The car is blue like the sky. A diamond of light glares where the sun strikes the paint. Young Gabe has to blink when he looks at this diamond of light flaring before him. He tells himself that if he puts out his hand, the one not holding Michael’s, and touches the car, the metal will be hot enough to burn him.
They are in the car, in the front seat. This time they are not figures wrapped in black, but them, as they truly were. They are looking out the rolled-down window, looking down at Michael and young Gabe standing together at the side of the road, with the lawn and the house behind them.
He is at the steering wheel, on the far side of the car, away from young Gabe and Michael. He is wearing a white shirt and a tie, but not a jacket. He likes to wear a jacket. But today it is too hot. He is not smiling. He makes his eyes into slits as if the brightness of the day hurts them even inside the car. His hair is slicked down the way he likes it. Young Gabe can tell that he is in a hurry to start the car and be away.
She is also in the front seat. She is looking out the window nearest to her boys. Young Gabe sees that she has made herself pretty today, excited because this is a day of getting away. She has piled her long hair, the color of chestnuts, on her head. It's the way she likes her hair when the day is hot. She is wearing a white dress with blue buttons up the front—and white gloves. A white purse too. She has the purse in her hand.
She leans out the window. She says, Kiss me good-bye.
Pulling Michael with him, young Gabe steps up to the window. He touches his lips to the cheek she turns to him. Her skin is slippery with powder that tastes bitter. Michael kisses her too. Young Gabe tells himself again that he mustn't cry. They don't like it if he cries when they go away.
She smiles. Her lipstick looks wet. She says, You take care of Michael, Gabriel, okay?
He nods. He mustn’t cry.
The car starts. It vibrates before him. He stares at the blue fog of gas-smell that now hangs in the sunlight. The gas-smell turns his stomach. He mustn't vomit either.
He hears his heart beating in his ears now. He knows they will soon be gone. He doesn’t want them to go. He doesn’t know where he is. He would like to ask where he is. He would also like to ask when they are coming back, if they are coming back—and why they are going in the first place. But he says nothing. They don't like it if he asks questions. He blinks to keep the tears back.
Now young Gabe realizes that he is saying something from the far side. Holding onto the wheel, he is calling out the window over the rumble of the car. You fellows have fun, okay?
Young Gabe nods. So does Michael.
The car lurches forward. As it rolls away the boys can see her hand waving out the window. White gloves. She calls out a single word, Bye.
Taking Michael by the wrist now (as if to assure himself that his brother at least will remain with him) young Gabe watches as the car gains speed. He wills it to stop. But nothing happens. The car disappears around a curve, leaving a cloud of dust behind it.
He watches the dust hang in the air. Maybe, if he wishes hard, they will come back. Maybe they will take Michael and him to wherever it is they are going.
He prays to God, though he is not sure who God is, or where he is, or if he cares: Please God let them come back before the dust is gone.
But the dust settles back onto the road—and they don't come back. They won't come back. Because they don't love Michael and him. He grinds his teeth and prays for God to make the car explode and burn with them in it. But he knows it won’t happen. God doesn’t love him either.
He feels a hand on the back of his neck. He shivers. It is a man’s hand, the hand of the stranger who now controls him. Obediently, with Michael in tow, he lets the hand turn him away from the dirt road where they have gone—and toward the house where Michael and he will now live.
And at last he cries. Ashamed of the tears that feel hot on his cheeks, he squeezes Michael’s wrist as if by that act he can shut off the tears. Michael says, It's okay, Gabe.
Young Gabe flies into a fury at his little brother. Shut up! You just shut up!
The man’s voice says, All right boys that’s enough.
They start toward the house.