Driving Home from Olive Garden

by Ellie White

Harlingen, Texas 2000

My father keeps a carton of cigarettes
on the back floorboard of his Tahoe.
They are always on the passenger side
so he can reach them when he’s driving.

When my sister calls shotgun, I don’t
argue. At fourteen, I’m too old
for such childish disputes. I wait until
she and Dad are arguing intensely
about basketball, till the point
where I would usually butt in
to remind them of my presence.

Instead, I slide the carton closer
with my left shoe, maneuver it behind
my heels and slide it up the underside
of my seat. They are still bickering
as I silently remove two packs
and slip them under my right thigh.

As the subject changes from the NCAA
to the NBA, I replace the carton
on the floor and when we pull
into the driveway, I take my time
gathering my purse and jacket.

In the seconds between Dad closing
his door and my sister turning around,
I put a pack above each hip, wedging
them securely inside the waistband
of my new flare-leg jeans. Once inside,
I go to set my purse in my room.

Despite all this concealment, I think
Dad knows. I imagine him counting
the packs in the parking lot
of his apartment building across town,
just like I used to count the beers
in the refrigerator when he lived with us.

Next: First Kiss – Kieran Collier