Volume 3 Number 4


Autumn 2005


by Bruce Holland Rogers

My father was going to take me for a drive, but first we had to shave. I found my red plastic razor with its yellow plastic blades and brought them into the bathroom. I stood on the stool. My father squirted a dab of his shaving cream onto my palm, and we watched ourselves and each other in the mirror as we put foam on our faces. He stroked his silver razor across his cheek. I shaved my cheek, too. He swished his razor in the basin of warm water to rinse it before the next stroke. So did I. The only difference between us was that when he rinsed, there were black whiskers in the water and not just foam.

I wanted to shave for real. I wanted time to hurry up.

My father's hair, which had been black a moment ago, now had some gray in it. He made a face so he could shave under his nose. I made the same face. There were little lines on the side of his eyes, and the next time I looked at them, they were wrinkles. He shaved under his chin. His whiskers were rinsing out white. His hair was completely gray. Then it was all white. Then it was like smoke, and I could see through it to his skin. This surprised me, but my father was full of surprises. He could find a dime behind my ear every time he looked.

We changed the water in the basin and rinsed our faces. There were so many wrinkles in my father's face that he almost didn't look like himself any more. We patted our faces dry, and we put on aftershave.

"Okay, Sport," he said. "Let's go!"

I gave myself a head start to the hallway, and then I shouted, "Race you!"

My father laughed. I could feel him coming right behind me as I tore down the hall and out the front door. The car was in the driveway. I opened the door and jumped in.

"Winner!" I cried, raising my arms. "I won!"

The driver's door didn't open. I stood on the seat. I didn't see my father in the driveway. Maybe he was hiding right next to the car. Maybe he would pop up and say, "Boo!"

I waited.

After a while, I got out and walked around the car. I looked underneath. He wasn't there.

Back inside the house, I found his keys lying in the hallway. I picked them up. I called for him. I called for my mother. I checked in the bathroom. The sink was dry. There was dust on it. There was dust everywhere. In my parents' bedroom, I hit their bedspread -- whomp! -- and watched the dust rise up and drift around in a sunbeam. I called again and again.

There still wasn't anyone in the driveway. I got in the car, on the driver's side this time, and sat behind the wheel. I lay down on the seat. I stood up on it. I honked the horn.

When I was hungry, I went back inside the house. In the kitchen, the cabinets and the refrigerator were empty. I turned the faucet. No water came out.

Back in the car, I put the keys in the ignition. I had seen my father drive lots of times. I could do it. I turned the keys. The motor started. I moved the thing on the steering wheel that my father would move. The car started forward, slowly. I could tell from the tops of the trees when I was at the end of the drive and had to turn the wheel.

I told myself that I was only a little bit afraid.