by Angharad Sillitoe
‘Why did you get me a book for my birthday?’ My brother wasn’t accusatory – just resigned. Thankfully.
‘Well, I…’ I stopped as my head was propelled forwards and my body remained stationary, the imbecile having not left himself enough time to stop smoothly.
I remembered, not for the first time today, and I suspected not for the last, why I had argued so much with my parents about being the one who had to give up their Sunday to provide my newly 17-year-old brother with driving practice.
Although he’d actually been seventeen about a month now – had he not had a chance to ask me before now? We rarely left our room except for mealtimes and outside commitments (him school, me work) so probably not – or not if he didn’t want to ask me in front of our parents anyway.
‘Mom said I had to get you something – I wasn’t allowed to just give you money. Dad said me and Floss weren’t both allowed to get you chocolate – and Iain said that it was a good book.’
‘Were you really that desperate?’ Why did I feel like my younger brother was laughing at me? ‘Or is it that you do whatever your boyfriend tells you? Trying to get on his good side?’ I ignored his teasing. It was his own fault he’d been lumbered with the written word according to nineteenth century America.
‘Well you wouldn’t just tell us . . . you’ve put the wrong indicator on . . . what you wanted. So I was forced to become creative. It was either that or a jumper.’
‘I’d have preferred a jumper.’ He was in the wrong lane. It wasn’t my job to tell him – I’d leave that to his instructor. I was just here to make sure he didn’t wrap Mom’s car around a lamppost.
‘No you wouldn’t – Mom would have made you wear it. At least you can lie about having read the book.’
‘But of all the books in the world, did you have to get me The Story of Tom Finn?’ He wasn’t fooling anyone, pretending he was oblivious to the book I’d presented to him. He’d probably read somewhere in the region of three to five chapters, either when incredibly bored or incredibly drunk.
‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.’ I corrected him anyway. I corrected him about his speed while I was at it. ‘You’re going 24 in a 20 mile zone.’
‘Was I supposed to learn something from it? Have you gone all god-parent-y on me?’
‘Well you were supposed to learn not to go beyond the speed limit for a start.’
‘Im pretty sure that you can still go faster than 20mph on horseback. Have you read it?’
I’d hoped that no one would think to ask me that. I stayed silent – until he stalled the car. The car behind us didn’t stay silent either. I didn’t look at him.
‘Maybe the lesson is not to drop out of university, that way you’ll get out of getting Flossie rubbish birthday presents.’
‘It’s not too bad as presents go. I guess what it’s really taught me is that Flossie has got to be a better driver than I am.’