Three Stories

Kim Chinquee


On the Wheel

Now her son drove. They took a trip to the next town, since there wasn't much in this town, though there wasn't much in that one either, and the ride was a lonely highway, with nothing on the sidelines, save a couple trailers; the route was one they'd taken many times when they both used to live there, years before, when he was approaching adolescence, had said he'd hated that they lived there. And then a year ago, after she left for a job, he stayed; he didn't want to leave there. He was bigger now, of course, with his hair flipped to a side, his chin full of whiskers, and his muscles were bigger than both hers and his father's combined. He was waiting for some orders as a soldier. He’d said: I made up my mind, Mom. I need your support, Mom. He was living with a friend now. She was staying at a motel. They had a lot of down time. He drove his car, one that used to belong to his stepmom, with the music up, his hands on the wheel.

His mother looked out the window, remembering the time she got arrested on that road when she had been mistaken. It had become the story of that road, and she couldn't get it out of her head: her hands in cuffs, asking the man to please let her go, or loosen, how she needed to get her son, since he was at school and waiting, and she was all he had then. He'd be worried. He was worried. He'd been so worried when she'd called him. He'd needed her then; when she got home, finally, she held him, said it was ok now. 

Now he just drove, pointing to cars on the road, saying: this one is a sports car, and then that one. Oh, she said. She said she never paid attention to what the cars looked like. They were in the state of cars, most of them looking big, like they could eat up the universe. 

She started to feel nostalgic and told him that sometimes she wished he needed her in the ways he used to, when he was small. Like when he needed her all the time. He said, "I still need you all the time, Mom." 

The day she had arrived, he'd sat on the bed of her motel room. He lay across, and she put drops in his ears to alleviate his ringing. She did one side, then the other. She'd sat there with her boy. She almost stroked his head. She'd watched him, on the pillow, his eyes closed, his body so long.


We Decided Not to Give Them Faces

My boyfriend and I went outside and tried to make a snowman, but we only had enough snow for one big ball, so we made the ball into a head, two cigars as eyes, a celery nose, a smile with grapes. I'd brought my beret from the time I was in the Air Force, and we put it on top. The next day, the snowman was still there but the grapes weren’t. The day after that, the snow melted. 

I kissed my boyfriend, showed him a poem I'd written about the moon and a lover who said he'd come back. My boyfriend stepped away. He said the poem was lovely. He didn't ask about the lover, but I probably wouldn’t have told him. That other guy wasn't like him, wasn’t safe and careful. 

It snowed more, so we put on hats and mittens. It was hard, the wind, and my boyfriend kept telling me how to roll the snow correctly. "Do it like this," he said. But I tried to make the man the way that I remembered. My snowman toppled over. “See?” my boyfriend said. I kind of laughed. I kissed him. “Let’s make love,” I said. He got up. He went inside and fixed himself a sandwich. “Can we talk?” I said. I asked him why he hardly ever touched me. His mouth was full. He swallowed, said “Not now" then "Baby, are you hungry?” I wasn’t hungry. I said I wasn’t hungry. I went back out, making angels.

I Was There for the Team

We put our bags on piles, coming back when we were done with stretching, changing into racers, taking off our watches and our sweatpants, zipping all our bags shut. It was an inaugural for our team: the indoor; we'd never had a meet that wasn't full of cinder. This track was almost rubber—it was softer than a gym floor. Guns went off and people cheered, just like any other track meet, but here the air felt toxic, like when you're on an airplane and people are coughing. We wore our colors, clashing with opponents. The place was like a bubble, and then there was my track coach: I was scared of him, though I didn't know why. I was no sprinter, though I used to win the hundred. I was no good at distance either, but that's what they needed. 

This track was smaller than the outside. I had to run the distance, so I went to the start, feeling hungry and electric. When the gun went off, we raced ahead, like always. We ran, but this was a small track, round and round, around—the coach had demonstrated how to pump my arms around the bends, so I did that, though people were passing. After a while I came up on a girl. We ran like that for a while and I got dizzier than normal. I pictured myself above all the noise, and then she got the edge and passed me. My legs got heavy. My arms. People cheered. The noise was one big echo. I saw spots and black, then told myself to keep it together. I thought I saw my coach—was he my father? He was smiling. I pushed with all my might, though I could have been rising.