by Robert Scotellaro
Cara finds the “tit pics” on her husband’s phone. They are smaller, perkier than her own and she doesn’t say a word about it to him. Just gives him the cold shoulder (which he brushes off like dandruff, clueless) and heads off to work.
When Cara picks their daughter, Sandy, up from school Sandy has two of her girlfriends with her who scurry into the back seat. A sleepover is planned. In no time the girls are all texting wildly into their phones. Cara cannot get the image of those nipples, and the direction they are pointing, out of her head as she enters the freeway with her hands too tightly on the wheel, a heavy foot on the gas. She hasn’t smoked pot in years, but knows her teenage daughter does, regularly, because she’s picked the lock to Sandy’s diary. She even knows where her daughter keeps it. Decides it just might steady her nerves to have a few tokes.
‘Okay,’ Cara says to the teenager beside her. ‘Fork it over.’ The two girls in the back look up.
Sandy turns. ‘What?’
‘Gimme,’ her mother says with one hand on the wheel, the other extended. ‘Your father doesn’t know. Let’s keep it that way. But we’ll talk about it later. And don’t even think about denying it. It’s in your make-up bag under all that crap. Now, missy.’
‘Mom!’ the girl says.
Sandy takes one of the three tightly rolled sticks of pot out and hands it over. The two girls in the back sit there with their mouths swung open as Cara pushes in the dash lighter and sets the tip on fire, inhales deeply.
Bob is on the freeway headed the other way. He’s just gotten his pink slip after 21 years of working an assembly line. But between the arthritis in his hands and the pain killers he takes, he can no longer keep up, so now he is heading home to sulk with what’s left of the bottle of E & J whiskey on his lap. The music (some hard rock station he never listens to) is turned up to distortion. ‘Fuck!—fuck!—fuck!’ he says as he weaves from lane to lane, having a difficult time keeping within the dividing lines, his foot heavy on the gas. Bobbing his head unconsciously to a music he can’t stand.
Cara and Bob
Cara has never smoked anything this strong. Sunlight strikes at her from car chrome and she squints, wishes she wasn’t so distraught when she left and remembered to bring her sunglasses. ‘Wow,’ Cara says, ‘this shit is pow-er-ful,!’ and the girls in the back giggle. But beside her, her daughter is knifing her with dirty looks. Finally, Sandy reaches over to take the joint from her mother’s lips, when it tumbles from them and bounces off Cara’s leg to the floor. Cara is, for a moment disoriented, looking down and around, hoping it hasn’t landed in her lap. Cara’s car is closest to the oncoming traffic that Bob is in, and she edges out of her lane and the girls scream as they see Bob’s car get bigger and closer and the look on his drunken face in a flash. They are inches from collision when Cara spins the wheel with an adrenalin-rich response in time, keeping their various metals intact as she steadies the vehicle.
Bob lowers the radio and tosses the open bottle out the window. The girls in the back seat are holding each other’s hands, squeezing, squeezing. Sandy finds what is left of the joint at her feet and presses it against the dash to put it out and returns it to her make-up bag, slaps her mother’s arm hard, then cries.
Cara says, ‘Oh, honey…’ The wheel a part of her now, her eyes on the road. Bob eases his foot off the gas, marshals a reservoir of focus he keeps for such occasions, remains between the lane lines. Turns off the radio. Can hear a better music from a convertible that passes. The man driving it glances over and shakes his head.
Just off the freeway there is a stand of poplars and a field of wildflowers. High above it all is a hawk gliding with a descending corkscrew motion, circling lower and lower. It spots something with a keen eye cocked, and drops.
Robert Scotellaro’s work has been included in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, New World Writing, Gargoyle, Matter Press, Best Small Fictions 2016, 2017, and 2021, Best Microfiction 2020, and others. He’s the author of seven chapbooks and five flash story collections. He has, with James Thomas, co-edited New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, published by W.W. Norton. Robert is one of the founding donors to The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. Visit him at www.robertscotellaro.com