First Page Challenge, 1st place winner: "The Silver Trail"
By Adam McCulloch
I blame my family’s Volvo for pretty much everything. I was the unwanted remainder child, the youngest of four and the only girl. The orange Volvo wagon could comfortably seat a family of five—or if, perchance, someone had had an affair on the cusp of menopause and nine months later that family of five had suddenly become a family of six, that very same orange Volvo wagon could now seat child number four in significant discomfort... facing backwards.
The seat folded down from the wheel-well and smelled like wet dog, which the previous owner must have loved enough to let scratch the shit out of the leather. Brian, my oldest brother by thirteen years, nicknamed me luggage and it trickled down through our pre-teen patriarchy—luggage to bag, bag to sad-sack—until eventually Brian and the twins settled on Baggy. Who was I to dispute it? With the noise of the radio and the squeak of the windscreen wipers cutting two clear fans through the rain and, on top of that, the meaty thwack of the twins playing knuckles at my ear, there was no way my objections could be heard. Owen, my forwards-facing stepfather, always had a new insult for every driver: “Look at this old fart. Where did he get his license? A box of cereal?”
“Just pass him, already,” was the only solution my mother every offered. “He won’t go faster with you jammed up his exhaust pipe.”
Then, while Owen searched the road for another victim of safe ridicule, the rear-view mystery played out behind us. That same old fart pulled to the curb and, under a bloom of black umbrellas, climbed the steps to the funeral home. Our belching Volvo always left a wake of small cameo performances played out for me and me alone: barking dogs, shirts pulled to mask noses, scowls and curses all eventually receding to harmless miniatures. Mom claimed that the bright orange paintwork kept our family safe on Seattle’s rain-slicked streets but, like a wasp, its real purpose was a warning: our family was poisonous.
Adam McCulloch is an award-winning journalist and fiction writer whose work has been published in Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder; Shutdown Strangers and Hotrod Angels; and Coffin Bell, among others. THE SILVER TRAIL is his first novel. Currently he lives in the desert and drives a 1963 Corvair. He can be found on Twitter @AdamJMcCulloch and adammcculloch.info.