The winner of April’s door-themed readers write challenge is Jenny Lapekas with her entry titled “Long Stay”. Congratulations, Jenny, and thank you to everyone who submitted!
by Jenny Lapekas
My father begins in the middle of the lot, close to the hangar. He is thorough as he scans the cars in one sweep of his oval eyes. The blue sign seems to sigh from boredom: LONG STAY CAR PARKING. A man’s black Bentley sits dazed, bugs still springing within the vehicle’s frame. This man is a stockbroker who will never know my father’s hand has opened his German-made door. My father’s fingertips are soft pads from years of swimming in chlorine and murky springs, orange shorts and shiny whistle wavering above mud and clay, in search of lost swimmers who have become aquatic corpses haunting the dark waves. These are the same hands that look like maps to me, interstates and turnpikes scattered between cornfields and water, a confusing sort of math.
By the time the man recalls his error, he will resent the ground that passed beneath him. As he sits at a press conference overseas, he has no idea that my father, the man who collected train sets as a boy, has flicked a simple plastic switch and watched the car’s headlights died down. In my mind, my father sits in his Chicago home, a small boy, crashing his toys together and waving to me from a bright red caboose. The man will return to his hotel and never discover that because of my father, his car will start the first time the jagged key turns, and he will return safely to his family.
My father steps out of the car door, one shiny loafer at a time, positions his captain’s hat, so brave, so pronounced, straight and tight around his head. The golden wings glisten on his lapel as he tosses his heavy coat over his arm and straightens his frame. His tie, the one with small globes and smiley faces on it, escapes from his black jacket and flaps in the warm breeze. My father searches for more twin lights begging his attention. These are the headlights others so carelessly, so humanly, forgot to turn off.