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Calling My Dad on Father’s Day
by Marianne Peel

I remember him
not letting me drive myself to college
until I’d practiced changing a tire three times.
He gave me an index card
in his penciled hand
reminding me what I need to do
and when
to maintain properly my car.
I still have that card.
the only writing I have
that belongs to his hand.

But today
I interrupted
the Nascar he was watching.
Out of Seattle, not Indy, he told me.

He stayed on the line
twenty minutes.
Muted the race.
The longest conversation
I’ve ever had with dad.

He asked about the brakes on my G6 Pontiac.
We discussed warped rotors, machining,
the amount the shop shaved off.
I knew his mechanic’s vocabulary.
He assured me they did right by me at the shop,
only charging me eighty for the service.

In the heated garage, growing up,
he’d plunge his hands in Goop,
massage this grease into the lines of his hands.
He would press down hard on his nail beds,
trying to dislodge stubborn oil.

And so tonight,
after silence filled the space between
Arizona and Michigan again,
I vacuumed out my car:
road dirt, leaf fragments, twigs, gravel bits,
bread crumbs from that French baguette

I took Armor All to the dashboard
pressing with elbow grease into the leather.
Making it shine.
I squirted Bug and Tar Be-Gone
onto a lumpy rag,
wishing I had the smooth yellow chamois cloth
he used to use.
I knuckled down
a full body press
and erased splattered insects
from the front bumper of my Pontiac.
Just because
I know
how much he admires
a clean, clean car.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The front and back of the 3 x 5 card my dad gave to me.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Loved this prompt, as it caused me to reflect on what I consider to be “prized” among my possessions. I’ve accumulated tons of stuff over my 57  years, even though I actually consider myself non-materialistic. I have only one possession from my father: a three x five card with directions on how to take care of my car. He gave this to me as I was leaving for college. He was a mechanic. This was important information for him to share with me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Peel taught English at middle and high school for 32 years, and is now retired, doing Field Instructor work for Michigan State University.  She won first prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine, and.  also won the Pete Edmonds Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared  in Encodings:  A Feminist Literary Journal; Write to Heal; Writing for Our Lives:  Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing;  Mother Voices; Metropolitan Woman Magazine;  Ophelia’s Mom;  Jellyfish Whispers; and Remembered Arts Journal, and will appear in the fall editions of Muddy River Review and EastLit Journal. The recipient of Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey, she is a flute-playing vocalist, learning to play ukulele. Raising four daughters, she shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey.  She taught teachers in Guizhou Province, China, for three summers, and in January 2016 toured several Chinese provinces with the Valparaiso Symphony, playing both flute and piccolo.  In June 2016, she was invited to participate in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop.