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Friday, 18 October 2019 12:56

Flying Solo by Jennifer Parsons

Flying Solo by Jennifer ParsonsDrifting back home, moving absently through the burbling chatter and snapping flip flops that flow along the promenade, Daisy hovers at their patio, the scene of last night’s barbeque. She and Dad had celebrated with swordfish kabobs after her first terrifying lesson in his beloved Millennium Falcon. Milly, for short, the ’66 Mustang Dad had fabricated from 6 cylinders to a hybrid, was her father’s baby. Graduating from the Toyota she drove in driver’s ed, to ever gaining the confidence to fly solo in his legendary machine was a fantasy.

To mark the occasion, Dad offered Daisy, her first sanctioned beer. “You’re learning to drive; you should learn to drink beer and then conclude why you should never do both at the same time.”

 “Way to message, Dad.” Daisy smiled, grabbed the beer and toasted him.

The hibachi, TV trays and beach chairs arranged exactly as they left them. Now a still life, for a party of ghosts.

Someone tugs her inside to settle on the vinyl couch. Inert, she is submerged by a running stream of neighbors, friends, pies, and casseroles that pool in the kitchen.  She has no sensation when they hug her, her eyes unprepared to meet theirs, she can only hear their murmurings: “He was so young.  Who will look after Daisy? An aunt, she’s coming. She’s in shock.  Sixteen, or on the cusp.”

Yesterday, the surf was blown out so she and Dad messed around with a vintage longboard he picked up for $10, bright orange and ridiculous. Daisy pranced up and down all eleven feet of it while riding the sloppy foam. Naming the board Sidewalk, they laughed hysterically, capturing the attention of three teenage boys. Embarrassed, Daisy dove into the next small wavelet, bashfully hiding in her mother’s skirts. Dad assured her, once she came up for air, “Those guys just saw an amazing girl who didn’t care what they thought. That’s killer, Daze. U-B-U.”

 

Stalled, sinking into memory, she stares at the screen door willing her Dad to come through and rescue her. A sudden, jolt of adrenalin, reminds her to breathe and Daisy surfaces. Standing up, her legs rip free of the tacky vinyl. Maybe they got something wrong. She checks his bedroom. But all she finds is the laundry basket she abandoned when the news broke that afternoon, clothes in piles on the bed, mid-sort. Nuzzling the Yoda t-shirt, he wore yesterday, she still can’t find him, his essence washed away. 

Gently resting Yoda in a dresser drawer, she discovers a small box, wrapped in birthday paper. The bow tempts her, as though he were still coaxing her to take the next step, even if she feels it isn’t time, even it’s not her birthday yet. Sitting at the edge of his bed she slowly unwraps the box and lifts the lid. Laying on a bed of blue tissue paper is a keychain, an oval piece of thick leather embossed with an idyllic beach scene, palms, ocean and sand. A blue key to match the water, a green one for the palms. Symbolism Dad named, born from an old Hawaii travel poster that had always been in Daisy’s room— Mom was the ocean, he had always been the palms, still standing.

The note reads, “You are launched, my Grasshopper! Milly is your girl now. Love, Dad”

As if summoned, she works her way barefoot across the gritty beach pavement, sticky with spilled soda and ice creams, to the parking spaces. Reverently, she takes her place at Milly’s helm.

The aroma of last week’s spilled coffee, mixed with the pineapple coconut scent of the hula girl air freshener, invites her to tuck into the bucket seat; allowing the familiar grip and bumpy texture to embrace her like her father’s arms. Clutching the smooth, leather flap of the key chain, she realizes she holds his faith in her.

Rubbing her thumb back and forth across the etched palms and ocean, remembering the day before, heart pounding, hands slippery with panic, she crudely navigated the Mustang between the two narrowly spaced poles of their beach alley carport. She can hear Dad’s voice, even and calm, guiding her, “Use the force, Daze. Just move forward. You got this.”

As the tide begins to rise, the swell to crest, she pulls on the steering wheel, throwing her head back to roar, at last, her first wave of tears. The first of a ferocious set that surge and crash all the dark night.

At dawn the torrents subside, she steadies, adjusting and swaying with the currents she reconstitutes, more ready and able to take on the next. “I feel you, Dad. I got this. 

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Jennifer Parsons is an actor by trade, working in film, TV & theatre. In the last few years, she has also started to try her hand at writing, finding herself drawn to the middle grade and YA genre. It may have been all the Theatre for Young Audience plays she did at South Coast Repertory in Southern California that made her realize what stories appealed to her most. After many, many adult plays, she found the stories geared towards a younger audience were often more moving and more profound. It could be she still has some things to work out! She started writing about things she wish she had read about when she was a young person. She lives happily with her husband and two cats in Irvine, CA. And her stories often involve cats.

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