My father and his Valiant.
In the driveway, early in the morning, he forces the pedal down. It coughs, chugs, dies.
And again, until we all hear the car scream and flood, like a horse going down while crossing a swollen river.
My father’s shoes are lost in several inches of snow, his collar is up to the wind, and his pale overcoat, just a little too large, hangs past his knees. He curses at the car.
A queer name for this pile of tin, with its weak minded engine, smelly seats and a cracked window.
My father eyes the kitchen window where I wait, still groggy.
He knows he needs to come in and make breakfast for the four children.
Knows his wife won’t be out of bed this morning – another bad night for her.
Lunches to be made as well. While he scrambles the eggs he’ll be putting bologna on bread, a streak of mustard across the meat, a dry slice of old cheddar.
He’ll place pretzels in small plastic baggies. And grab us each a softening apple.
All this while he yells periodically for the older ones to get downstairs, to get their boots on, to get me dressed.
The phone rings: the office.
The long kinky green phone cord reaches across the kitchen where he wipes mustard from his tie
And throws a rag for someone to clean up the juice I spilled.
“No problem, chief,” he says to the boss as he kicks the dog out of his way. “I’ll be there.”
Then back outside to wrestle more with his nemesis.
It reluctantly ignites, finally,
Spewing fumes into the frigid Jersey air.
He scrapes the ice from the windows and packs us in, book bags, children, his worn down brief case.
He distributes chap-stick, brown lunch bags, advice.
Down the long rocky driveway
The car sliding in the snow like a drunk.
Left, then right, then left.
He straightens it out and drives on, turns onto to the snow-quiet road.
Carrying all his children, out to the winter day