A Family Outing

by Ethel Rohan

Shane's father drives fast, the car moving like a luminous fish, his big frame folded behind the steering wheel. His shirt-sleeves are rolled up to his bulging biceps, revealing thick arms inked with faded tattoos: a tangle of snakes with open jaws, fangs. Shane would like to roll-up his sleeves and hang his elbow out his window, but he has stick arms. When he's older, with more meat, he'll put a fire-breathing dragon tattoo on each of his forearms.

At the outskirts of the city, the grass sways in the fields, looking athletic and happy. These Boots Are Made For Walkin' blares from the radio. Shane and his father shout along. The crows scatter from the trees, the sky so blue and cloudless it appears painted. Shane doesn't think his father has ever looked more relaxed or handsome. "Her own Errol Flynn," Shane's mother has said.

They race around corners and past random houses and pubs, hearing the planes from the airport long before they see them. They sounded too close for comfort. Shane's not worried, though, doesn't think anything bad can happen. Not when his father's like this. His father accelerates, the car spinning out onto the open road. Shane whoops into the wind, slapping his hair out of his eyes. His father raises a similar cry.

They park at the rear of the airport, in full view of the runways, metal hulks, and sprawling buildings beyond the endless chain fence. On the roof of the car, they stretch out on the hot metal, their hands folded behind their heads and eyes narrowed against the sun's glare. An Aer Lingus jet strains into the sky, screeching so close Shane's heart catches. Minutes later, a United Airlines 747 follows, its grey body and white underbelly making Shane think of a dolphin.

Shane and his father wonder aloud about the passengers, who they are and where they're going. Shane hopes the passengers can see his father and him, basking. He imagines a woman passenger with sallow skin, button nose, and large red lips sitting near the front of the plane, her long black wavy hair fanning across the back of her seat. The passenger behind her fights reaching out and petting her.

She's Maria, a renowned Spanish ballerina, but calls no place home now that she travels so much. Maria's afraid of flying and likes to sit close to the cockpit, ever alert to the first signs of trouble. She can't stay still in her seat, her upper body swaying, feet kicking, and hands fluttering. To belt her in is to stake her soul. Sometimes, when Shane's mother doesn't know he's watching, she prances and pirouettes around their kitchen.

"If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?" his father asks.

Right here, Shane almost answers, but stops himself.

"America," he says.

"Ho!" his father says.

"What about you?"

His father doesn't answer.


"Just watch, son."

The word "son" rings in Shane's ears, the ecstatic peals of a bell.

"We'll go to Hawaii together someday," Shane says.

His father chuckles.

Shane tells himself it could happen.

Later, when they stop into the pub, parched and salty, their faces sunburned, Shane's father entertains the handful of people in the dull place with his jokes and stories. Later still, when evening falls, the orange-red fire's blazing, and the packed pub's  choked with blue-black cigarette smoke, Shane's father remains the center of attention, beguiling everyone with his good looks, easy charm, and sharp wit. The musicians in the far corner bring their guitars, fiddles, whistles, banjos, and accordions to life. Shane's father waltzes a tall, thin, raven-haired woman about the stone floor, her white underwear showing through her yellow dress.

Shane sips his coca-cola through a limp paper straw, and ignores the hungry rumbles in his stomach. He taps his foot and bobs his head, his blood coursing in time to the music and his father's sure steps. Someday he'll twirl just such a beauty around a faraway dance floor. Whenever he thinks of his mother back at home, knowing full well where he and his father have gotten to, he looks through the far window, silver cobwebs in its top corners, searching for the glittering lights of the planes, listening for their triumphant roar amidst the stars. The music stops, and Shane's father dips the woman backwards, kissing her full on the mouth for an impossibly long time. Now Shane can hear the planes, their sound as muffled as his mother's crying when she thinks no one is listening.

BIO: Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel Rohan received her MFA in fiction from Mills College, CA. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from over thirty online and print journals including DecomP; Word Riot; mud luscious; Clockwise Cat; Ghoti Magazine, and the Journal of Truth and Consequence. Her blog is www.straightfromtheheartinmyhip.blogspot.com