Exit 14

by Clio Thayer

You sit in your mother’s car, the engine still running. She’s outside, talking on the phone to your father. She left the radio on, some techy pop song that was probably much dirtier than you knew to interpret. It mixes with the sound of the engine purr to form what was meant to be a lullaby for you. It’s late, you’ve been on the road for hours, you were at school all day, you may be young but you aren’t a perpetual motion machine. Shouldn’t you still be asleep, leaning against the window and hanging from your seatbelt into the cool thrumming against your forehead?

Probably.

But you’re not.

You’re rapt by the murmurs from just outside your door. Her back is turned to you and you are stuck wishing she would turn around so you could at least read her expression, or that you could phase through the door and invisibly eavesdrop. But you can’t.

You can’t even turn off the radio to hear her better. She might notice and figure out you aren’t asleep, then stop talking entirely. So you have to sift through the mud and muck of sound to find nuggets of conversation. You know she’s talking to your father. You can pluck out a couple trademark hard “K” sounds that come with the way she punches his name through the air. You also sweep the grit off of “here,” the sour reeking vowel making it hard to miss. There’s also glimmers of words you know shouldn’t be spoken. They trigger that tug of nerves in your gut telling you not to say them.

The song switches into a commercial, and the voices of the radio hosts criss-cross over your mothers to make a knotted mess of consonants and vowels. No more words come clearly to you, only tone and inflection. Her voice is rising, echoing to a skipped rock over the highway rest stop parking lot. She fights with no one because no one has come.

The radio fuzzes into static, then silence. She chose that moment to let your father speak, leaving only the tense shadow of an argument in the light of the street lamp. The radio’s music bubbles back to the surface and you try to cling more to what’s happening outside. But it’s all turning into white noise, massaging your brain back into a dream of before highway weekends.

Clio Thayer: "As a child of divorce I spent a lot of time in the middle of fights, or trying my hardest to hear my parents argue, this piece was a reflection on that emotion."

Clio Thayer is getting her BFA in Creative Writing. She is currently working on writing and producing an audio drama inspired by true crime. She grew up with both parents entrenched in the arts and her mother says she was fated to enter a creative career. She loves theatre, film, and television and encourages other writers to explore the art of collaboration in writing.

3 thoughts on “Exit 14

  1. (Think my comment got not saved?) This is fantastic! Excellent use of detail and second person, this was so vivid and evocative. Very proud!

    1. Thank you for your comment! Couldn’t agree more. The second person POV is a challenging perspective and Thayer nailed it!

Leave a Reply