Driving My Daughter Home from Kindergarten

Matthew Guenette

With each breath in traffic I slip from my body. Josie’s big-hand voice slaps from the backseat. Who’s in the backseat? Exactly. Kurt Cobain, she sings, her mouth yogurt smeared as it sparks into laughter. The horizon is Wisconsin, a state that loves backyard fireworks, loves to replace its water with beer, but it sure is hard to live here if you’re black or brown. I should make more of this than just to say it is, but I'm trapped at the surface. How can we help? And how do you know about Kurt Cobain? Was she a president? Josie asks. The rearview says I look my age. I start without a starter kit into the uncharted. Arguments loop the news: you’re lucky if your piss pot comes with handles. I tell Josie about Kurt in a dress howling “In Bloom,” the amp growling feedback he launches into so he can begin to begin.

I say, Hell yes, Kurt Cobain was a president. Yesterday I had this feeling so I baked some bread but the feeling only blurred, silvered. Cracks in the ice shelf. Corridors of birdsong. Josie holds up a pebble she found in the drive, calls it her pet, says its name is Boulder. In junior high when my chemistry teacher really did burn off an eyebrow, it was like being in a situational comedy like America is a situational comedy that gets harder and harder to laugh at. This morning I made waffles, rinsed plates, tried explaining plate tectonics, the geothermal moves that fuel a geyser and as Josie neared a fit, I worked the little heart-keychain thingy through a loop on her sweater, which she loved then immediately removed for no reason. Near the road, someone’s camped in the clover.

Josie asks, what about Overland Lincoln? Was he president too? A flow flows around us. Forms form. On the news a rambling prosperity gospel is taking a bath in a flood of sewage and snakes. Picture Overland Lincoln cruising an El Camino through Middle America with Walt Whitman riding shotgun and Magellan on the dash. Who’s Walt Whitman? Who’s Magellan? Earlier someone on Facebook had said, I don’t think our president has our interests at heart. The president has a heart? I asked, to which several people quickly LOL’d, including someone called Chancellery Xerox Skidmore. Whether anyone believes it, the weather has put us on notice. Yes, I say, Overland Lincoln was a president too. More questions perch on her tongue, but a squirrel shoots from a tree like from out of a dream so now she wants to know …

Can she have a squirrel, a lizard, the word gecko barely out her mouth when I picture a dozen jumped down a vent where they’ll mummify un-precious and dissolve to dust for the life of a mortgage. I’ll have to explain death, why we launch ourselves into amps, but instead I ask, what’s something new you learned today in school? I can count to fifty, she says. Super cool, can you do it now before you lose that tooth? Never, she says. Only at parties. My daughter is more Magellan then a dreamless GPS, wide-awake as Whitman looking for clues. She wants to see Katy Perry in Chicago. Daddy, she says, what’s an amp? Daddy, she says, love is no reason to always wash my hair. But love, I say, it’s too late. I’ve washed your hair a thousand times.

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