"So, it seems we have a bit of an oil leak out there."
I didn't look up from reading the cereal box. "Really?" I said. "Well, I guess the Acadian is getting old."
"How do you know I'm not talking about your mother's car?"
I chewed and pretended I could only hear my crispy cereal.
"Put your shoes on and we'll have a look together. You'll learn something." He paused for added effect and dried his hands on a tea towel. "Maybe I'll learn something, too."
My parents were a mighty talent at that sort of threat. They never directly chewed us out. First they tossed a line, one that told us something was coming, something swift, inevitable, and just. They'd let us feel the pressure in the room change and let us stew in the vacuum. Usually it was enough to pull the confessions loose.
I knew I was nailed, but I made it out of the kitchen without giving in to any wrongdoing. I hoped that my performance could outlive Dad's suspicions. We stood beside the car for a moment, then he motioned for me to have a look underneath. The street appeared to have dissolved into a pond of oil.
"Wow," I said. "How'd you notice that?"
"Funny thing, see the metal there under the door and all along the side?"
The bottom of the car no longer held a smooth line. It looked like the lip of a clam shell. "I noticed that first and
then the oil."
"Yeah, I guess it's kind of hard to miss."
Dad fixed his expression. As I spoke, he looked at me as if waiting for me to finish something I wanted to say.
"Guess that's quite a bit of work fixing a bad leak like that."
"Goddamn cars, eh? Always something to fix."
"Say, who do you think is the best mechanic in Langley?"
He didn't answer.
"The best besides you, I mean."
"You know, Ryan, it's a funny thing. The car wasn't like that yesterday. Today it leaks oil, and yesterday it didn't. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking last night something happened? You would be the last person in the car, too, so I'm thinking . . ."
I copped to it before he outright stated, in no uncertain terms, it was my fault. Better to admit it than to hear the blame. But the making of Stonehenge turned out to be a difficult phenomenon to describe.
"Rocks?" my father scowled. "Explain this to me again. Where did you find these rocks?"
"I didn't find them. They were just there."
His scowl deepened. "And how exactly did you get my car on top of them?"
Again I described how, in the dark, the patch of lawn had looked like the road I tried to leave by, and how the rocks weren't there, but then they were.
"Of course," he said. A big smile broke under his big moustache. "Of course it was the grass, the grass that looked like a road."
"And it was the wall of rocks."
"The ones you missed."
"But then found underneath the car."
He didn't believe a word of it.
At dinner that night, one of my younger brothers, Rory, asked if I could drive him somewhere. He probably didn't have anywhere pressing to be, really, being twelve, but the two of us liked to go out in Dad's car, buy junk food, and goof around. Rory was a nervous kid, a bit of a loner, and I liked taking him out with me. The first time I drove him somewhere, I asked if he wanted to shift the gears. He looked at me with disbelief, like I'd offered him my bank account.
From Cockeyed: A Memoir by Ryan Knighton, pages 22-35. Copyright Ryan Knighton. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Public Affairs.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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