Wednesday, April 25, 2007

For A Song

by Renee Holland Davidson

Kayla slouches in the passenger seat, staring out the bug-splattered windshield. The newly tarred highway stretches in front of the Buick, the afternoon heat steaming from the road in shimmering waves. For hours, they have passed nothing but scrub brush and the hard dirt of the desert.

Her mom is singing along with the radio, her voice cigarette-smoke husky. The last few notes dissipate into the stale air-conditioned air, and almost immediately another one begins.

"Honey, listen, here's our song!"

Our song? Her song, she means. The one she auditioned with--the one that won her the job with the band. The band that is leaving tomorrow for a three-month tour of the South.

Kayla's mom reaches over to squeeze her knee, then frowns when her daughter's body stiffens. "Come on, Kayla, don't be like that. You'll have a great time at your Grandma's. You love her, don't you?"

"Yeah," Kayla says in a bare whisper.

"You know how much she spoils you."

"Yeah," she says again.

"This could be my big break, Kayla. You know that. I might never get another chance."

Kayla sighs. "I know, Mama. I know."

"Okay, then. I'll be back in no time, just you see." Kayla's mom pats her leg, then turns the radio louder. Her voice blends smoothly with the woman crooning over the airwaves.

Ahead of them, a red mini-van pulls onto the highway. A small mountain of duffle bags is tied to its roof and a complicated-looking carrier holding four bicycles rises up from the trailer hitch.

The Buick catches up to the van and Kayla peers inside as they cruise side by side. The family looks like it belongs in a corny commercial--the dad behind the wheel wearing a fishing hat, lures dangling from its rim, the mom in the passenger seat, a red bandana tied around her neck. Behind them, sit two little kids--a blond-haired boy and his freckle-faced sister.

Kayla can tell they're singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider because their fingers are crawling through the air in front of them.

The mom isn't half as pretty as her own mom, Kayla thinks. Her hair's frizzy and her bare arms jiggle with each spider step. But she's got a pretty smile and her eyes sparkle behind round glasses as she turns in her seat to look at her children.

Even though Kayla can't hear them, she knows they're singing loudly because their heads are thrown back and their grinning mouths are open wide.

Kayla's fingers move in her lap. She sings under her breath, stealing a glance at her mother.

Her mom's singing loudly too, a wide smile covering her face. And her eyes are sparkling, just like the lady in the mini-van.

Except Kayla's mom isn’t looking at her--her eyes are staring straight ahead, focused on a place far beyond the cloudless desert sky.

"For A Song" was originally published in the Summer 2006 edition of flashquake.

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