by James Penha

Dad was the best driver I ever knew. A car, he insisted, was as dangerous as a gun and had to be respected. Decades after watching him steer the family car, I drive with his repeated mantras of the road in mind.

But although Dad taught me everything I know about driving, I had from him only one formal lesson. During that hour, he was so intolerant of my errors, I left the car swearing never to discuss driving with my father again.

Attending a local commuter college, I caught three buses each way every day for my first three years there. Asked by friends why I didn’t have a driver’s license, I’d say I didn’t really need one. But when Cal, my study partner in Senior Shakespeare Seminar, demanded I accept his readying me for the State driving test lest I prove myself, in the Bard’s words, a “bull’s pizzle,” I agreed because, mostly, I had a crush on Cal.

Cal was surprised at how little instruction I needed, but I begged for more time in the front—and back—seat of his Dodge . . . even after the State road test when I parked perfectly at the curb where Cal waited to see me smile at the interim license moving from the examiner’s hand to mine.

At home, my father was, I could tell, disappointed that I had earned my license without him. I used a friend’s car, I said.

Later, I made my way to Dad’s den. I explained that no matter the car, it was my watching him drive and listening to his counsel for years that guided my performance that day and would every day, even if I lived to be seventy . . . because he was the best driver I ever knew.

IMAGE: “Amor” windshield sunshade, available at amazon.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. Penha edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Visit him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

AUTHOR PHOTO: James Penha behind the wheel (NYC 2015) thinking of—and looking like—his father.