Here is Part 5 of the Great Untitled Fiction Piece. Note the fiction. Fictiony-fiction. Opposite of fact. Fiction. Imagniary. Made-up. Mostly. Loosely inspired by an actual life. Mostly mine. If you’d like to read parts 1 – 4 (or any combo therein) go here.
A child is at my elbow.
“Where do we keep the motor oil?”
I look up from the computer. Mostly I hate when that happens, the looking up. It means that something unusual enough to disrupt my multi-tasking has just been said, and as much as I would love it if those things were “Mom, I just need to tell you how great you are,” or “Mom, I have some serious things on my mind,” Or “Tess, can you explain dating to me?” They almost never are. They are invariably things more along the lines of “Did I tell you my tooth fell out at school yesterday?” Or, “Dad said I have to ask you about bringing home the science room snake over spring vacation,” or my personal favorite, “I have to make a scale model of the Parthenon for history class….tomorrow.”
Despite the infringement on my work with the up-looking, I have to confess that I like this one a lot, in that it suggests not only that we have motor oil handy, but that this is such a household staple that it requires a place to be kept. But behind the amusement in the broad confidence the children have in our ability to meet absolutely any need, is the concern…why does this child need motor oil?
I pause in my response, because I’m trying to decide if I want to remark on the presumption of a household stash of motor oil, or jump straight to the interrogation.
Oh, what the hell. “And you need motor oil for…?”
“Of course,” I say. “What fun is reading The Red Badge of Courage without motor oil.”
“We finished The Red Badge of Courage.”
“Then what’s the motor oil for,” I ask.
“We’re doing discussion groups on how the Industrial Revolution changed American literature, and my group is talking about the invention of the automobile.”
“Can’t you just bring in a Match Box car?” I figure I’m mostly off the hook, so I’ve started typing again while listening.
“No.” (There needs to be a special font that captures the sound of a teenager simultaneously sighing and groaning when expressing maximum disdain and imposition. It could be called “Angst New Roman.”)
“So why does it have to be motor oil?”
“Because of the war.”
I have to stop typing again. “You have to bring motor oil to your English class to discuss post Industrial Revolution American literature because of the war?”
“Yeah.” (Typed in bold, italicized Angst New Roman.) “The war is all about oil.”
“But you’re talking about literature around the turn of the century, right?”
“We didn’t get much oil from the Middle East then, you know.”
“Nope. Pretty much none, I think.” I start typing again.
There is a pause at the far side of the desk. Then, “Well what should I bring then?”
“You tell me.”
“I’ll have to think about that a bit.”
I am able to work for about twenty more minutes before the same child is back at my elbow. “So how about a spare rubber tire?”
“I don’t have a spare rubber tire, we could probably pick one up at the auto yard. When do you need to have it by?”