“Hey Kiddo, come here for a second. Daddy want’s to talk to you for a minute.” The little girl walks closer to her father, he squats down to meet her at eye level, but loses his balance and rolls onto his back. He makes a half-hearted attempt to sit up straight, but as soon as he lifts his head up, the room starts spinning and he almost throws up. He lays on his back as he reaches into his pocket for a cigarette.
“Dad, are you ok”
“I’m fine. Just a little hungry and tired. You ever get like that in a parking lot? You’ll understand when you’re older.” He looks his daughter in the eye as he takes a drag from his cigarette. “You know what today is?”
“Saturday,” the little girl pouted.
“Oh. I thought it was Friday, but that’s not the point here… What’s the date?”
“It’s the eighth of October.” The girl began to cry quietly. “Dad. You drank too much. You can’t even stand up!”
“I’m fine. Stop crying.” She tried to stop, but couldn’t stand seeing her father in this condition.
“But nothing! Remember this date! Write it down. Today is going to be huge for you.” The girl continued to sob. She looked around the parking lot. It was almost completely empty except for a few strange cars. No pedestrians. No grownups to run and tell.
“When you look back, you’re not going to remember it as the day your father threw up on your shoes in a bowling alley.” He tried again to get up. He managed to roll on to his side.
“You’re going to remember it as the day you learned how to drive.”
Her tears stopped instantly and that young girl, who just a moment ago looked as though she’d dropped ten ice cream cones in a row on a hot sidewalk, was now unable to contain her excitement. She reached down and unhooked the car keys from her father’s belt loop. It was almost as though she wasn’t standing over her the sloppy, drunken father. She didn’t see the absolute horror and sadness of the situation in front of her — she saw the future. A future full of independent trips to the mall, and long, car rides to amusement parks that were unreachable by bike.
She helped her father to his feet and told him to stay put while she pulled the car up. She started the car, put it into gear, and delicately backed out of her spot, which happened to be right between a lamppost and a cart corral. She knew it. She was a natural. She pulled up right next to her dad and he climbed in. He slurred out a few orders, something that sounded like “put your seatbelt on.” She was already one step ahead. She was in control.
After several minutes, her father was passed out in his seat. Her favorite Miley Cyrus song came on just as she cranked the radio up. Almost like it was meant to be. Her braids blew in the wind, and she finally knew what it was like to be an adult.
Her high was quickly crushed when she saw the police behind her. She pulled over, and attempted to flirt with the officer, because that’s what a grownup woman would do, but it didn’t work. Because she was nine, and her Dad was still passed out in the passenger seat.
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