There is nothing you can do. No time. When Daddy says get in the car, you get in the car. You don’t make him wait. You don’t talk back. You don’t ask questions. You sit in your seat, eyes front, buckle your seat belt and be ready for the ride.
You won’t know where the two of you are going. It does not matter. Where Daddy goes, you go.
Sometimes it is scary because it happens so quick. One minute you are eating Cheerios together in the living room, watching late night TV and you are laughing together about the stupid things people tell Johnny Carson and everything is great and happy and fun and then, with exactly no warning, Daddy goes all still, listening for something you cannot hear. And he leans forward in his chair, suddenly tense and ready to spring, like he is waiting for something to happen and then he is yelling and grabbing for his keys. Pulling at your arm, telling you to hurry. Yelling for you to be quiet. And there is urgency in him. There is precision. And you reach for your favorite toys because there is no telling where you will be going this time, for how long. You manage to grab Dolly which is good because Dolly is the only important doll anyway. She’s the one your momma gave you when you were too young to remember. And it would be awful to leave Dolly behind since you don’t really remember your momma except for a few pictures but you like to think that Dolly remembers her and leaving Dolly would be the same as forgetting, except forgetting forever, which would be another kind of dying for your momma who is dead already. At least that it what Daddy says but you can’t be sure because sometimes you look behind you to try and find the person driving the car that is following you in the abysmal dark and it is a woman so you think it might be your momma but you don’t dare ask your Daddy about that because he just tells you to shut up about that and keep eyes front.
Eyes front is the family rule. Look ahead. Be ready to move. Go when Daddy says go.
And you are in the car and you are trying to be brave even though you are really scared, which is not the same thing, Daddy sometimes tells you when you are safe and quiet at the hotel or truck stop or wherever the two of you will be sleeping tonight. Even when you are scared, you can always be brave. Actually, when you are scared is the only time you can be brave. And it is good to see him smile when he tells you this but it isn’t his good smile. It is his eyes front smile. The smile that isn’t happy or glad about anything. The smile that doesn’t want questions.
It would be nice not to have to be brave so much all the time. But even that doesn’t matter after a few hours on the road when Daddy is playing the radio and singing along and he isn’t driving the car so fast and there’s time to watch the night time world pass by. The way the world seems to emerge into the headlights. Like the trees are stretching out to touch you. And the yellow dashy lines from the narrow, country highway strobe in the dark. There are no gas stations out here and Daddy is keeping his eye on the gas needle and also an eye on the speed needle but mostly he is practicing what he has told you. Eyes front. Looking forward.
He drives until you fall asleep. You wake up in a strange, different place. Dolly is with you so maybe momma is with you too. You don’t tell Daddy this. It would just stress him out. He looks sweet and peaceful, sleeping in the hotel room lounge chair. He needs to shave. He needs to brush his hair.
You should brush your teeth but you can’t because you left too fast and didn’t bring your toothbrush. You lay on the bed in the dark room and look up at the hotel ceiling, an unfamiliar sky. There’s nothing to see there. You look anyway. Eyes front.
After a while you will be sleeping and then there will be the dreams. Momma and daddy and kiddo. All one happy, smiling family.
Prompt: “No Daddy No” by Pretty & Twisted.