Fish out of Water
The heat was unbearable even in my cut off shorts and striped tank top. My legs stuck to the cracked vinyl seat. My brothers rode in the back as my mother drove. The arid desert air whipping through the windows was all we had to cool us. Packed in like sardines with everything we could fit that was of value to us. Even my little brothers fish Rainbow was confined to one of those red paper coke cups that you get at a movie theater, tucked away in an empty aquarium. I am sure he was hot too.
She was driving plastered-drunk as usual. We were running from him, running for our lives, or maybe just running from them. Perhaps I was just along for the ride like that damned fish. I cannot tell why it took so long to get there (it is a straight shot down Interstate 10). I have made the trip many times since and it should have taken half a day, I think it took close to three days. Was she so intoxicated that she got lost repeatedly. I do not remember stopping or sleeping much but we must have. I recall waking up somewhere in Arizona at a truck stop; remember the clean smell of rain in the desert and the sound of it pelting the roof of that old Pinto Station Wagon.
The radio did not work. She was not much good for conversation. All I remember of my brothers were the worried looks on their feverish faces from the back seat. I left alone with my own thoughts was scared and excited, exhausted yet sleepless. I wondered what California would be like, hoped she would stop drinking, worried he would follow us and kill her as he had threatened, and prayed she would not turn around.
We stopped periodically for gas, food and the bathroom. Each time I would check on Rainbow, the cup always tipped over in the aquarium the fish would be in centimeters of water but somehow still alive. I would scoop the fish back into that tattered paper cup, fill it with water and off we would go again. Later I learned that Betta Fish are native to shallow muddy rice...