“Mar, go get some donuts, will ya? Be back: you have a lesson in an hour.” He handed me some money, took another drag of his cigarette, and slouched off.
I looked at the warm keys in my hand, my heart ricocheting inside my chest. I was fourteen.
I put the rolled bandage on the shelf and the money in my vest pocket.
I pulled at my vest a bit, walked outside, and opened the door to the white pick-up. It smelled full of stale cigarette smoke, hay, horse, hormones, and the piney disinfectant we used on the barn floor. I had to reach up to get in and I had to pull the seat as close as possible to reach the steering wheel. Once up there, I looked up at the quilted ceiling of the truck’s cab and unleashed a huge smile.
I played with the warm metal of the key before watching it fit in the ignition. “Click, click,” and the super-size truck turned over. The key in the ignition did everything for me. I let out a long breath.
Rubbing my hands together, I put them on the cold plastic steering wheel, and fitted my stubby fingers into the bumpy underside of the smooth wheel. I shifted to drive, and the wheels of the pick-up crunched over the crushed stone parking lot, then pressed forward heavily on to the asphalt.
The pick-up was going at a steady 40 mph but my heart was bounding like Secretariat’s gallop.
It was Heaven, moving along the road. I passed the corn fields on the right and the little cemetery on the left. There was a stop sign. I tested how much the brake worked, and prudently decided just to take my foot off the gas and let the truck slow down, roll down, to a stop.
I was feeling this, loving the movement of wheels over ground. I turned right and the long, straight stretch into town gave way to me. Going over the slight hill at a cautious speed felt like flying – but the whole drive I kept checking: speed, mirrors, and placement on the road, my posture. Even paying attention to all the technical details, I couldn’t help but soar.
I got the donuts; I can’t even remember what kind. I know I drove back to the barn the way the boys at the barn did: left hand at 8 o’clock, right hand tucked under my right thigh, so confident. When I gave the donuts, the change, and the keys back to my trainer, we could both sense the shift.
“Why don’t you ride the new horse for your lesson? Let’s see what you two can do.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “Let’s.”