Sara exhales deeply and her breath falters as her chest falls back down. To say she was dreading this dinner party would be the understatement of the century. She stares at the picture in her hand and wonders how her mother ever let him push her so fast in the little red “goey.” Her heart drops into the deepest part of her torso and her eyes burn as she closes them for the first time in minutes. Warm tears creep down her cheek, pause and then fall. Almost startled, a sleeve hastily reaches up and wipes the damp from her face, drawing a long line of glistening snot down her forearm.
Sara’s eyes open again and as she looks at the four by six Kodak print and a memory stirs that has long since been forgotten with age. Grampa is the eye behind the camera. The slight motion blur and careless composition would never have happened at the hands of her father, a real life photographer. A blonde haired, three-foot-tall tyrant sits behind the plastic steering wheel of the Flintstone reminiscent Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. He runs behind her with one hand on the roof of the toy, pushing her down the driveway.
“Faster!” she shouts between giggles. Dirty bare feet peek out from the bottom of the vehicle and a gap-toothed grin glows in the right side of the frame as Grampa struggles to capture them quickly enough. Her voice shakes with the bumps of tiny rocks scattered on the pavement. The little red car jerks from her frenetic steering, testing the small plastic wheels and her mother’s steel nerves. Mommy’s reproach echoes from the front porch demanding that he be more careful and reminding them that dinner is almost ready. It will have to wait. The laughter always muffles her calls, and it takes a hundred more mosquito bites to bring them inside where cold meatloaf and flat, watered down soda are waiting – a consequence of their tardiness.
Sara vaguely hears her name called from somewhere inside the house and places the picture on the wooden work desk scarred with water stains and scratches from careless years of use and abuse. She inhales for a long time and lets it all out with one great sigh. It hurts less this time, but her eyes still burn. She doesn’t fit in the “goey” now. One leg is entirely outside and her bare left foot is sticky against the cold garage floor. Her back is hunched over into a painful U shape, and her palm is nearly as big as the steering wheel. Her mother finds her a few minutes later and tells her it’s time to go. They climb into the black car.
It is nearly dusk when Sara gets her final look at his casket. What she hopes is her last tear runs down the crease between her nose and the flesh of her cheek before finally melting into her lip. Minutes pass without thought and she finally pivots on her heel and heads back to where her mother is waiting by the car.
The ride home is short and the sunset is beautiful. Sara swats a mosquito that snuck in through the open door nearly a half an hour before. She smiles a little bit and asks, “do you think anyone brought meatloaf?”