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The Roses Were a Riot
by Pia Z. Ehrhardt


I only meant to run some errands. All morning, I’d begged my mom to send me places. My driver’s license was a day old and collecting dust. My aunt stopped over for coffee, so I appealed to her. I needed practice, I argued, street variety -- some Interstate, a cloverleaf exit, downtown gridlock. My aunt said, sure, take her car. My mom shrugged, gave me her cell phone, in case, and a list: Wal-Mart for Cokes on sale, the library to return a book, Rite-Aid for lipstick that would look good on both of us.

I’d changed into an aqua halter-top, put on brighter makeup. My music was loud, and I had one hand on the wheel and the seat tilted back so I wouldn't look like a driver's ed honor student. I was checking out other drivers to see if they looked casual, too, when I spotted my dad. He was in his car at the Carrollton intersection waiting for the light, watching some girls cross the street. He had on a baseball cap with a long bill, like a guy. He glanced my way and smiled different, like I was a hottie. It was weird and flattering being scoped out by your father. I guess he wasn't expecting me behind the wheel of my aunt's car. He looked up at the signal, then pulled off. I followed him to see what things he did when he was alone.

He headed down Jefferson Highway, stopped at Michelin World and had his tires rotated. That took thirty minutes. I stayed on the other side of the lot. Then, he stopped at Texaco, went into the little store and came out with a six-pack of beer and a bag of Doritos. He drove down River Road, uptown near Tulane University, and I stayed a few cars behind. A van in front of me blocked my view, but I caught his car turning left, onto Laurel Street, and I turned, too, but I forgot my blinker and the woman behind me slammed on her brakes. I flipped her off behind my head and she blew her horn two times, which in my world means "Eat shit". My dad pulled in front of a yellow house with a gray porch, white trim, shrubs, and went up to the door and inside without knocking.

I pulled up, too, and waited for him to come out. I waited forty minutes. Eventually, I walked over to the mailbox and took out envelopes. Valerie Wiesnyski. I didn't know her, couldn't even pronounce the name. I put her telephone bill in my purse, and called my mother on the cell phone and told her I needed to know if dad wanted our vacation photos picked up from the Fox booth while I was out. Would she page him on his beeper?

I waited some more, opened my window and smoked a cigarette. Every song on the radio was one I hated so I turned it off. I called my mom again, told a dirty joke about a debutante’s version of the two biggest lies. The check's in your mouth and I won't cum in the mail. She wanted to disapprove, but laughed. I called her back to say I was passing Tulane's campus. The rose bushes were a riot. I might just live at home and go to college there. She said I'd still have a curfew and mentioned Dad hadn’t called her back. I beeped my father and left mom's phone number with a 911 at the end. I called my mom to keep her company, asked if Dad was what she imagined when she was my age. She said I should be so lucky. I beeped my father, punched in the number to the cell phone, and put a 666 at the end.

This time he called back and I got out of the car and walked around in front of Valerie's house while we talked. I could see him through the front window. I asked him where he was and he said at a friend's, planning a surprise for mom. I said mom’s birthday was six months away. The neighbor next door started weed-whacking so I yelled into the phone that it would be impossible to keep this a secret. He said to be his baby girl, help him out, please, and to use my blinkers next time or I was going back to driving school. I'd almost been back-ended. I said, “Sure Daddy, but what will you do for me?” “Name it,” he says, smiling. “How about your Exxon card for a year?” I said, and he nodded his head, sure, and pulled it out of his wallet, waved it at me through the window.




About the Author


I live in New Orleans with my husband, Malcolm, and our son, Andrew. My work's been published in The Mississippi Review (print version) twice, and Louisiana Life. Web publications: Fictionline; Mississippi Review Web; Web Del Sol --InPosse. Email can be sent to Pia504@hotmail.com.