Charles Rafferty

That Cupola Lying on Its Side and Covered in Vines

George had never seen that gray shed behind the Busak’s house tucked into some forsythia. He considered whether it might be new, but the shed seemed too at home among the branches. It must have been there a long time.

George had begun noticing these things on rides with his daughter. He was teaching her to drive, getting her road time in before the big test. It was a Saturday ritual. She would pilot the car on all of his morning errands, and then, because it was enjoyable, they started going out together even if there were no errands.

At first, of course, he feared for his life. She confused the brake and the gas. She drifted freely among the lanes without signaling. She got distracted by billboards and roosting hawks. But she was getting better, and the passenger seat began to fit him like a shoe. He found he could risk checking his email or focusing on the side window.

All his life George had been the driver. Although his wife was capable, she deferred to him automatically — whether it was a trip to New Jersey or to the liquor store. It had been like this for decades. Consequently, he never noticed that shed behind the Busak’s house. He never noticed that cupola lying on its side and covered in vines to the left of the Morris’s swimming pool.

Now he was alert to it all but he had to refrain from commenting, for his daughter would crane her neck to see. The car would wander to whatever he had mentioned, and they might feel the rapid growl of the drift-protection grooves on the edge of the highway shoulder. So he found himself keeping to himself the fact that he saw three alpacas in the small fenced-in enclosure on the side of Route 34, that there was a woman in a startling red bikini walking around her pool as if there were a porpoise in there, slowly circling.

George enjoyed this small surrender, and he wondered what it meant, and where he was headed. He imagined, briefly, that he was really teaching her to drive him to his doctor appointments when he got old and decrepit. This is just one of the things he thought about with his daughter at the wheel, as he did his best to keep from her the things she had always known.

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Charles Rafferty’s twelfth collection of poems is The Smoke of Horses (BOA Editions, 2017). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares, and his stories have appeared in The Southern Review and Per Contra. His collection of stories is Saturday Night at Magellan’s (Fomite, 2013). He has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.