The Touring Test

E. F. S. Byrne

Dad got into the car, started the engine and put the air conditioning on. He knew how hot it would become.

Frustratingly slow, the family followed. Lucia, Rosalia and Jimena piled into the back, a shower of squeals, elbow attacks and general mayhem. Finally, his wife struggled into the seat beside him, handbag still open, keys falling out, telephone bleeping.

“Are we ready?” Dad asked, trying not to lose his patience.

“Go, dad, go.”

Dad went. They hit the highway and sailed west.

“I’m hungry.”

“Stop it.”

“Leave your little sister alone.”

“Turn up the music Dad.”

The back seat rocked with chatter and the jingle of cheap jewelry. The smell of strawberry chewing gum stuck to the air. The swirl of growing banter and rising irritations made it difficult to focus on the road.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“He is.”

“Dad! Slow down!”

Dad lifted his foot, ground his teeth, and stared at his girls in the rear view mirror. Come on, he thought. Give me a break.

“Push over.”

“Why am I always in the middle?”

“Stop it!”

Their father tried to crowd them out, bite his tongue, focus on the traffic. He loved their excitability, but feared their wrath, the arguments when emotions boiled over.

“Not far to go.” He sounded cheerful, encouraging. He knew he was lying.

“It’s mine.”

“It’s not!”

“Girls. Please!” Their mother tried to keep her voice down. “Let your father drive in peace.”

“I’m hungry.”

“We’ll stop soon honey. Just let your father concentrate.”

“Are you concentrating dad?”

They all laughed. They liked making fun of dad, watching him grow red until the veins on his nose bubbled.

“We love you really dad.”

“But I’m still hungry.”

“Manolo! Slow down!”

His wife reached a hand across to pat his knee.

“They’re not back there.”

The woman sighed, eyes squirming with escaping tears. She withdrew her fingers. “They’re gone honey. Slow down.”

Tenderness laced her words, but Manolo was still staring into the rear view mirror at the speed cop and flashing lights. Sirens blared. Manolo swerved again. She was right. They’d gone. There was no turning back. He put his foot down.

E. F. S. Byrne works in education and writes when his teenage kids allow it. He blogs a regular micro flash story. Links to this and over fifty published pieces can be found on his website. Follow him on Twitter (@efsbyrne).