Limber Up Before Letting Loose: Response to prompt #2

writing practice

So for those of you that have been following along, I’ve attached my response to last week’s prompt (see below); I’ll be posting prompt #3 early next week.

Describe a memorable event–positive or negative–and how it felt to you…but do not name the feeling. Instead, tell how it felt in your body (damp hands, metallic taste, tight throat, wobbly knees, etc.).

I am standing in the kitchen of my childhood home, circa 1979. “Who wants to go to Fun World?” my father asks the household at large. My three younger siblings screamed with delight as my stomach plummeted to my toes. My heart began to triphammer, making it difficult to breathe; only one other thing he could have said to me would have caused such a visceral response: “Deana, you have a spider on your head.”

My 4-year-old cousin TJ was standing amidst the bedlam, baffled. Aunt Gail and Uncle Tod had packed him and his baby sister up and moved back to Massachusetts from Texas, following a job lead for Tod; for now, they were living with us.

The racket settled into excited babble as my siblings explained Fun World and its affiliated go-cart experience; this joyful noise reached my ears as if through wet cotton, however, and my vision seemed to darken around the edges. I had always managed to avoid partaking of this pastime; the idea of being responsible for the operation of these insidious and, to me, inherently carnivorous contraptions always induced an instant fight-or-flight response.

My sister chose this moment to announce, “Deana doesn’t want to go.” I wondered what gave me away. My face turning the color of cottage cheese? My eyes, nose, mouth and forehead all gathering themselves into a puckered sphincter? Before I could think, my mouth betrayed me: “Yes, I do!” Pride was my folly: What kind of almost-teenager would I be if my four-year-old cousin would go, but I wouldn’t? “I do want to go!” And with those words, I sealed my fate.

Twenty minutes later, we piled out of our big-ass Suburban into Fun World’s parking lot. The go-cart track simmered in the late summer sunshine, heat waves shimmering from the black rubberized surface like transparent serpents, defying gravity and desperately slithering skyward. Feet dragging, I followed everyone to the ticket booth. My body shook, and my heartbeat WHOMP-WHOMP-WHOMPED in my ears, like a slow-motion helicopter.

“Deana, get a move on!” My father was at the window, wallet in hand.

“I don’t…” My voice was tiny; I cleared my throat and tried again. “I don’t want to.”

Both my father and the ticket booth guy paused, and the transaction screeched to a halt. “Oh, for God’s sake, Deana!” My father’s voice was embedded with sharp points of anger. “This is supposed to be fun!”

His ire only upset me further; my hands grasped and clutched desperately at each other. “But…I…”

My father flung his hands up in disgust. “I don’t care what you do. Just make up your mind.” Everyone was staring at me now–including the pimply ticket guy behind the glass.

“I’m…not going.”

I felt small and miserable, especially when TJ said in his adorable Texas drawl, “It’s all-raht, Day-na. Ahl go wichew, if yew wownt.”

Gail spoke up. “You go with Daddy, Teej. I’ll stay with Deana and Erin.” I felt a glorious, momentary respite from my inner turmoil; I swear I heard strains of the Hallelujah Chorus. But then as everyone trooped away, I realized my distress hadn’t even caused a ripple in their happy pool of anticipation. I felt the sudden urge to chase them, and the hot burn of tears filled my eyes as I struggled to figure my stupid self out.

My aunt watched me carefully. “Come on,” she said, carrying Erin on one hip, and holding her other hand out. “What’s the worst that could happen?” she added, leading me back to the ticket window. Seconds later, I was sprinting to the starting line, a soggy ticket clutched in my sweaty hands. I handed the sodden pulp to the attendant, and struggled to process his instructions. This was made difficult by that helicopter in my head: “The right pedal is (WHOMP), the left (WHOMP), and make sure you don’t (WHOMP).” I grabbed the hot, greasy steering wheel and held on for dear life.

I don’t remember driving the cart. I do recall, however, being unable to fully open my still-quaking hands afterwards, having held the black rubber wheel in a vise-like death grip for the duration. Despite this, the lightness in my chest made me feel as though I could have floated to the parking lot–even after my father turned to me and said, “See? I told you so. All that commotion for nothing.”

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