The Scooter

By A.S. Callaghan

When my father died, my mother was left with the task of selling his Vespa-style scooter. She had wanted to get rid of it for years, out of fear my ailing father was going to hurt himself or, worse yet, someone else while riding it. But my dad clung to the scooter until the end, despite his rapidly deteriorating health. Selling it would have meant admitting defeat.

A few weeks after the funeral, my mother listed it for sale online. A few potential buyers responded and tried to bargain. 

“I’m not going to hawk dad’s scooter for a pittance,” she said.

One hopeful new owner willing to pay full asking price came over for a test ride. It had just rained and the yard was still wet when the motor sprung a leak. A few drops of gasoline hit the wet driveway and formed an iridescent stain which grew and grew, from the size of a penny to a puddle to a lake which encircled my mother and the man who walked away without making a purchase.

“Probably just a loose screw,” my mother texted. “Your dad would have fixed it in no time.”

A few days went by. On the weekend, my mother FaceTimed me.

“I dreamt of your father,” she said. “Your dad had this habit of making a sound when he turned in bed. Not when he was already sick, I’m talking about when he was young, he made this noise when he rolled on his side, like a sigh.”

There was a pause, enough time for both of us to conjure up memories of my father, a stocky man with dark hair and massive arms who used to lift me in the air with ease for a game of airplane when I was little. 

“Last night I heard that same sound, right next to me. As if your dad was there, alive.”

She looked directly into the camera. 

“He told me not to sell the scooter. It was clear as day.” 

I steeled myself for what was to come. 

“Sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that he’s right here, next to me on the couch, or in the kitchen. Who knows, maybe your dad paid a visit to his scooter from the afterlife and loosened a few screws himself.” A smile washed over my mother’s face, Mona-Lisa-like, inscrutable. 

I pictured my dad in the bedroom, sleeping next to my mother. Suddenly, he wakes up and reaches for his blue work coat hanging on a hook by the door without turning on the light so as to not wake my mother. He’s younger, in the prime of his life, a spectral presence free of the encumbrances of age and debilitating pain. He reaches for the handle of the bedroom door and is surprised when his fingers pass through it as if there was no door, just air. Startled at first, he decides to go with the flow, delighted that movement has become effortless again. He glides through the living room and the hallway and the front door until he is outside. Moonlight streams through his otherworldly body as he floats down the stairs in one big whoosh, without stopping at the bottom to catch his breadth, without leaning on his cane, without gasping for air.

It’s at this exact moment that my dad  embraces his new ephemeral form. He speedily crosses the yard and slips into the garage, the place where he used to fix and mend, glue and scrape, file and fiddle until whatever was broken fit together again. There in the corner behind the crates of sparkling water is the scooter, cobalt blue, lighter than navy and darker than the sky, my dad’s favorite color.

He recalls how annoyed he was when she wanted to sell it. But that was long ago, in a different life, pun intended. A life where he didn’t get any better, where he had exhausted all the options. But look at me now, he thinks. Whole again. With his new powers of levitation he doesn’t need the scooter anymore. He can finally let it go.

My parents were married for 49 years, enough time to cause a special kind of phantom pain, where one person still feels the presence of the other long after they’re gone. This weighed on my mind as I searched for something to say in response. 

“I don’t think sabotage was dad’s thing.” 

The following week another buyer showed up, a farmer. A man in blue overalls who wore work boots caked in mud. A man who could fix a loose screw. When he took the scooter for a spin there was no sign of a leak. My mother cut him a deal and watched as he loaded the scooter into his pickup truck and drove off.

“Sold!” she texted me. I pictured her standing in the garage, next to the spot where the scooter had been, suddenly empty. 

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