Lori Sambol Brody
Paloma, our 15-year-old daughter, perches in the driver’s seat of my Subaru, my husband Jonathan next to her in the passenger seat, and me, I’m in the back seat. Jonathan directs her to turn left and that turn onto the busy highway snaking through the Canyon always scares me even when I’m driving, but she kills it. At least she doesn’t kill us. It’s been a hot second since Paloma took her first steps, and now she’s just under five feet, the seat on its highest setting, taking the curves of the Boulevard a little too fast, but I always think it’s a little too fast when anyone else is driving. You’re doing a great job staying inside the lane! I say, because a compliment means I can criticize her later. She says to Jonathan, That’s how to give a compliment and he says, I do compliment you and the tires rattle as they run over the reflectors marking the shoulder. During her sad times, which come too often now, she says her friends won’t visit her here, and why couldn’t we have lived down in the City, where everything is flat and linear and she could walk to Starbucks? Trees mean nothing to a teenager. We’ve made it to Top-O-Topanga, a high-end trailer park marking the downward drop to the Valley. Over the guardrails, Woodland Hills and Chatsworth and Canoga Park spread out, flat until the San Gabriel Mountains to the north. I want to close my eyes but I’ll get carsick and she doesn’t brake before a curve and I say, slow down, you’re going too fast downhill, and she says, I’m braking Mom. When I learned how to drive, my mother repeatedly stamped her right foot down in the well of the passenger seat; as soon as I got my license she’d let me take the car anywhere, and I did, to the beach to smoke pot around bonfires, to clubs to sweat in mosh pits, and once my best friend and I went camping over the border at K38 to watch surfers, and one slid into my sleeping bag and pressed his body against mine. I say, Let’s go to Spain this winter and Paloma says, When will we do college tours? and Jonathan says, What the heck are college tours? and he doesn’t know that everyone does college tours, at least that’s what I’m told. At the bottom of the hill, Jonathan instructs Paloma to pick a lane and I remember feeling one OB/GYN push on my abdomen, the little blue curtain blocking my view, and the other pull Paloma from the incision, no pain but her head’s pressure unlodged from my side, and the screaming, oh the screaming, and the face presented to me between a blue-and-pink striped hat and blue-and-pink striped swaddle. I didn’t know then that I birthed not only her life but her first step and her second step and every step after that she would take away from me.
Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Tin House Flash Fridays, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her stories have been chosen for the Wigleaf 50 and the Best Small Fictions 2018 and 2019 anthologies. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.