D R I V E

by Felicia LaCosse



It was raining again. The sky was sleepy. Bleak, thought Sheryl.

She stood on the old gray front porch of her house watching it pour. The
air was cool. A shiver passed through her from time to time in the
camisole she wore sheltered by a loose shirt and baggy jeans. I'm ready
for school, she thought. Not this. She shivered, again.

There was a stench in the air. Would the skunks ever go away, she
thought. Will I ever get out of here? It wasn't likely this Monday.

In the distance she saw the dark green LTD plowing through the puddles.

Sheryl half smiled when the car died in the driveway. Her brother had
plans today.

"Why do I have to go with you?" She had asked the night before. "Cause,
you're family, little sister." "You're not making sense." Sheryl knew he
wasn't the brightest boy in the world. "You want me to rob a bank, with
you? Are you crazy!" Her eyes had bulged. Her stomach was in knots since
the first mention of this mission.

"All you got to do is drive a car? You know how to drive, don't ya?"

"I hadn't exactly had driver's ed." What was she supposed to say, she
thought. It was the truth. Only experience she had ever had with driving
was putting out feed on the farm.

"It don't take no genius to get behind a wheel. Hell, somebody's got to
a drive." Clay was all hunched over, bird like, in thought . He kept
rambling about the First National Bank of Glenwood.

"You need a race car driver. Not me."

"Me and Dez will take care of the bank. You just drive." "Just drive."
Sheryl murmured looking at the tank in the front yard. What if I can't
even see over the wheel? Her round cheeks drew in a soft frown. "I'm
going to spend graduation day in reform school. I just know it." She
took a deep breath, and waited to exhale. Then she saw him.

Her brother's friend Dez stood in the rain. The keys jingled in his
hands. "I guess you'll need these," he said.

Sheryl looked into his light brown eyes. He doesn't look like a bank
robber, she thought. Maybe a lead singer in an alternative rock band.

His dark brown hair touched his lean shoulders. Sheryl imagined him at
least in bank robber's black but he was in flannel, jeans and thick,
muddy boots. She watched him push the mud off his boots on the side of
the porch.

"Nasty today? huh?"

"Not bank robbing weather." Sheryl barely used her voice.

"Yeah, we might leave tracks or something," he said looking at his own
mud on the porch. "Maybe Clay'll come to his senses."

"Can't you say something?"

"I don't make those decisions."

"Just what kind of decisions do you make?"

"Not enough." He cracked a smile. "So you want me to show you the car?"

"Why don't we just wait for Clay?" Her large brown eyes studied him. I
wonder what else he might do for a living, she thought. He seems so
calm.

"Where is he, anyway?" Dez asked.

"In the bathroom."

"He kind of has to work himself into getting ready for a job." "Oh,"
Sheryl said. "I know he's kind of flaky. Always has been, but I don't
know how he works himself up."

"He gets a little a nervous."

"And you don't?"

"What's the point." He shrugged. "Maybe we should just take a little
drive or something. You know, work out the kinks."

"Work out the kinks?"

"I want you to feel comfortable."

Sheryl took a gulp of air, watched him open the passenger door. She took
a seat in the car, waited for him to close the door.

"Now move over," Dez said.

Sheryl scooted in under the wheel, and he scooted in next to her. His
jeans touched her. Her heart leaped a sudden pulse. But she sat there
looking through the wheel of the car.

"You going to need a pillow?"

She bit her bottom lip and looked at him.

"It's all right. My sister has to sit on a pillow too." He reached in
the back seat and pulled out a fluffy pillow to put under her. She
grabbed on to wheel, lifting herself up, as he slid thepillow under her.
She sat on his hand only for a moment. He didn't seem tomind. "Maybe she
should have drove today." Sheryl wiggled the wheel a bit, imagining how
it might feel to drive his car.

"She's going to have a baby. I'd hate for her to go into a sudden
delivery. Sides, she can't stand Clay."

Sheryl caught him staring at her.

"So you got a boyfriend?" She noticed his thin lips.

"Not exactly," Sheryl said, both hands playing with the wheel. "I mean I
get phone calls, and I talk to this..this guy...a lot. We're good
friends. We just don't date."

"Phone calls are nice to get."

"Well, he really wasn't calling me. He was looking for my sister, but I
had to tell him she was in California, married. But he calls, every now
and then." Sheryl frowned.

"So you don't like talkin' to this guy?"

"Oh, no, it's not that. Talking to him makes me happy."

"What is it then?"

"Talking to him makes makes me sad, too. Anyway, he's not really calling
me."

"I bet he's calling you." He smiled. Sheryl liked his smile. It was a
sincerelook. Not nasty, she thought of her brother.

"Are bank robbers supposed to smile?" Sheryl asked. "So you comfortable
yet?"

"Well..." She wiggled on the pillow until she could see over the wheel.
"I guess so."

"Start her up." He put the keys in the ignition.

She pushed on the gas, clicked the key and the engine started with a
thunder. Sheryl jumped when she felt the life in the vibrating wheel.

"You'll get used to it. Let's go for a drive." He watched her.

Sheryl hesitated to put the stick in first. It was a struggle to push
ingear. The vehicle let out a whine. She wondered if she was doing
anything right.

"You know how to use the stick, don't cha?"

"Kind of." Sheryl stirred the stick into first and the car jerked
forward. "You've never done this before, have you?" He laughed.

"Rob a bank?"

"No, drive a car."

"Just my Dad's pickup."

"Can you handle it."

"Not over twenty miles an hour."

Dez shook his head. Smiling, he looked out the window.

"And Clay's got it in his head to rob a bank today."

"I don't want to."

"Well...I'm not really in this for a money." Dez looked at her with his
elbow propped on the door, and his hand on his cheek. "If I get this
over with, then I won't owe your brother a thing. So I just want to get
this over with. I want to get back to the real world."

"Why do you owe him?"

"It's just a little deal that went sour. That's all. He seems to think I
got all this dope when I don't. But he keeps saying it's all my fault
that he ain't rich yet. That I took his customers, or something like
that. Hell, he's just a burden, you know. I'm getting pretty tired of
putting up with his shit. And to think we used to be best friends."

"Well, he's gone through a lot since Daddy's left. And Momma, well she's
gone to one of them hospitals so she can lose a bunch of weight."

"Yeah, I saw that on TV," Dez said. "How she doing?"

"Lost another five pounds just this week."

"It's ashamed you got to be out here with him, all by yourself."

"Sometimes I don't see him for days." Sheryl smiled. "Sometimes I like
being alone," she said. "And sometimes I get those phonecalls..for my
sister, you know.""You want to drive some more?"

Before Sheryl could give him an answer, the passenger door jerked open.
It was Clay. "Hell, what are you trying to do girl, waste my gasoline?"
His beady eyes stared at her.

"It's my gas, Clay." Dez stared back at him, coldly.

"Goddamn it, what are you doing just sitting out here with the car
running? That's real professional. I tell you. Just real professional."

"What took you so long?" Dez asked.

"I did some meditation."

Sheryl looked through the rearview mirror and saw Clay take the reefer
from the crease of his ear. He lit it and began to inhale the homemade
cigarette.

"You're just a regular guru, Clay." Dez laughed, but Sheryl stared at
the rain now a fine mist on the windshield.

"Hell, when we going to hit the road, people?" Clay moaned, and took
another drag off the marijuana roll.

"I think Sheryl needs to drive a little, you know, get used to the car."


Sheryl smiled. He said my name, she thought. Nobody calls me by my name.
Tears almost came to her eyes.

"Here, you want some?" Clay offered the reefer to Dez.

"I better not. I like having a clear head for this kind of operation."

Sheryl caught herself laughing.

"What in the hell are you laughing at, girl. Drive!" Clay snapped.

Sheryl held on to the wheel tightly and let up on the brake and pushed
the stick into first. Sheryl plowed through the brown water of the drive
way. The car was jerky at first but it picked up speed as she headed
toward the highway.

"Maybe you better just drive on the farm roads for a while," Dez
suggested. He had his hand pressed against the padded dash board. "Am I
going too fast?"

"Just watch the road."

The steering wheel had a life of its own. Sheryl tightened her grip.

"Hell, she can drive on the highway," Clay yelled.

Slowly, Sheryl guided the big car onto the pavement. She searched the
highway for cops. Oh God, what am I going to do, she thought. I don't
even have my learner's permit.

"You're doing good, Sheryl." Dez smiled, and she glanced over at him.
"But, watch the road."

"Okay." She saw the city limits sign. There was the big billboard from
First National Bank. 'Have a better tomorrow with us' trailed across the
top of the billboard. Sheryl studied the picture of the building that
looked like gold bricks.

"That's where we're going?" She pointed.

"That's the one, baby," Clay said. Sheryl glanced back at her brother
and saw the thick pistol he had in the waist of his jeans.

"You're going to use that thing?" Her eyes widened. She looked up at the
road and noticed she was drifting toward the yellow stripe. A big eight
wheeler was forging toward them. Her hands were shaking as she stared at
the huge truck. Dez grabbed the wheel, veered the car toward the right
as the truck's horn blared. Sheryl felt herself shaking inside. I'mgoing
to die, she thought, I'm going to die today. I can feel it. "Why don't
we get us something to eat?" Dez looked back at Clay who was yawning.

"I...I guess we could eat something," Clay said. "Yeah, you get a little
nervous, don't cha?"

"I'm not hungry," Sheryl said.

"You need to eat something." Dez advised.

"I just think I'll be sick if I do." Her hands still shook or maybe they
were tired from the vibrating wheel. But her hands were heavy and she
wanted to stop the car.

"Pull in over here." Dez pointed to a fast food place, The Frostie King.
"I'll get you a milkshake."

Sheryl pulled in the parking lot. There were a few puddles. She noticed
the sun caught in the thick clouds. "How's vanilla sound?" Dez asked.

"Great, I guess."

"Well, I wanna milkshake too." Clay said. "Chocolate and strawberry
mixed."

"You always have to have everything special, don't cha?"

"Fuck you," Clay said, "I'll get it myself. Gimme the money."

Dez handed over a a couple of bills, and Sheryl watched him walk to the
outside window. She wondered what he'd done with the gun, whether he'd
stuffed it deeper down.

"That guy who calls your sister," Dez was saying. Sheryl thought about
the voice, the dreaminess of it, and for a moment she had the feeling
they weren't going to the bank after all. "Maybe we'll go somewhere I've
never been before," she told Dez.

When she heard Clay yell at Dez, she jumped. "No, we're going to the
bank."

The sun peaked through the clouds.

"It looks like a good day to rob a bank," Clay said. Sheryl looked up
and saw her brother's devilish grin. "You gonna tell that friend of
yours about this?" Dez ate his burger a little while later, leaning on
the outside of the car.

"I doubt it. I don't tell him everything."

"I see. Why don't you tell him everything?"

"He might really think my family's strange then." She sat on the hood
playing with the straw in the thick shake. Sheryl had her straight dark
hair twisted up in a knot on top her head with a clasp.

"Well, we're all a little strange," Dez said. "Take my family. If you
were to come over, you'd think I don't belong there. I'm whiter than the
rest of 'em. Momma, says that's got a lot privileges to it. But
then..Granny gives me hell about it. But there's not a lot you can do
about it, but go on and do my business."

"So what do you do?"

"I want to drive a Pepsi truck."

"Why a Pepsi truck?"

"Cause I like Pepsi."

"So you doing anything now?"

"Just stocking cans at the Food Lion after midnight."

Sheryl studied him for a while trying to imagine him as a black man. She
shook her head. He doesn't look black to me. Maybe's an albino, she
thought.

Sheryl leaned over and touched his hair blowing in the wind. It was soft
and light in the breeze. She smiled before she realized he was looking
at her.

"So, let's get on the road!" Clay yelled out of the window.

"Sure thing." Dez balled up what was left of his burger and tossed it in
the trash. He went to the trunk of the car before he got in. "Just one
thing." He got out his Levi jacket. "You'll need a coat, maybe a cap
too. We don't want folks recognizing you." He tossed the jacket to
Cheryl.

She caught the coat, stared at it. He meant business. Maybe he really
does rob banks.

A chill of fear shivered through her as she glanced back at him. Sheryl
felt numb.

"Go on, to the bathroom. Get ready." Dez nodded his head toward the
gasstation.

She found the denim cap in the coat and secured in on her head, making
sure her raven hair was concealed. Next she put on the heavy denim coat.
She caught herself sniffing the coat. It smelt of sweet tobacco. Maybe
marijuana, she decided, remembering the smell in her brother's room.

"God, I know I told you I was better than this. I wanted to be better. I
really did," Sheryl said looking at herself in the old foggy bathroom
mirror. She wanted to stay longer, but there was a stench of urine that
she could barely take. However, she felt in the coat pocket. Something
else in the coat pocket,something small and flat. A piece of paper. A
photograph.

It was of her sister. Her senior picture. He's got my sister's picture.

"It can't be." Sheryl shook her head. "He couldn't be the one calling."
She had talked for hours to someone with no name. He knows my sister.
Now he knows me.

She almost smiled, but there was a fear that lingered in her lungs too.
I got to get out of this.

"Hey, get out of there!" her brother yelled.

Sheryl quickly obeyed her brother and opened the door.

"So how do I look?"

"Like you always look, stupid." His dark eyes stared at her.

Sheryl quickly got back to the car, found the pillow on the driver's
seat and tried to get comfortable.

"What are you waiting for?" her brother growled from the back seat.

"I don't know how to get there."

"You got to go down town," Dez said.

"Down town?" Sheryl was nervous. Her palms were sweating. The wheel was
slick with her sweat. I hate traffic.

"You'll do fine."

"Don't be so sure of that. I'm going mess this up. I just know it."

"Don't be so pessimistic."

"Yeah, well, I'm not a professional." Sheryl started down the highway,
nice and easy. "See, you're doing just fine." Dez put his arm on the
front seat. She glanced over and noticed his hand next to her. The car
swerved.

Dez folded his arms and stared at the highway. "You're sure this is a
good day for a bank robbery?" Dez asked.

"Hell, time's a wasting. I need me some dough." Clay said restlessly.

"Just promise me, you won't get trigger happy or nothing."

"Shit, you got a lot of real confidence in me, don't you?" Clay smiled.
Sheryl noticed his missing eye tooth. I wonder how many moreteeth he's
missing, she thought as she drove toward the stop lights,downtown. "We
got a make a left up here at the light." Dez pointed.

"Okay." "Maybe you ought to get in the left hand lane."

"Right." She steered the car to the left.

"Good, now signal." She followed his instructions. She smiled. This is
driver's ed, she imagined. Why can't this just be a driving lesson?

"There it is." Dez pointed to the big building.

"Why does it have to be on the left side of the street?" Sheryl mumbled.
I hate to make left turns.

There wasn't much traffic. The parking lot at the bank was empty. The
place was dead.

"Where in the hell did I put my ski mask?" Clay asked. "Does that place
look openned to you?" Dez looked over to Cheryl.

"Not exactly." Cheryl frowned staring at the building. I bet it's
aholiday, she thought. God, I could have slept late today. No school.
"Today is Monday isn't it? It ain't Sunday. Weren't you supposed to be
inschool?" Clay stared at Cheryl. "Today's Monday. I guess so." Sheryl
checked her Timex. "Shit, what is today?" Clay asked, rolled down the
window and stared at the big bank.

"Monday," Sheryl said, repeated.

"God, Presidents' day." Dez grinned.

"Presidents Day! Who in the hell ever came up with Presidents day?"

"Probably some bank." Dez turned to Clay.

"Shit! Presidents Day!" Clay said again.

"You got to get on the ball, Clay." Dez informed him. "About these kind
of things."

"Godamnit! Why didn't you tell me, Sheryl?"

"Me?" Why's it my fault? Why is he mad at me.

"Come on let's go," Dez said and she made a block and started toward
home in the LTD.

"If this ain't the shittiest day I've ever had!" Clay leaned back in the
back seat sulking.

"You've had'em before, you'll hav'em again. It was an easy mistake," Dez
said. "Maybe somebody's trying to tell us something? Maybe we ain't
ready."

"Maybe we ain't ready? What in the hell is that supposed to mean, Dez!"
Clay sat back up and leaned on the front seat with his fist under his
chin.

"Just what I said it did." Dez looked over to Sheryl. "She's not ready
for this."

"Not ready for this! Hell, this ain't no training exercise. Folks don't
get training in this like you do if you were a policeman or something,"
Clay said.

"Just relax, all right." Dez sighed.

Sheryl smiled. She could breath easy now. My nerves are shot, she
thought, but it's going to be all right. Everything is going to be all
right. I'm going home.

Sheryl turned toward a farm road that would take them home. Out on the
wet dirt, she spun through the puddles. The car shook from time to time.
She picked up speed in the LTD.

Clay was still steaming mad, and before Sheryl could give him a good
look in the mirror, he snatched the cap from her head. He caught her by
the throat suddenly.

"Why in the hell are you so damn happy?" He pulled her back in the seat
with his arm around her neck.

The car kept rolling and she managed to steer.

"What in the hell are you doing?" Dez asked.

"Pull the car over! Pull the goddamn car over now!" Clay ordered and
Sheryl managed to stop the car in the ditch. The car was tilted and Clay
lost his grip.

Sheryl slipped out the car door. Not looking back, she headed into
themarshy corn field. The mud was sticky, but she kept running, not
knowing ifClay was behind her.

The gun, she remembered. He wouldn't use it. He wouldn't kill me.

Sheryl slipped into the thicket by the creek and saw him looking for
her. "Hell, you're nothing but a goddamn, nuisance. I'd rather kill you
than the skunk under the porch!" His eyes squinted, looking for her in
the dark of the trees. He pointed the gun.

"What are you going to do?" Dez wasn't far behind with a sharp nosed
shovel in his hand.

"What I ought to have done a long time ago. Hell, she's useless. Plain
and simple." He began to fire into the woods.

Sheryl ran behind a big tree and crouched.

Dez said nothing. The shovel came over Clay's head and around his
throat.

"Just give me that gun." Dez wrestled him to the ground. "You always
were so damn trigger happy. Remember the last time I shot you? It was in
the toe. I'm going to aim higher next time if you keep this shit up."

"Ain't nobody taking my gun." Clay's teeth clenched. Dez, on top of
Clay,choked him harder with the handle. Clay twisted his arm back until
he had thepistol pointing at Dez's face.

Sheryl was sure Dez would be shot, but she didn't move from behind the
tree. Maybe I'll keep running. It's not that far to the house, she
thought. But she looked back, saw the shovel in the mud and the two were
having an arm wrestle over the gun.

"I hope I break something." Dez gritted his teeth and Clay moaned. The
gun was cocked. Clay edged it toward Dez's chin. The gun went off,
flying through the air out into the field.

Nobody got hurt, thought Sheryl.

They continued to wrestle in the mud. Clay slithered through the mud
toward the gun a few feet away. Dez grabbed the shovel. This time Dez
stood up, had the shovel straight up over his head. Whack! The shovel
slammed into Clay's forehead. Sheryl flinched. It was quiet then. Too
quiet, Sheryl thought as she slowly made her way to the cornfield.

Clay's muddy body bled. Sheryl walked slowly toward the clump. Sliding
in the mud, she was falling,but Dez caught her. "He's sleeping," Dez
said.

His arms around her were warm. She could feel his quick heart beat,
smell his sweet sweat and the mud on him stuck to her face.

"Everybody goes to sleep." His words were calm, and she closed her eyes.
"He's not going hurt anybody, anymore."

Sheryl opened her eyes. She cried softly into his chest. I'm not going
home, she realized.

"I need a new partner, anyway." Dez whispered.