Singularity

Parker sat in the passenger’s seat of his dad’s car. As the car backed out of the garage, he admired the sparkling-lightning-bolt laces that adorned his red, high-top Chuck Taylors. The laces were a gift from his mom. She’d given Parker a lot of gifts lately, and for no apparent reason. But Parker liked gifts, and he didn’t complain. He was ten.

*

His dad had frowned when Parker asked for help replacing his old and worn-out gray laces: “I hope you know it more than gifts, kid. I hope someday you realize that.”

“Realize what?” Parker couldn’t stop smiling as the new laces threaded through each shiny, metal grommet.

His dad raised his sad eyes and looked at Parker’s beaming face, “Park. Park. Park. You’ll be the coolest kid at school with these new lightning laces. I bet everyone will think they’re pretty shocking,” and he reached up to tousle his son’s curly brown hair.

“Shocking lightning! Ha!” Parker couldn’t stop giggling.

*

Parker loved how the lightning seemed to flash when he bounced his heels off each other. And so he had his head down when his five-year-old sister, Tank, yelled from the backseat, “It’s Mom! Dad! Park! Hi Mom!”

Parker looked up and out the rear window as his mom turned her car into the driveway. Her car was yellow and flashy. It had two doors and no room for Tank’s booster seat. His dad drove a tan station wagon, which had plenty of room for everyone, but Parker liked his mom’s car better because it looked fast.

Parker’s dad stopped their car and shook his head. In a low voice he said, “Shit Dana. You’re early. Shit.”

“Whadyousay Dad?” Tank had begun to swing her feet and kick the seats in front of her. Parker felt the jolts rise from the bottom of his back into his head. His dad put his head between his knees.

“Tanya, stop kicking the seats ok honey?” His dad’s voice was soft. Tank didn’t stop kicking.

“Tank! Dad says you gotta stop kicking! You’re giving him a migraine. And me too. Right dad?” Parker glared at his little sister as he put a hand on his dad’s back.

“Thanks Park,” his dad looked up at Parker and smiled. “I’m ok now. All right. Let’s go to Grandpa’s house. Wave goodbye to your mom.”

*

The plan to visit Parker’s grandpa came at the drop of a hat. It was only a weekend trip, leaving Saturday morning and getting home on Sunday night. The trip meant that Parker would miss flag-football and he was not happy about it.

“Why do we have to go to Grandpa’s this weekend? Football is done in two weeks. Let’s go then,” Parker had asked during dinner on Friday night.

“I know you’ll miss your football. And I’m sorry for that. But we have to go this weekend,” his dad took off his glasses and looked across the round table at Parker.

“Yeah, Park. We have to go this weekend,” Tank said through a mouthful of spaghetti.

“That’s fine Tank. He heard me the first time.”

“But can’t I just stay here with Mom?” His mom was not at dinner with them. His mom had not been home for dinner in several weeks. Parker saw her folding blankets on the couch every morning while he ate breakfast and then she would drive him to school, but that was it.

“I miss Mom,” Tank said through another mouthful.

“Tanya, we don’t talk with our mouth full.”

“Dad. Why can’t I just stay with Mom? You and Tank can go to Grandpa’s house without me. Grandpa played football, he’ll understand.”

“Park,” his dad took a deep breath. “Part of the reason that we’re going to visit Grandpa is because your mom wants to leave. And when we get back from Grandpa’s she won’t be here anymore.”

“My mouth is not full. I miss Mom,” Tank said.

“She won’t be here anymore?” Parker was confused.

“That’s right. She won’t be here. It’s going to be a big change for all of us,” his dad smiled, but Parker saw that his eyes did not match his mouth.

Parker thought about a book his mom had given him. It was about black holes. Black holes, the book said, were created when a star collapsed, or went away. Black holes were strong enough to swallow light, the fastest thing ever. Black holes, the book said, were a kind of singularity. Singularities, the book said, were disruptions in the fabric of spacetime. Parker knew what disruption meant: it was when Phil Sandell talked out of turn or threw spit wads while Ms. Anderson was trying to teach.

Parker thought that his mom’s disappearance would be like a singularity in his life. It would be a big disruption, and there would be a black hole to take her place. That black hole would swallow him up and it would swallow up Tank and it would swallow up his dad. It would swallow up their whole entire world, because nothing, not even light, was fast enough to escape black holes.

Parker nodded at his dad’s sad face and said, “Ok Dad. We’ll go to Grandpa’s house. I like Grandpa.”

*

His mom had climbed out of her car and was standing at its front. The wind stirred her long hair and she pulled her leather jacket tight around her thin frame. She smiled at Tank, who was waving from the backseat. Her smile dropped, however, as the car began to reverse. Her eyes narrowed and she approached the car swiftly. She looked at her husband and motioned for him to roll down the window.

He slowed the car and rolled the window down halfway. “You’re early Dana. I thought we agreed that it was better if—”

“No, Jim. You told me that it was better if I wasn’t here when you left. I didn’t agree,” she placed her left hand on the window. Parker noticed that she wasn’t wearing her favorite ring. His eyes did a quick check to his dad’s hand: there was still a ring.

“Fine. You didn’t agree. But at least you could respect my request. The counselor suggested that it would be too confusing for these two if they were here while you were packing up,” his dad sighed.

“Conf… Confusing? They are my kids too Goddammit!”

“Mom! That’s a bad word! Don’t say the bad words,” Tank leaned towards the front seat.

“Sorry baby,” his mom lowered her head to make eye contact with Tank.

Parker looked at the faces of his family. Tank was smiling at their mom. His mom was frowning and looking at his dad. His dad was staring at their house and breathing loudly through his nose. Parker followed his dad’s lead and looked at their house. The windows looked like mirrors reflecting the cloudy, gray sky. The flowers and plants his mom planted at the beginning of the summer had all withered and died from neglect. A strip of siding near his bedroom window was peeling, and it flapped in the wind. Their house looked quiet and sad and abandoned.

His dad broke the silence, “Dana, I don’t think you deserve these kids.” He rolled up the window slowly, so that she could withdraw her hand.

“Jim! Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare just leave!” Tears were standing in his mom’s eyes. She looked scared and her eyes danced back and forth between Parker and Tank.

The window was closed, but his dad muttered, “No, you just left.”

The car rolled backwards and his dad let out a single sob. It sounded to Parker like he was gulping water, or gasping for air after waking from a bad dream. Parker looked at his dad and then at his mom. His mom stood in the middle of the driveway with her arms at her waist. Her hands were opening and closing, like she was trying to hold the air around her. Her face was slack and she shook her head back and forth. Parker thought she looked like he felt when Phil Sandell had told him that Santa Claus was a fake.

“Mom?” Tank asked from the back seat.

“You’ll have to see your mom later, honey,” his dad reached a hand back and patted Tank’s knee. Tank began to cry.

“I want Mom! I don’t want Grandpa! I want Mom!”

Parker’s dad was crying too. The car reached the end of the driveway and his dad turned the wheel as they began to drive away. Tank kicked the back of the seats again, but Parker did not feel it. He pressed his forehead against the window’s cool glass and watched his mother in the driveway. He waited for her to collapse and disappear. He waited for the disruption to create a black hole.

And he crossed his fingers and wished that their car would drive faster than light.

***********

(I’m calling this a middle draft. I’m calling it that because it’s polished from the rough draft, but there are still some big changes that I’m envisioning. Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy to put in the time on those changes right now. They’ll come later, I promise. ~Dr. P)

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One Response to “Singularity”

  1. Guy Says:

    Whoa… the singularity image really comes back with a vengeance at the end. Whatever you do, don’t change the ending. Great stuff.

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