July 31, 2009

Gary Presley

Elegy for Backseat Passion

A '78 Chevy Caprice, silver once, faded now into the dull gray that mimics paint primer, a raggedy red pinstripe decayed pinkish, rear hubcap missing, and rust spots gouging holes in the rocker panels.

On the dashboard, two open packs of cigarettes, both Marlboro, a flashlight, a crescent wrench, a bottle of Sam's Club water, and a box of animal crackers. Grace will be offered from Albrecht Durer's "Praying Hands" dangling silver from a chain looped over the broken rear view mirror.

Back seat toddler, mouth howled open, fists clinched, legs out rigid from the openings in the child safety carrier. The little seat is bright green, he is dressed in vibrant yellow overalls, and his face is red. A passion flower.

Driver fists are clamped on the steering wheel at the classic ten and two position, knuckles prominent, thumbs arced upward in tension, an echo of the child's tiny hands. Shadows of that same tension trace upward along driver arms, weight-lifter's muscles bulging, a tattoo of an angel sitting on a rose, chin in hand, on his bicep beneath a glaringly white sleeveless t-shirt above carpenter jeans, above ankle-high athletic shoes, laces untied, feet captured and hard-pressed against the bowels of the old car. Driver looks out the driver-side window, eyes obscured by wrap-around sunglasses.

A woman, chin on hand, slumps against right hand-door window, eyes focused downward. She wears a blue jean jacket, sleeves rolled to mid-arm revealing a gold bracelet on her left wrist from which dangles a single key. Beneath jacket, beneath hazy, off-kilter hair peroxided into an afro, is a dull gray t-shirt with faded maroon letters arcing across its center. Pressure against cheek distorts her expression, and her breath has clouded the lower portion of the glass.

She raises her eyes. She raises her arm. She writes in the mist:


The light turns green, and the road stretches out beyond the horizon.


Gary Presley is an essayist whose memoir, SEVEN WHEELCHAIRS: A Life beyond Polio, was published October 2008 by the University of Iowa Press. Find links to his other work at http://www.garypresley.com

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