Our Future was Water

"Vortex" by Eric Breish
“Vortex” by Eric Breish

by Daniel Donaghy

We were whishing down I-95
toward our first shore vacation:
Atlantic City: Dodge Dart
stuffed with sand toys, beach chairs;
back seat spilled-sunblock sweet;
my father’s Schaefer cans sloshing
in a trunk cooler while he whistled
Hank Williams, Jim Reeves,
while my mother slept, thumb
marking her paperback’s page,
while my sister and I tallied
billboards, watched Philly’s
shining skyline slide behind us.

He knew he was pushing
that old car––old clunker he called
Betsy and, worse, those four-
degree mornings she wouldn’t
start and he had to pop
the hood, check the choke,
jiggle wires, and swear, I’m sure,
until she changed her mind and ran––
so he eased up when valves tapped,
coasted down hills, yielded,
stayed in the right lane
ten miles below the limit
until white smoke washed
our windshield.

You don’t realize how long
an exit ramp is until you walk one
with your fuming father.

Our future was water: blue pool
at the motel, the briny ocean,
a boardwalk shower. First,
though, a gallon for our radiator,
so at the bottom of the ramp
we crossed two lights to a gas station,
where my father told our story
to the guy working the pump
who said he wished he could help

but he was all alone
who said Sorry about that
I gotta watch these pumps
who said, after my father asked
if he would like those pumps
up his ass or down his throat,
that maybe he could help.

The guy’s name was sown
onto his shirt, white patch
against dark blue, although
I couldn’t bring it back
by the time we brought
that water to the car,
my father and I swigging some
before he unscrewed
the radiator cap with his sleeve,
before his hissing Dart
swallowed the rest
and we were on our way.


One reply on “Our Future was Water”

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