2nd Place

Big Gulp

Simon Barth

“Retching. Retch. What a perfect fit. Retch. Retch.” As the boy reflected silently on onomatopoeia from the driver’s seat, his mother sat next to him, reflecting on the word in her own, more vocal way into her late husband’s treasured Big Gulp. “Traveled a million miles, and it’s gonna travel a million more,” he used to brag, the weathered, reusable container a small monument to his ability to stretch a dollar, to work hard, to make each drop of sweat count, to make much for his family out of the little he provided. He’d picked it up on his way out of town on his first trucking gig, seven years ago, and had carried it on every trip ever since, filling up for cents on the dollar at 7-11s in every state. Seven years. Seven years, a million miles. 42 weeks a year on the road. The boy tried to do the math, but thinking of his father made him think of the shallow grave he and his mother had left behind them and made him want to vomit. But there was only one Big Gulp, and his mother had sort of staked her claim already. She had spent more years swallowing words and pain than he had, anyway, so it made sense that she deserved to get hers out first, now that they finally had the chance.

A cop car on the side of the road brought the boy back out of his head. “Don’t stiffen up like that, just take a look and turn back to the road,” his mother said. “If you stare straight ahead and pretend not to notice, they’ll know you’re nervous. Sometimes that’s all the reason they need to start following somebody.” The boy turned to her and saw she was already wiping the corners of her mouth with a handkerchief, ready to act like nothing had happened. The Big Gulp sat in the cup holder between them, out of peripheral vision but still stinking up the cabin. She produced a small mirror and began to re-apply her makeup. “If we’re going to make it home before we leave, you’re going to have to be more careful shifting gears. Otherwise we won’t make it another mile. Here, pull over at Betty’s up ahead and dump this out,” she said, gesturing vaguely towards the cup holder without looking away from her mirror. “Betty’s?” the boy asked, still struggling to think. “She doesn’t live up ahead, she lives by-” “Not Betty Whitmore, Betty’s Diner! Jesus, Joshua, where is your head? I can’t do everything for you, you know.” “Yes, mom.” Joshua breathed out the familiar words as he downshifted; turning into the diner’s parking lot. Some things, it seemed, were not yet ready to change.


Prompt: Whatta Character, November 2013

Read an interview with Simon!


One comment

  1. Pingback: Promptly, Issue 3 now live! « Prompt & Circumstance

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