to mind his own. We’ll find out when we get there.
Sarah Daniels is a recovering academic writing in rural Lincolnshire. She is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative Online Novel Writing Course and a finalist in the 2018 NYC Midnight Short Story competition. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Gravel, Five on the Fifth and Ghostlight, the Magazine of Terror.