Never Close Enough

Never Close Enough

A Story by Paige
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A Personal Narrative

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The year is 2002, and I am nine years old.

     It was time to load up in the newly purchased Aerio Suzuki. It was time to say goodbye to Mom and embark on a journey with Dad that I wasn’t quite used to. It was time to spend six hours in the car, and for a bubbly nine-year-old, that meant six hours of restlessness.

     “I’ll miss you, Paige. Have fun in Kansas,” my mom whispered as she bent down to hug my barely five-foot tall body.

     Of course I’ll have fun in Kansas, Mom. It’s my home. Oklahoma’s never been my home, so I don’t understand why you had to move us there after you divorced Dad. I didn’t say this part out loud, though, afraid of hurting my mom’s feelings. Even at that young age, I was developing the habit of trying to protect everyone I love at my own expense--a habit that continues to this day.

     After my mother smothered me in kisses and loosened her relentless grip on me, I pranced toward my dad’s new silver car, ready to sing silly songs or make up some fantastic story with my daddy. The thought kicked in at the sight of my dad’s long red hair and comforting, round belly: it was time to go home. I could feel the excitement surge through me like an electric shock.

     I strapped myself into the front seat. Daddy, with eyes the same color as mine and a nose so long it could only belong to the Warren family, looked at me and smiled.

     “What do you want to do on the way home today, Paige?”

      That was a good question. After all, the possibilities were endless. I brought my entire collection of CDs--no doubt some of them given to me by my dad--that we could listen to in the car.

     “We could play the game where you pick a letter, and I put in the first CD that starts with that letter. Or...”

     I began searching through one of the five bags I had brought (yes, it was only a two-day weekend, but I had still brought my entire room with me). My pink ballet duffle bag held the first Harry Potter book (though my Baptist mother had forbidden me from reading such witchcraft), a couple blank notebooks and lots of pens, and three CD cases full of Kenny Chesney, Steven Curtis Chapman, DC Talk, and other random artists I listened to at the time. My eyes lingered on the green notebook that was just waiting to be written in.

     “We could finish Shep and the Howlers!” I said, stretching my seatbelt in excitement.

     “Shep and the Howlers?” My dad peered down at me from his glasses, his eyebrows scrunched in confusion.

     “You know! The story we made up about the doggie rock band?”

     “Oh, the one where Shep’s bus breaks down on the way to play a gig for the president? Kinda like how our van full of gear broke down when I was on the way to play a gig at Hilton Head?” Daddy asked.

     “Yep! You wanna finish it?” Daylight had quickly begun to fade as soon as we had merged off the main highway. There weren’t too many streetlights on the back roads to the Kansas border.

     “Sure,” Dad said as he flicked the car lights on with a quick movement of his fingers.

     I stretched my neck to look out the window. The sun was barely visible behind the passing trees. It didn’t matter--the moonlight would be enough for me to write by, as determined as I was to finish our story.

     “Now where were we...?” I thought out loud as I flipped open my notebook to a fresh page. I quickly started scribbling ideas with my Lisa Frank pencil.

     “I think we were just to the part where the bus broke down and another dog pulled up to help them out,” Daddy said.

     “Oh, yeah! So...what happens next is, Billy Bob the dog takes the Howlers to Frank the mechanic. But the Howlers don’t know that Frank and Billy Bob are secretly security guards for the president...” I jotted down my thoughts as fast as I could.

     “What’s the president’s name again?” I asked.

     “George W. Bush,” Daddy said.

     “Oh, yeah! I knew that. So what’s going to happen at Frank’s mechanic shop?”

     “Well, since Frank’s the president’s security guard, maybe he can call Mr. Bush and ask him to help out,” Dad suggested.

     “Great idea!” I agreed. “Maybe the president will want the Howlers to sing his favorite song...” It was getting pretty dark outside, so I stopped writing. Instead, I started thinking of what song the Howlers would sing to the president.

     “I’m a hot dog, oh-oo-woah, I’m a hot dog,” Daddy started singing. “I’m a hot dog, so slap some mustard on my belly!”

     I started giggling. I tried to sing along with him, but I couldn’t swallow my laughter in time to belt out a note.

     “Oh! Oh! Then, since the president liked the song so much, he lets them use his limo to get to their concert in Massachusetts!” Ideas flooded my brain. It was too dark now--I’d have to remember the rest of the story so I could write it down later.

     “And don’t forget that George Bush’s favorite band is Shep and the Howlers, so he’ll probably want to come to their show,” Dad offered.

     “Good point,” I said. “And they’ll stay up partying past George’s bed time.”

     “Uh-oh. The president will be too tired to run the country the next day,” Dad said.

     “Probably,” I laughed.

     I tried to look over everything I’d written, but it was still too dark. I closed my notebook, shoved it into my bag, and looked out the window. A green sign flashed by. I guessed it said something like “Kansas City: 120 miles.” But to me, the words on the green sign would always say, “Home: Never Close Enough.”

*   *   *

The year is 2011, and I am nineteen years old.

     It’s time to load up in my nine-year-old silver Aerio Suzuki. It’s time to say goodbye to Mom and make the trip home to Kansas that I’ve been making for almost ten years. It’s time to spend six hours in the car, and for a cynical nineteen-year-old, that meant six hours of anxiousness.

     “Love you. Be safe,” my mom said as I lifted my arm to wrap it around her shoulder. I didn’t mention to my mom what happened the last time on my way to Kansas--my car had overheated. There was no need to cause her even more worry. After all, she had enough to deal with at the moment.

     After my mother showered me in kisses and reluctantly released me, I strolled toward my old and dying car, ready to sing the Coheed and Cambria albums in their entirety or brainstorm ideas for my new short story. The thought kicked in at the sight of the wooden cross from my dad’s church hanging on my rearview mirror: it was time to go home.

      I sighed--today had been a long day. Hopefully I got an A on my U.S. history essay test. And surely I got a 100 on my Japanese quiz, as usual. Did I finish that lab assignment for meteorology? I couldn’t remember. Gosh, I needed a break. But there was still so much I had to do this weekend. At least I had time in the car to think about what was really important: my short story.

     What had happened when I stopped writing last? Oh, yeah--the girls had just been taken from their homes. Sun and Jin-Sung were scared to death, unaware of what was going on. Their captors were plotting to traffic them for sex, unbeknownst to the heroines. How was I going to get them out of this mess? Well, their friendship would help them survive emotionally. Their courage and intelligence would help them escape physically. But they needed an escape route, a tangible plan...

     The nine-year-old voice inside my head said, “They could always call George W. Bush and ask him to end human trafficking.”

     I laughed out loud--I wish writing were that easy! This new story was definitely a few steps above Shep and the Howlers. I smiled at the nostalgia of me and my dad, in this very car, dreaming up stories of dog musicians.

My plotlines had changed drastically, that was for sure. But the 300 miles of road between Oklahoma and Kansas had stayed the same for the most part. The only difference now was that I was the one in the driver’s seat, instead of my dad. But he’s the one who gave me the keys to the car. He taught me how to drive this long road, and he taught me to explore my creativity with every turn of the wheel.

But now I had to drive on my own. Even though it had been ten years since Shep’s inception, nothing felt that different. Sure, I was older, but the things that were most important to me hadn’t changed: stories, writing, and Kansas--the places that I have called, and always will call, home.

 

© 2012 Paige


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Added on September 18, 2012
Last Updated on September 18, 2012
Tags: fathers, nonfiction, travel, dogs