Night Shift

 

I am four years old and half-asleep. My father carries me from my bed to the Chevy’s
backseat, his gold police badge cold against my cheek. The seatbelt clicks, the radio mumbles,
and the plastic scraper crunches ice across glass. On Route 66, he slides the window open a
crack, sending a meteor the size of a spent cigarette into the December night and a keen whistle
through the car.

We arc over the dark Connecticut. I wake fully then, in time to watch the lighter transfer
its glow to another cigarette. Soon, he’ll leave me at my grandmother’s house. She will lower me
onto the couch and pull a scratchy beach towel up to my chin for warmth. He will drive to
Hartford’s North End, to the twelve hours of the weekend night shift that await him there.

For now, he downshifts. When we stop at the light at the base of the bridge, he finds my
eyes in the rearview.

“What do you say, kid?” He asks. “Is it the highway tonight, or is it Main?”

Main. Though it takes longer, it’s always Main. If I could see above the door panel, I’d
notice the empty tin can of O’Rourke’s Diner, the piles of garbage outside the St. Vincent de
Paul, the neon sign in the market window that says WE FORGIVE BUT WE DO NOT FORGET.
Yet all I see then are street lamps dressed in lights: reindeer, evergreens, yellow stars. They slide
over us in their lazy strobe, and I hear again that sharp whistle as his window cracks the night.

Melissa Oliveira / March - April  2016 Issue