by Dan Crawley

The mom pointed at the billboard announcing a spacious new mall at the next exit. She said it was time for a vacation from this vacation, which meant she was going in to look around and her children were staying put in the Duster with their dad. It was a weekday, and the many empty parking spaces made the mall seem deserted. The children and the dad watched a blast of wind propel the mom’s body sideways as she hurried for the curb, agitating her thick hair like clothes in a washer.

The dad yawned and slouched in the driver’s seat, nodding off. The eldest sister climbed into the passenger seat, turned the key and switched on the radio, eventually tuning in a station that was crackle-free. The eldest sister pumped her fists and bobbed her head. And the sisters and brother in the back seat bounced to the music. The car shimmied along with more gusts from outside. Other songs played and then the dad woke up suddenly and switched off the radio. He looked out the windows in all directions, blinking rapidly.

The dad said the last thing they needed was a dead battery.

The eldest sister pouted. She loved that song. She loved Cat.

The dad opened the driver’s side door and told everyone to stay put. The blowing air slammed the door shut for him. The sisters and brother watched their dad move swiftly toward the mall entrance, bowed down low, spearing through nothing.

The eldest sister scooted over behind the steering wheel, calling out that their dad had left the keys and she was only a year and a half away from getting her driver’s permit. The other sisters screamed and climbed over the front seat and scrambled out the passenger door. They huddled in the next parking space over. The brother stayed in the back seat. He got up on his knees and pumped his fists.

The eldest sister saw over the dash when she lifted her chin up high, calling out she knew all about the gas and brake pedals. She drove the Duster in slow expanding circles over the lines of parking spaces, chasing the other sisters toward the sidewalk. The brother yelled to go faster, faster. So finally she did. Whenever the Duster turned directly into the wind, the front tires almost levitated. She screamed they were flying, gripping the wheel with her small colorless hands. They sped by the sidewalk and the brother pointed at a running blur and screamed their dad was flying, too.

The eldest sister said it was time for a vacation from this vacation. They quickly approached an intersecting road at the end of the lot, veering onto it without stopping, the tires shrieking. Her whole body moved with the wheel. Horns honked. The brother howled. Cars sped around them. But with the wind at its back, soon the Duster joined the others speeding straight down the road, all of them remaining effortlessly between their lines.

Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including CHEAP POPNew World WritingSpelkJellyfish Review, and New Flash Fiction Review. Along with teaching creative writing and literature courses in Arizona, he reads fiction for Little Patuxent Review.

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