Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The boys scooted their new racecars over the stone pavilion, and, on the far side of the pavilion, two little girls watched with round, solemn eyes. “Let’s go,” the girls’ mom said, over and over, but they kept their attention glued to the boys, their fast little toys, the smooth movement of the wheels.

The boys’ father noticed, smiled, remembered. The girls’ mother tapped her foot, repeated herself, and shrugged. The man tried to meet her eye, but she just dug through her purse. He shrugged himself. She was young, pretty, and probably married. He was a middle-aged widower, with raw, limp limbs and a belly that would have been attractive on top of a muffin, but did not have the same effect beneath his paint-spattered T-shirt.

Again, the woman urged the little girls, but their eyes only pointed to the smooth rolling cars. True north, the man though. He didn’t understand these performance moms, always in a hurry to load the kids into the minivan and haul them to the next activity. His boys could scoot their racecars around here all day if they wanted.

In her lifetime, he had laughed at his wife’s minivan, but after her death, he had sold his own sporty two-door Mitsubishi and held on to the Grand Caravan. And before that—long before that—he had first caught her eye leaning against his old Camaro. Girls liked that car. They couldn’t help but look at a man in such a smooth ride.

It dawned on him that boys liked cool cars, and girls liked boys with cool cars. And women would look at him again if he drove something a little more adventurous. A motorcycle, for instance. The helmet would cover his hairline, and the leather jacket would camouflage his gut. His boys made motor noises with their mouths and laughed as they crashed into each other, not noticing the girls being dragged off by the young mother.

They wouldn’t nap anymore, his boys. Their mother would have known how to lull them to sleep, but the secret eluded him. When they got cranky, he loaded them into the minivan, drove them across town, and bought them both two-wheelers.