Long Drives

A Short Story

By Michael Boyd

I remember the long drives.

I remember waking briefly as Dad lifted me into the car. I drifted off as the engine started and later I opened my eyes to the humming of the motor moving through the quiet night. I looked over my shoulder to see my brother and sister lying alongside me – my parents having put the seats down for us to sleep for the first part of the journey. I lifted my head to watch the trailer, filled with our luggage, through the back window, lit by the rear lights.

I remember staring up at the stars and thinking about how they seemed to stand still while we were moving. I listened to my parents quietly talk about the plans for the day; where to stop for lunch and whether the border would be busy or not. I was excited. I thought about arriving at the sea that afternoon. I couldn’t wait to see the skyline of Johannesburg – signalling the half-way mark on the journey to Durban – to drive over the passes in the Freestate, and to descend into the green hills of Kwa-Zulu Natal. So different from home, so smooth were the roads and so full of life the shopping malls and fuel stations.

I remember this night so long ago. My mind filled with the beach, Wimpy burgers, new mole mounds on the grass outside our block of flats, toy shops and late-night TV with my brother. My mother looked over the seats and saw me awake.

‘Close your eyes, boy,’ she said quietly and stretched over to ruffle my hair.
‘When will we get to the border?’ I asked in a whisper. My sister stirred and turned over.

‘Still a long time – so sleep,’ she smiled down at me.

I remember looking out of the window, making shapes out of the stars and wishing to see the line of sunlight on the horizon. I thought about how far away the stars must be. I wondered if another boy, like me, existed on a planet up there somewhere and if he was also looking up at that time, seeing the light of earth reflected off his own sun. I considered how we were both looking up to see each other, and wondered who was below or above the other.

I remember feeling the rumble of the car and the warmth of the duvet covering me. I turned over and looked at my siblings. My sister had her dummy in her mouth and I twisted it round, to watch it flip back the right way again. We would play this game sometimes, laughing that she did it in her sleep. I looked past her and saw that my brother was awake. He was also staring at the stars.

My parents were quiet. The car rocked us gently and securely. I watched my brother close his eyes. I closed mine too. Waves rolling onto the beach. My eyes opened one more time before I gave myself up to the dream. Beyond my sister and brother, and outside the window, where the stars hung silently and still in the sky, I saw a streak of yellow-blue begin to rise out of the dark earth.