Our go-cart was spray painted blue, pure blue, childhood crayon blue from a time before you knew other hues existed. It was a low-to-the ground frame with no protective bars over the top. It was loud. It roared with the fury of Frankenstein’s monster. It was not street legal — not because of the frame, but because it had the engine of a motorcycle. The bright blue go-cart raced so fast that it jerked you backwards from force, pressing your spine against the black plastic seat, warm from sitting out in the sun.
I think I was about eight years old the summer of the go-cart. My parents were divorced since before I can remember, so it must have been a weekend visit that we went to see my father. The first thing that I remember is that his leg was bloody. From the right side of his outer thigh there was a big red stretch of missing skin almost a foot long, five to six inches across, and deep purple bruises all around it. He was trying to take care of the wound when we got there. Before I even saw the go-cart I was told that it was dangerous, that because of the motorcycle engine it took turns too quickly. If you didn’t lean your body to the opposite side during turns it could flip, which is what it had done to my father ten minutes prior to our arrival. You can’t drive it alone for a few years, you’re too little. I’m the youngest of our family. I was told that often.
We took the go-cart home to my mother’s house. My brother raced it around the block many times. My oldest sister got a turn. The middle sister rode in the lap of others, mostly with my father or brother. All the while I watched them. I waited my turn.
The sun was going down before I finally got to ride with my father. He always wanted to give us a fun time when he saw us. We’d go bowling, fishing, four wheeling, putt-putt golfing, but there were also months at a time when we would not see him at all. I got fewer turns on the go-cart that first day because it became dark, and my time was cut short. I must have figured I’d get another chance.
Eventually our middle sister was permitted to drive the go-cart alone. She drove it a lot. I waited my turn. The summer stretched out long like our shadows in the fading light. And we always thought that we’d have more time, that the summer break would last forever.
In the Fall my father took the go-cart back to his friend who’d made it. He said it was for repair, but I never saw our go-cart again. It turns out my father had some debts. Maybe he thought he’d get the money to buy it back, maybe he knew he never would.
It’s strange to look back and realize what you never saw before. The house my father was living in was in a bad neighborhood where you found bars over windows, where there were boxes of stuff everywhere that were never unpacked. His roommates had dirty clothes, were always skinny and always strange. There was a room upstairs I was never to go in, and a mysterious roommate I was never to speak to. All the locked doors, all the collected stuff I could never tell who it belonged to, a guy who lived on the couch sometimes (sometimes it was a different guy), the strange woman who lived there one week, then not the next . . . There was a skinny puppy who belonged to the couch guy at one point. He fed it dog treats because he couldn’t afford real dog food. I saw it twice, then never again. I’m not sure how long my father lived there. It was off-and-on, I suppose. I remember seeing that house on the news many years later after my father moved out-of-state. It burned down.
I remember my father talking about a different kind of life. He wanted to get a place of his own out of the city, near the woods, where my sister and I could come live with him. He wanted to show us California and the Grand Canyon. He did show us Chicago and Gatlinburg.
He talked about taking us to Walt Disney World. He was the sort of person to get caught up in an idea, a dreamer. I remember hearing from other kids at school about going there. I remember telling them I’d be going next summer, that my father had promised me. I waited my turn. I believe he did want to take us there. But I also believe he could have never afforded it, even without his drug problem. It’s one of those things you can’t see at the time.
My father died when I was a teenager, on the summer break between sophomore and junior years. I later discovered he had robbed a bank in the 1970s, long before I was born. There was a distant history hidden from me behind the forbidden door upstairs. The robbery was was a cold numb surprise, like tripping over the cement and finally looking back to realize how broken the sidewalk really is.
Apparently he had driven through a corn field with his accomplice, trying to escape the police. They were caught, but not before they hid the money in a tree. My father spent time in prison, and the money was gone when he got out. The tree appeared to have been hit by lightening. I’ve always wondered if they flipped the car attempting to flee, or how far they got into the corn field. How much money was it? Could it have gotten us into Disney World?
My brother took up the mantle of drug addict. It was likely our father who introduced him to heroin. Perhaps using made him feel closer to the man. Sometimes when he was drunk he’d tell me that I that I never really knew our father. But then he’d go on to tell me stories about him that I’d never heard before. I never specifically asked him about our father; the information was volunteered. Perhaps my brother thought it had been long enough. Maybe he was trying to help me see something I couldn’t make out on my own. Maybe he just needed to talk about the man and I was the only one within earshot.
But now my brother is dead, too, and I know there are stories I will never know, things lost forever like the money in the tree, the house in the woods, Disney World, California, the go-cart. I always thought I had more time, that the summer sun would just keep on stretching and never set. Now I find myself just standing here, alone, still waiting for my turn that will never come.
Kate E Lore is the pen name of Katherine Isaacs. She is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University. Kate has been published in Panopoly zine, Orsum, Weirdary, Portage Magazine, Boston Accent Lit, Mosaic Magazine, and more. Kate has written over seventeen articles for Dayton City paper and Dayton Most Metro.
Kate currently does a monthly comic strip for 1870 magazine of Columbus. She has self-published two of her own comic books, one of which was nominated for a S.P.A.C.E award. She has been featured in three separate comic anthologies. Kate had a special comic feature with Helen Presents. Kate is currently an active member of Columbus Comics League in Columbus Ohio. Before moving to Columbus Ohio Kate taught classes in drawing comics and drawing anime at Rosewood community center in Kettering Ohio.
Kate has been writing and cartooning since she was six years old. She was a part of The Power of the Pen, a short story writing competition for children in public schools, during middle school. She won second place in her first regional competition. Kate never stopped writing. In 2010 she won third place in the Sinclair college short story contest, and attended the prestigious Antioch Writers conference. In 2012 Kate won the League of Innovation short story contest and went on to represent Sinclair nationally. In 2015 Kate was selected as protégé to Mr. Lee Martin for the Professor and Protégé public reading event, on OSU campus, sponsored by Mosaic magazine. Kate has a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and an associate’s degree in creative writing from Sinclair Community College.
Visit her blog and art portfolio website at: http://kateelore.com/