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A Watery Part of the World
by Linda Svendsen

IN JULY I visit my mother and we drive directly from the bus station to a car wash, even though her Dodge shines. She likes the slow tracks engaging the wheels, the car in neutral, the thought of hot carnauba wax. An attendant collapses the aerial and tells her to keep her foot off the brake.

"It's like driving under the ocean," Mum says. "I knew the fins on this old Dodge were meant for something."

Mops swathe the car in suds and giant bristles hum above us, then drag across the hood, roof, and sides. Her hands droop over the steering column and she stares straight ahead, although she can't possibly see through the lathered glass. "Come here once a day sometimes," she confides.

"Why so often?"

"It's kind of fun." She winks at me. "It's dark."

An overhead vacuum dries the car after the rinse. We watch the drops of water creep unnaturally up the slope of the windshield and disappear, She tells me this vacuum will often draw a migraine out through her temples, and I mention the trick my husband knows, how Bill can gently press the circle of his mouth to my forehead and take away pain, We laugh about that,

In daylight again, she turns the ignition and we start towards home. "I wish they lasted longer," she says.

From the title story in Marine Life (1992), by Linda Svendsen. @ 1992 by Linda Svendsen. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.


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