‘You ready,’ he says, as if I had a choice.
His eyes flick over what I'm wearing. ‘Really,’
‘What?’ I say.
‘Nothing, all right then. Put your seatbelt on.’
Dust somersaults behind the car as we drive down the dirt road towards town. I watch it swirling in the car’s side mirror. Beside me, my uncle, silent, remains focused on the road ahead. In his mind, the mission is too serious to speak about until it’s over. He would know. He’s been on many in the past. I know because he’s told me about them. Never in great detail. He can’t. Secrecy is important in this line of work; without it, future missions could be jeopardised.
Bored by his silence and the dust’s repetitive performance, I stare out the window just in time to see a hawk snatch a mouse out of the yellow grass along the roadside. The mouse doesn’t know how lucky it is as the hawk carries it away. I do, so much I wish I were it.
We pull into a service station on the town’s outskirts. I stay in the car while he fills the tank.
‘Have you had dinner?’ he asks before going inside to pay. I shake my head from side to side. He nods and returns with a can of Coke, a sausage roll, and a pack of condoms.
‘Make sure you use them,’ he says. I take the pack and put them in my pocket. Then I answer in the same manner as before, only this time my head nods up and down.
Having eaten the sausage roll, I drink the last of the Coke as we pull into her driveway. Again the gravel crackles, maybe even laughs.
... middle of paper ...
...wer either question, though my uncle could.
‘Because, and yes,’ he said to her.
‘How men measure themselves,’ she said and walked away.
Now that she knows, how will she look at me in the morning? What questions will her eyes ask me? Will she stay silent and let her facial expression do the talking? Or will she speak up and reinforce that she didn't agree with it to begin with, that she was right, and that I failed. Well, at least she can’t take my dignity; I left that back at her place.
The beam of light under the door widens, triangulates. My uncle comes over, kneels beside me, and pats me on the shoulder. ‘Tonight wasn’t your night, so what. You’re time will come.’
I nod. It seems manhood is terminal. Nothing can cure me.
‘Is it always this confusing?’ I ask.
He smiles and goes into the light, a man, and closes and door, leaving me, a boy, alone in the dark.
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