[Excerpt from a short story in progress; also published in catapult magazine, Waking Up issue]
The shining, white Cadillac was driving too fast down the subdivision street lined with three different styles of tri-levels and two different styles of ranches. The young man had finally convinced his father to let him take the new car to the Dari-Whip to meet his friends, as long as he promised not to get soft serve anywhere near the red upholstery. He felt high as he sped back home, radio blaring, windows down and his arm dangling outside, fingers spastically drumming the car door.
The little girl from down the block stooped over the back of the go-cart her father had made out of plywood and bicycle training wheels. Her younger brother squirmed eagerly in the seat and held tightly to the rope that was tied to the front axle and steered the makeshift car. She had showed him how to yank just one side of the rope, so that when they approached the end of the driveway, the go-cart would turn onto the sidewalk. She heaved forward, skinny legs straining to propel the weight. Picking up speed, she ran faster, head down, her braids dangling over her brother’s shoulders.
The young man glanced in the rearview mirror and suddenly imagined the blonde in fifth period reclining against the soft velour of the back seat. His foot pressed a little harder on the accelerator as he thought of asking her out for Saturday night. His favorite song came on the radio and his hand rapidly drummed the door.
The children had reached the end of the driveway. The go-cart’s wheels rattled, and the little boy howled with glee. His sister clenched the sides of the wooden box, preparing to balance the cart as it sped into the corner. Now, she thought, turn now! But she only heard her brother’s yelp of disappointment as the rope snapped and the go-cart continued forward over the familiar hump of the curb, the same one that always told her they were home when she fell asleep in the car on the way back from Grandma’s at night.
Then she felt it. Just before the terrible realization that they should not be in the street. It was a touch on her right shoulder, the way someone touches you when they want your attention. But it was different than that, too, gentle, yet with the weight of the universe concentrated at the tip of the finger. And with that, their little world, hurtling out of control, was suddenly made to stand perfectly still.
The white blur of the Cadillac, brakes screeching, passed inches away from the front of the go-cart, jumped the opposite curb, and dug long, muddy tracks in the lawn that no one was allowed to walk on.
The little girl’s brother began to cry as the young man tumbled out of the car in a daze, then began to scream at the children, then at the car, then at the go-cart. He pulled at his hair as he checked to make sure the go-kart’s tin can headlights hadn’t scratched the paint job. Neighbors came running from their tri-levels and ranches to assess the damage to the lawn, some secretly hoping the accident would necessitate their being quoted in the newspaper describing how they used their bare hands to stop any blood that might be flowing onto the blacktop.
And in the middle of the road, the little girl remained frozen, still sensing the touch upon her shoulder and suddenly aware of the eternity in her heart.