: The Limousine :

an excerpt by Evan Morgan Williams


Those were primordial days, when they tested bombs on the wind and we watched the roiling cloud from the ridge top, not understanding, but not asking, either. We piled into the station wagon and drove back to Las Vegas, my mom eager to check her roast, my cousin Sarah to gab on the phone, and I to play with my pals. After supper, the evening air turned cool, and the grown-ups came out with cigarettes and beer to talk about the latest blast as though it were a fireworks display, while we played on brown lawns, sparing Mr. Thompson his memories of the war by staging good versus evil in a land of cowboys and Indians safely in the past. No place to hide, though: shadeless streets were lined with saplings as new to their role as we to ours.

            Everything that needed to be known was known. Tract houses in three models met every desire. The roofs were red, the siding was white, the sky was blue, and the bomb shelter door was grey. Cotton dresses billowed on clotheslines, grabbing at a breeze that found no other resistance. Undergarments were called, with finality, unmentionables; we spied on Debbie Jones pinning up the laundry, and as Bobby Thompson pointed out her camisole and petticoat, I accused him of making up those words. Later, Debbie disputed the words Corregidor and Guadalcanal—Mr. Thompson had staggered inside early, and we did play war, boys verses girls, seeking cover behind the spindly trees while the evening sun cast long, barren, unsecret shadows.

            Into this absence of mystery, my dad brought home a shiny black limousine.