prompt: gang, title: crash course in misc. flash fiction

  • Nov. 8, 2023, 7:13 p.m.
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  • Public

I’ve taken two driving tests in my life and passed both by the exact minimum. A slim point each time. At twenty-two, just out of school, I barely scraped through the New York exam. I couldn’t afford a car at Syracuse, I lived in dorms all four years, didn’t need it until then. I was awesome at everything but the K-turns and parallel-parking where I was essentially a war-crime. The test proctor may have just taken pity on me. But who knows?

Years later, laid-off during a writers’ strike, I took another in L.A. My brother worked in a Quest lab and finagled me a gig as a medical courier. Their enhanced road-exam for internal purposes, I again passed by the minimum because I’m terrible at doing anything backwards. The rest I was a goddamned wizard, being a Hollywood gopher made me a brilliant defensive driver, but I have a block about reversing perspective to visualize what’s behind me with any confidence. I suspect I may have actually failed, but Dan bullied them into passing me by threatening to quit, as he was one of the few competent employees they had. But who knows anything?

I think in words. Spoken words, usually. I can visualize pictures in my head, as most do natively, but it takes effort and focus. English is not just my language, it’s how I process reality, more my operating-system than a mere mode of expression. In the seventh grade, my English teacher told my parents I was theoretically her best writer but my handwriting was so disastrous, she couldn’t read what I wrote and demanded I take typing lessons. Cursive was my only D-minus other than, of course, backwards-driving.

But because of that, when the internet became a thing, I could type sixty-words-a-minute. Since I can’t think backward, I became aces with directions in front of me and at finding normal parking.

Because I strain for images, I needed to learn how to use words as if my very hands. I can’t trust looking back so I just barrel forward. Who knows if it’s what’s best but it’s the only way I know.

It feels like failures gang up on you. Define you. You wish you knew easy success. But success teaches fully-doodley-squat. Failure, adapting to what there is to adapt to, shows us how things work, teaches humility, teaches empathy, something we’re desperately low on these days. Easy As fade away. Correcting for D-minuses defines you.

A few weeks back, I was the designated driver and managed to swerve a friend’s car around two suicide-bombing deer at three-ten in the morning in a manner that surprised her greatly and even myself. If I hadn’t had to compensate so much over this life, that’d be two dead does and her car totaled. But it wasn’t, because of how much my failures taught me. One point from disaster, one foot from hitting them. But I didn’t and in this too-brief life, that’s the only score worth keeping.

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