I just want simple answers, easy to understand words ,not too long answers. I will choose the lowes bid
On the Right Track
I had to admit I thought he was pretty good-looking. He was dressed kind of preppy, sort of like the ads in GQ.
1. Focus on the Narrator In a paragraph identify and trace three or more changes that take place in the speaker's situation, experience, and ambitions and what you think caused these changes.
2. Improvise a Conversation A pivotal moment in the story comes in the scene when Kim is annoyed and orders a pizza. Write a conversation between Kim and the narrator that helps to reveal and explain Kim's state of mind.
3. Write a Short Story Choose one of the main characters in this story, and write a couple of paragraphs describing a key event in the character's life that took place some time after the four went off in separate directions. Use clues from the last five paragraphs of "On the Right Track" to get you started.
by Dorothy Chisholm
Before you read,discuss what it means to be "on the right track." What other common phrases use the word "track" in this way?
As you read,pay close attention to the language of the narrator. How do her speech patterns affect your judgement of her personality and situation?
Dorothy Chisholm lives and works in Toronto. This story was short-listed for the 1990 Kingston Regional Literary Awards.
auteur: French word for "author," referring to famous maverick film directors such as Orson Welles, who exercised great control over their films, independent of the Hollywood system.
Grade 13: in Ontario, an additional year of high school geared to university-bound students. Discontinued as of 2003.
I hate trendy, you know what I mean? That's why when Kim said let's go to Yorkville for lunch one day, my first impulse was to say no. Besides, I didn't have any money. I was trying to save for a trip to Florida so I usually ate at the Burger Barn. Kim would say I ate too much junk food. She was into yogurt and salads.
Anyway, Kim says never mind about the money, I'll lend you some until payday. When I pointed out that it would take two subway tokens to get to Yorkville and back, Kim says never mind the subway, walking is good for you.
I asked Kim what was so great about this cafe in Yorkville and she said there was this terrific guy who ate there. She'd seen him a few times when she went there with Sara. Sara was a girl in our office who quit to have a baby right after I arrived. I sort of replaced her, although she had a lot more responsibility than they'd given me. Anyway, Kim had decided that she had to figure out a way to meet this guy.
Kim was about the only friend I had in the office then. I'd only been there a month and most of the other people in the office were pretty old. Kim had some funny ideas but I liked her. She was really good looking. Golden blond hair and skin that took a great tan. She wore a lot of white, which really showed off her tan and also her terrific figure.
Her name wasn't really Kim. It was Joyce, but she didn't like it and had got everybody to call her Kim. I have to admit it suited her better than Joyce did. Anyway, she talked me into going to Yorkville for lunch and to eat a lot. Order a small salad, she says, because you can fill up on the French bread they put on the table before you even order.
The cafe was one of those small restaurants with a lot of white and chrome and plants all over the place. And everyone is drinking white wine or Perrier water.
Kim asks the waiter if they have any special dishes for dieters. She flashes him this big smile and he says maybe you'd like to try a small salad. So she says she'll have a very small green salad and some Earl Grey tea. I order the same thing.
Well Kim hardly ate anything. She just kept looking around while I ate a whole basket of French bread. I was still hungry when we left and the terrific guy hadn't shown up. Never mind, Kim says, patience is its own reward.
I don't know about patience. I think it was more like determination with Kim. We went back about a week later and, this time, he was there. I had to admit I thought he was pretty good-looking. He was dressed kind of preppy, sort of like the ads in GQ. That's Gentlemen's Quarterly, which I don't read, but Kim never missed an issue. He was wearing a navy jacket, white shirt, striped tie, Rosedale written all over him.
Not exactly a hunk, but better than okay, I told Kim. She looked at me as if I was sort of ignorant and said that understatement was the essence of good taste or something like that.
Anyway, after she'd finished her salad, Kim said she was going to the washroom and I couldn't believe what she did next. Just as she passes his table, she drops her purse. Talk about corny. But, just the way she did it, for a minute I thought it was an accident. He must have thought so too, because he bends over and picks up the purse. Kim flashes him this great smile and it seems to work because his eyes follow her all the way to the washroom. On the way back she stops and says, haven't I seen you in the Manulife Centre? He says yes, I work in there and Kim says well, bye-bye and gives him a little wave.
I couldn't get over her nerve and I also couldn't figure out how she knew the building he worked in. I asked her on the way back to our office, and she says just a lucky guess. I would have found out eventually anyway, she says.
I wondered why she went to all that trouble. She had lots of offers from guys to go out with them. But she turned most of them down because, she said, she knew what she wanted, which was to meet the right type of person. And if you don't get off on the right track, you'll always regret it, she said.
Kim and I started to go to the beach on the weekends to work on our tans and watch the wind surfers. One day I saw this guy I was in grade 10 with. Donny. He's pretty good-looking, nice too, and he tells me he's had a hard time finding a job. But he's working, he says, at the Sears warehouse. We talked for a while and he said he'd give me a call sometime.
Meanwhile, Kim was eyeing this guy in a Ralph Lauren polo shirt and shorts. He was playing frisbee and he had great muscles. On the way home, Kim tells me he has too many muscles. Too much muscle is gross, she says, and probably means he's developed his body instead of his brain.
I told Kim I thought Donny was nice but she says, warehouse, talk about downward mobility. She didn't say it to be mean. She talked like that because she read a lot of magazines. For example, she read Toronto Life from cover to cover and she also read Glamour and Cosmo.
I used to hang out sometimes at this pub near where I lived. I'd go there with Carol, a girl I knew in high school. Kim didn't go to pubs. They're full of jocks, she said. Girls are just another sport to them. She didn't ever go to singles bars, either. Meat markets, she said, they're for losers.
Kim liked to go to expensive boutiques to try on clothes. The first time she asked me to go I told her I couldn't afford to buy anything but she says, don't worry, we're not going to buy anything. We'll just see what we like and then go down to Spadina and get the same thing, only cheaper.
Meanwhile, we kept going to the cafe in Yorkville and sometimes we saw the guy from the Manulife Centre whose name turned out to be Rob. We talked a bit more each time and eventually he and Kim got around to her phone number. But she told him she was just in the process of moving and when she was settled in she'd give him a call.
Which was more or less true because Kim had been trying to talk me into sharing an apartment. She said she was sick of riding the subway all the way from North York and I had to admit it was a long way for me from Etobicoke.
I told Kim I really couldn't afford an apartment but she said we could buy stuff at the Sally Ann and now that she'd finally met Rob we could cut out the lunches in Yorkville. I figured I could put my trip to Florida on hold for a while so I said okay, and Kim found this place in the Annex. It was pretty run down but Kim said when we painted it and put up posters and got some rattan furniture and stuff, it would be great.
My mum said she'd miss me but she understood that I was at an age to be on my own and if I needed anything to just let her know and if it didn't work out she'd always be glad to see me back home.
I don't think Kim had a terrific relationship with her family. I know that when I'd phone and ask for Kim, her mother would always say, just a minute and I'll get Joyce or no, Joyce isn't here. Anyway, Kim's mother told her if she ran out of money, not to bother running back home.
Kim's brother knew a guy who ran a gas station, so he brought his truck around to help us move. My mother gave us some dishes and pots and pans and we took our mattresses but not our beds. Kim said futons were what everybody was using now. Which was okay with me because I figured if this didn't work it would be easier to move.
It was kind of neat having the apartment. Neither of us could cook very well, so we ate a lot of yogurt and frozen stuff and we got some great posters. Kim started to go out with Rob, which was exciting for her. Rob liked to go to concerts and art galleries and to the ROM. Stuff for the mind, Kim said, but we're going to have fun, too. Rob's friend has a boat and well go sailing on the lake. When winter comes we'll buy skis, she said, and go to Blue Mountain.
One night when Rob came to take Kim out, she was still in the bedroom putting on her makeup and he starts telling me how much he admires Kim. It must be tough, he says, for her to be in the city on her own, with no family or anything.
Well, this was news to me because, as far as I knew, her family was alive and well in North York. But I didn't say anything.
Another time, Rob asked me if I wanted to go along with them to a concert at Ontario Place. I really wanted to go but I didn't want to horn in on Kim so I said no thanks, I have to wash my hair. I have to admit that sometimes I got pretty lonely in the apartment and if it wasn't for Donny calling a couple of times, it would have been really boring. But there was also a library right around the corner and I started to take books out and I was doing a lot of reading.
One day at the end of the summer Donny asked me to go to the Ex with him, so I asked Kim if she and Rob would like to go with us. Kim says no, the Ex isn't really Rob's style. I felt kind of sorry for her because she used to like the Ex, but I got the feeling that she didn't think Donny had much class. I have to admit he dressed kind of funny. Like, he wasn't much into fashion and he didn't have one of those neat-o haircuts like the guys in GQ. He just liked to be comfortable, which was okay with me.
So Donny and I went to the Ex by ourselves and we had a great time going on all the rides and stuff. He also won me this big stuffed bear by knocking over bottles with baseballs. It cost him almost $20 but it was fun riding the street-car home with this huge animal on my lap and everybody saying boy are you lucky. I was kind of glad Kim and Rob weren't with us.
When we got home I invited Donny in for a Coke and Kim and Rob were already there. Kim didn't look too happy and I got the idea they'd had a fight. They'd gone to this movie and Kim tells me and Donny how boring it was. Rob says he thought it was great. The director, he says, was saying something really important. Kim rolls her eyes and says she still thinks it was dumb. I hadn't seen the movie but the way Rob was describing it, I thought it sounded interesting. But I didn't say anything. Rob said he studied this director in a film course at university. He's an auteur, Rob says. I didn't know what an auteur was then but I made a note in my head and looked it up the next time I went to the library.
Things were getting kind of heavy so I was glad when Donny told a really funny story about a guy at the Sears warehouse who fell asleep on one of the sofas and a couple of other guys loaded him on a truck. Rob laughed a lot but Kim didn't seem to think it was funny. She'd been kind of ignoring Donny anyway, maybe because he was wearing this funny-looking baseball cap he got at the Ex. Rob was wearing a really nice green polo shirt—the kind with the little alligator on it—and white chinos.
Anyway, Rob and Donny seemed to get along fine. Donny told Rob he was thinking of going back to school and Rob said that was really wise, that he should get his grade 13. You need all the education you can get, Rob said. He, himself, was quitting his job at the Manulife Centre and going back for his MBA—to a college in the States.
I looked at Kim and she had a really annoyed look on her face. But Rob didn't notice because he was busy talking to Donny, who was asking him how come he's going for the MBA. Rob says it was his father's idea. If you want to get anywhere in marketing, Rob says, you definitely need an MBA. It will probably take him a year, he says.
I was sort of worried about Kim. She'd always acted so cool about everything. Now, all of a sudden she says, well I don't want to change the subject or anything but why don't we order in a pizza? Which was really weird, because Kim never ate pizza. She said it was fattening and bad for your skin, too.
So we get this giant pizza, all dressed, which lightened things up and we all pigged out on it, even Kim.
Rob went away about a week later and he said he'd write to her, but Kim didn't seem to care much by that time. Well, all this happened last spring and summer and it just shows that you never know how things will turn out.
We had to give up the apartment because the rent went up and by the time we paid it we didn't have enough money to go anywhere. To tell the truth, I didn't mind giving it up. Cooking was a hassle and carrying a big sack of laundry to the coin wash every Saturday was a real drag. My mum was glad to have me back home, but I never found out how Kim's family reacted. She quit her job in the fall and I kind of lost track of her.
Well, last week I was going to visit my girl friend Carol who's living in North York now and I ran into Kim on the street. She's pushing this really cute baby in a carriage. She still looks great although she's put on some weight. It turns out she's married. To her brother's friend. The one who runs the gas station. And when I say, it's really great to see you again, Kim, she says, by the way, I'm Joyce now. Larry likes it better.
Then she asks me how I'm doing and I tell her fine. I've had a raise since she left and I've been given a lot more responsibility, even more than Sara had. They tell me I could have a nice career there. And now that I'm living at home again, I've saved almost enough money for a trip to Europe next year.
Then she says, how's your social life? I tell her I'm going out with Donny a bit and he's got a better job now. Next fall, he's going back to school to take his grade 13. But it's not serious with Donny and me, I say, because I've got plans of my own.
I didn't tell her that I've been going out with Rob quite a bit, too. Even though he's got his MBA and everything we really have quite a lot in common. But I didn't think it was such a good idea to tell Kim, I mean Joyce, about Rob.
Anyway, she flashes me her great smile and says she's very happy for me and that it sounds like I'm really on the right track.
1. Analyze an Extended Metaphor Write a paragraph about how the author uses of references to mules to add to the humour to the story and discuss why the author chose this metaphor for his story.
2. Explain Motivation Most teens look forward to receiving their driver's licence, and to the purchase of their first car. In a paragraph, explain why the narrator initially wants nothing to do with driving. What causes him to change his mind?
3. Write a Personal Response Write about a battle you have had with a parent or authority figure who asked you to do something you didn't want to do. How did you respond—were you uncooperative? Reluctantly cooperative? What was the outcome? On reflection, would you handle the situation differently now?
or 4. Write an Article Write an article, directed at parents, about teaching teenagers how to drive. You might offer tips on how to approach the task and how to avoid personal conflicts—and perhaps some suggestions about when to call in a professional driving instructor instead.
by Brian Fawcett
Before you read,consider how important you think it is for people to know how to drive.
As you read,make note of every reference to mules in the story, either direct or indirect.
Brian Fawcett (1944-) was born in Prince George, British Columbia, and currently lives in Toronto. A former columnist for The Globe and Mail, he has also worked in the forest service, as a community organizer and planner, and as a teacher in maximum-security prisons.
"Dangerous Dan McGrew":popular dramatic poem about betrayal and a murder in a saloon, written by Canadian poet Robert Service
Francis the Talking Mule:character from, and title of, a 1950s TV comedy
truculence: hostility, argumentativeness
The day I turned 16 my father poked me awake at eight o'clock in the morning.
"Get up," he said. "We've got work to do."
I was still too sleepy to think straight, but the first thing that woke up was my sense of injustice. It was too early in the morning. He made matters worse by jerking all the covers off the bed. It was bad enough that my birthday wasn't celebrated as a national holiday. Now I was being forced to work. But as I awakened a little more, I noticed that my father was grinning instead of snarling, which was what he usually did if he found me lying around and he had work for me to do. I was about to tell him why I shouldn't have to do any work when he took my excuse away from me.
"It's your birthday. You're going to learn how to drive today."
Most kids think driving a car is one of the very best games, but I didn't think about driving at all, and when I did, it didn't come up as a game or as fun. Learning to drive meant having to go to work, and the only reason my father was teaching me was so I could drive his trucks and make all the weekend deliveries no one else wanted to do.
Until that morning, I hadn't spent more than about five minutes in my whole life thinking about learning to drive. The last time I'd practised driving was on a business trip with my father when I was 5 or 6 years old and he had an old Pontiac with an insignia on the dashboard which I used as an imaginary steering wheel.
Cars didn't interest me, and neither did anything else mechanical. Even when my parents had brought a Volkswagen back from a trip in Europe a few months before, I hadn't thought about driving it. I thought it was cute, and I liked to ride around in it, but that was about all. And now I was going to have to learn to drive that car, and all my father's trucks, and practically every automobile in the world. Some birthday present.
I stalled my way through breakfast, and my father began to glower openly. I stalled openly, but finally I realized that I had the rest of my life in front of me, and I couldn't hold out for another 15 minutes before my father created an uproar that might be even more frightening than having to learn how to drive.
The cute little car was parked in the backyard, but as I trudged down the stairs from the house it took on a definite air of menace. I walked over to the passenger side of the car and got yelled at, so I walked around the car as slowly as I could, checking all the fenders and the bumpers with exaggerated care. I got into the car, and my father wedged himself in on the other side.
"Now what?" I said, fingering the steering wheel and staring through the window at the once-friendly alley.
"What do you mean, now what?" my father hooted.
He'd been lecturing me for 15 minutes on the fine points of driving and I hadn't heard a word. "You turn the key on, stupid!"
"Which direction?" I asked, staring at him.
He reached over without saying anything and turned the key, holding it on until even I knew he should stop. I continued to stare at him. I don't think he'd realized I knew nothing about driving until that moment.
"Put your stupid foot on the clutch," he said.
I did, but I didn't press it in.
"Push it down."
"Put it into gear."
"What gear?" I said, gazing through the window.
"FIRST GEAR, YOU NUMBSKULL!" he roared.
He was really getting mad, so I decided I'd better pretend I knew what was going on.
"I guess I let the clutch out now, right?" I said, and let it out without waiting for an answer.
We lurched forward about 10 feet before it stalled.
"You have to give it some gas when you let out the clutch," my father said in a choked voice that also said he was about to strangle me.
"Oh. Right." I restarted the car, let the clutch out the right way, and we made it out of the driveway.
"Shift it!" my father roared.
"Shift what?" I hollered back at him, and whammed the shift lever back without depressing the clutch. Luckily the car stalled before the transmission exploded.
We tried it again, and again. About half an hour later we made it out of the alley. My father's troubles were just beginning, and I think he knew it. There was a wealth of things he assumed everyone knew about the mechanical universe, and I didn't know any of them. Just because I was supposed to push the clutch pedal down when I shifted from first to second didn't mean, as far as I could figure, that I had to do the same between all the other gears. So I didn't, and ground more gears, and got yelled at some more. Finally, he told me to stop the car, and he started from the beginning. After about four sentences, my head was reeling.
"So then after the horsepower and torque go through the transmission they're connected to the rear wheels through the universal joint ..."
I tried to listen, but it was hopeless.
"Start the car again," he said when he was finished. "Do you understand how it works now?"
"Sure," I lied, and turned the key.
This time it went better. I lurched the car down the alley and steered it onto the gravel street without slowing down. I got yelled at for that. There were no cars coming so I couldn't see what I'd done wrong.
"You've got to stop at corners," he said.
"Why?" I asked. "You don't."
"I don't because I know how to drive," he snapped.
That didn't make a lot of sense, but I didn't say anything because I was busy stopping at the next corner.
"Why are you stopping here?" he asked.
"You told me to stop at corners."
"You don't have to stop unless there's a stop sign. You just slow down to make sure there isn't anybody coming."
"How about after I learn to drive?" I asked, trying to show how well I was listening. "I can drive straight through like you do, right?"
He glared at me and didn't answer. I had enough to think about to keep me going for several days, but I couldn't tell him that because we were headed up the street and the motor was making a lot of noise.
"Shift it!" he hollered.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry," I said, shifting it into fourth gear without a hitch. He didn't seem to think that was very smart, so I shifted it back to what I thought was first and ended up in third. He appeared to approve, so I left it there.
We drove the car around the block about four times, and I was beginning to think it was pretty easy. My father was beginning to relax a little. I think he relaxed a little too much because he told me to pull into the alley when we were already past it. I did as I'd been ordered, and drove into a neighbour's front yard. My father started screeching again, so I somehow found reverse and pulled back onto the street. I thought I'd executed the entire manoeuvre pretty well, but my father was shaking his head. He gestured toward the alley, and I drove into it.
It wasn't the end of the alley we'd come out of, and it was much narrower than it was supposed to be. What was worse, it made a complicated turn, and on the inside of the turn a malicious neighbour had sunk an enormous post to keep people from driving into the corner of his garage. For about a year, every time we'd driven into the alley my father had cursed the neighbour and his post, threatening to bring one of his trucks up and pull it out. But for some reason its presence must have slipped his mind, although I certainly was painfully aware of it. My father became aware of it again too when I cut the corner sharply and scraped the side of the Volkswagen along it.
"Stop the car," he screamed.
He got out to survey the damage. The running board was badly dented, and so were the front and back fenders. The back bumper had hooked itself on the post and it was pulled back about six inches from where it should have been. My father was frothing at the mouth.
Luckily for me he was undecided as to whether I was a complete moron for hitting the post or whether the neighbour was a complete moron for putting it there. By the time he'd decided, after some noisy debate with himself, that we were both morons, he'd cooled down a little, and ordered me in a tight voice to drive back to the house.
"I don't want to drive," I whined, going back to my basic stance on the entire matter.
"I don't care what you want," he shouted, his anger suddenly focused. "You're going to learn how to drive, even if it kills you, you bloody mule. And that's that!" * * *
But that wasn't that, not by a long shot. I prepared myself to die, because I wasn't going to learn to drive. It wasn't worth it. It was already changing my life. I dreamed about driving—and about driving into things—and I thought about how driving was going to take away my freedom.
I'd discovered fairly early on in life that if I wanted to be left alone by all the things and people who had organized a conspiracy to get me to be like them, I had to find ways to make myself useless to them. As I grew older it became the one political understanding I'd gathered from the world around me that made sense: freedom means not having to work.
Up to this point, I'd been fairly successful at making myself useless and therefore free, but this looked like the end of all that. I was now going to be of use to my father.
It was a gloomy future. I liked being a kid, and every adult in the world seemed like a jerk. They'd built a jerky world and now they were going to force me to drive cars and trucks in it, and soon I would begin to act and feel like a jerk and one morning I would wake up and that would be it—no more fun, no fooling around, nothing but work and coming home and eating my jerky dinner with my jerky wife and jerky kids and talking about jerky things like money or how jerky my friends all were and then one day they'd drop their jerky bombs and blow us all to smithereens. It really was the end of the world.
* * *
The end came three days later. My father sent one of the drivers he knew I really liked to pick me up after school. Bud, the driver, spotted me coming out of the building, and beeped the horn of his empty truck. I ambled over without the slightest suspicion that it was a trap. I often went with him to make deliveries after school, and being picked up wasn't all that unusual. My father was prepared to go to any length to get me to work, and this truck was one of the ones I didn't mind. Actually, it was pretty cool getting picked up this way. Even better, Bud knew the words to what seemed like a million dirty songs. He even knew all the words to the dirty version of "Dangerous Dan McGrew," and that impressed me to no end. I walked up to the truck and asked him what was up.
"Get in," he grinned.
I headed around the truck.
"This side!" he yelled. "You're driving."
"No, I'm not," I said, and stopped where I was. "I don't know how to drive."
"You're sixteen now, aren't you?"
"Yeah," I admitted.
"Then you've gotta learn to drive. Get in."
I started for the passenger door.
"This side," he hollered.
I stopped again. "Why?" I asked, still stubborn. "Because that's how things are."
"Just because things are the way they are doesn't mean that's the way they have to be, does it? Things are jerky."
Bud didn't seem any more impressed by my logic than my father had been, so I reluctantly got in behind the wheel.
"Now what?" I asked.
He reached over and twisted the key to shut the motor off. "We're going to talk," he said.
"Sure," I said. "What's up?"
It was one thing not to listen to your father, and quite another not to listen to someone real, like Bud.
"Your dad says he doesn't understand you," Bud began.
"So what?" I asked.
It had never occurred to me that he wanted to understand me, or that he was supposed to. I began to coil defensively around the thought, but Bud saw it.
"No!" he said irritably. "Listen for once. You're just like a mule. As a matter of fact, that's what he said you were. You think whatever he says you should do is the opposite of what you're supposed to do."
I shrugged. I couldn't see anything wrong with being a mule. I liked mules. Francis the Talking Mule was one of my heroes. Mules were smarter than horses or donkeys, and when they could talk, they were smarter than people. The more I thought about being a mule, the more I liked it.
"So what?" I said. "What's wrong with being a mule?"
"Only one thing's wrong with being a mule."
"Oh yeah? What?" I imagined that I was flattening my ears against the side of my head and bridling back against the rope that held me.
"A mule isn't anything," he said, searching for some way to break through my resistance. "It isn't a horse and it isn't a donkey. It's a big nothing. All it can do is be ornery and fight back at everything."
"Yeah?" I said, caught halfway between pride and truculence.
"Yeah. And mules have to work just as hard as horses and donkeys anyway. Probably harder, because that's all they're good for."
"What's all that got to do with me learning how to drive?" Bud had succeeded in making me feel uncomfortable, and I was changing the subject.
"Driving is fun," he said. "You can go wherever you want once you learn. You can buy a car and do whatever you want. You're free."
"I don't want to do any of that junk," I replied, without feeling very confident about it any longer.
Bud was a person, and he was telling me the opposite of what I knew was true. He was right, but it was suspicious stuff he was saying.
"Besides," I quibbled. "I don't have any money."
"Save some. Go to work for your dad."
I'd heard that before and it didn't convince me any more now than it had in the past. Bud was just trying to get me to do work for my father.
"If I learn to drive, will you lend me your car?" I asked, grinning at my own sneakiness.
Bud hesitated. "Sure," he said. "If you learn how to drive properly."
I thought about that for a minute. Some of my friends already had their driver's licences, and one or two of them had bought old cars. Mainly, the cars gave all of us someplace to be on Friday night. I felt a heavier rope inching across my ears and I shrugged unconsciously. I would, I decided, go to work for my father exactly as often as I needed to in order to afford gas for Bud's car. Maybe, I thought, since we would all have to learn to drive, and we were all mules, or at least my best friends were, there was nothing to worry about. My dream would somehow remain safe from the wily schemes of ordinary men. I reached for the ignition key, twisted it, and the truck's motor started.
"Okay," I said. "What do I do?"
I did what Bud told me to, and twenty minutes later I knew I could drive. The next day I took my driving test with the same truck, and soon I was doing exactly what I'd most feared I would end up doing: all the weekend deliveries no one else wanted to do.
* * *
It was fun. Donnie and Artie often came along with me, and that made it even more fun. I started going to work every day, and I opened up a savings account so I could buy a car. I even began to get along with my father. He began to try to have conversations with me, and I would catch him looking at me speculatively, as if he were seeing the possibility of something unexpected and useful beneath the furry snout and long ears.
I wasn't very good at driving, and I demonstrated that in a series of hilarious car accidents during the next several months. I put the Volkswagen through the front window of a supermarket one afternoon after I'd impressed one of my friends with a thrilling zip-zap through the parking lot. I mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal at the climax of this operation and almost zapped the manager of the store, who was one of my father's more important customers and knew exactly who I was. Two or three days later I ran over someone else's Volkswagen with one of my father's trucks as I rounded the corner of the town's busiest intersection. I'd seen someone I knew standing across the street and I'd stopped driving to wave at him.
My older brother, who was anything but a mule, was naturally skilled at every terror my father served up for him, and wouldn't let me near his new Chev convertible. He took it upon himself to give me a lecture about driving.
"Look, idiot," he said. "You've got to stop wrecking vehicles." He imitated my father's habit of never calling anything by its simple name. "These conveyances cost a lot of money."
"I'm not trying to," I pointed out. "Driving is hard."
He didn't think anything was hard, and he conceded my difficulty with a sniff of contempt.
"You'd better spend a couple of nights talking to the mechanic," he said, making it plain that the sessions weren't optional. "Maybe he can teach you what it's about."
The mechanic was a middle-aged man who treated my father's trucks as if they were his personal harem of exotic beauties. He wasn't enamoured of my gear-grinding antics, nor with me, but he obviously saw the opportunity to save his beauties from me, and spent several evenings showing me exactly the right way to treat a truck. He was showing me what he thought was perfection, but I gathered precisely three things from it all: when to shift up, when to shift down, and the idea that I was supposed to keep my foot pressed firmly on the gas pedal as long as those shifting points were not upon me. The accidents stopped, but the wreckage didn't cease. It merely took the form of destroyed transmissions and clutches, and worn out brakes.
Bud lent me his car right after the mechanic told him I knew all about how to drive. Later that night the police stopped me with eleven of my friends in the car. They'd clocked me at 55 miles an hour, and I didn't have the car lights on. I told the officer I hadn't been able to find the light switch, and then handed him a two dollar bill out of my wallet instead of my driver's licence, explaining that I'd just gotten it a few weeks before. He started to laugh, and had to let me go, but he phoned my parents about it.
Thankfully, he got my mother on the phone, and she took me aside the next day.
"Just what is it you think you're doing?" she asked.
It was a genuine question; not, as expected, the opening salvo of a lecture on my irresponsible behaviour. She'd maintained an amused silence throughout the previous weeks, and had even smiled while I was explaining to my father how it was that I'd come to make my unusual entry into the supermarket. I looked at her carefully, and flattened my ears slightly anyway.
"Driving Bud's car," I said, noncommittally.
"Well, you know, cars aren't everything in life," she said, almost as if she were discussing the matter with one of her friends.
"They aren't?" I was confused. I'd more or less decided that cars were everything in life. "What do you mean?"
She stared at me for a moment as if she were sizing me up for something, trying to decide who or what I really was, and whether or not it was worth imparting to me what she knew. Her amused silence over the previous weeks suddenly became a mystery to me. I prodded her impatiently.
"Tell me what you mean."
"You don't really want a car," she said.
"I don't?" This truly was mysterious. Everybody wanted a car, and here was my own mother telling me that I didn't want one.
"No," she said firmly, "it'd be much better not to have one. If you need a car you can use mine."
She was deeply enveloped in her mystery, and was gazing at the top of my head as if she could see the mule ears, or maybe she was looking beyond all that to some imaginary future she alone knew about. I interrupted her reverie. The rope was around my neck and I'd begun to like it.
"Why shouldn't I have my own car?"
She shrugged, and a more familiar vagueness appeared in her reply.
"Oh, well," she said. "They cost a lot of money. You save your money for something else."
I shook the rope and snorted, but she continued before I could think of anything to say.
"There's lots of things you can do," she said. "Don't get tied down with a car."
She reached across the table and, so help me, scratched me behind the ear and patted my neck. As she removed her hand, the rope went with it, and I glimpsed a kind of field in her eyes.
There was nothing there that I could see clearly. Some grass, maybe, and some blurry shapes in the distance. Certainly not what she imagined. I stood there for a moment looking, shook my mane a little, and asked her when I could borrow the car.
Your job is to write a narrative paragraph or two (100-200 words) describing an event that happened to you that had a beginning, a middle and an end.
Use at least a couple of the techniques below to make your story more interesting:
1) Use dialogue.
2) Develop your setting or mood with descriptive language that appeals to the senses.
3) Use metaphors and similes.
4) Develop character by showing how a person changes during the events in your story.
5) Use dramatic irony to enhance humour or tension in your story.
6) Develop your story using rising action.
7) Have a climax that resolves the events of the story.
|Due By (Pacific Time)||04/23/2014 12:00 am|
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