Holiday In Arizona (Flash Fiction)
The day a girl becomes a woman always comes so suddenly. Acceloright Robotics recommended that Nate schedule that day sometime between Dyna’s fourteenth and fifteenth power cycle. That way, they could replace her childhood frame with parts that would grow with her into adulthood and switch out her 14 year-old dust trap for a clean one at the same time. A poorly-maintained dust trap, after all, was the most common way to die before your 15th cycle.
Nate had packed sandwiches for the long ride through the desert to the Acceloright Maintenance and Wellness facility. Dyna sat in the passenger seat, looking out the window, counting cacti.
“Did you remember your ID?” Nate asked.
“You have a pen? Just in case you need to write something down.”
“And when you get in there, if there’s anything wrong with the appointment…”
“I know, okay? I’ll take care of it.”
“…call me alright? I’ll talk to them. I’ll handle it.”
“I got it. It’s not going to be a problem.”
“They’re just getting so sloppy over there. I remember when you could get an appointment easy, and then, when you got there… no problems. Now? Forget about it. I’m thinking about cancelling this appointment and taking you to Reno instead.”
“They’re just fine over here.”
“Okay. Well we’ll see when you get inside.”
“You have your ID?”
“You already asked. I said yes.”
Dyna counted her 912th cactus before she realized how hot she was. She pointed the car’s air vents at her face and cranked the fan up full blast. She had defective pores, so she needed to prepare for when they’d have to turn off the AC while going up the desert hills.
“You see all the new construction out here?” Nate asked.
“What new construction?” All Dyna saw were cracked desert flats and cacti.
“That strip mall we passed by about 20 minutes ago. That whole lot wasn’t there last time we came out here. Remember that?”
“Haha, you mean when the car nearly exploded?”
“It just overheated –“
She laughed. “No seriously, when a car just stops, that means it ‘overheated.’ The car sounded straight-up angry.”
“I wouldn’t drive you in a car that I thought was ever going to explode.”
“I know. I’m just joking…”
“You were little. You thought it was funny.”
He sighed. “I kept the air conditioner on because I know you get hot. I would break down a million times before I let you overheat.”
Nate suddenly derailed the conversation. “You have something on your face.”
“Yes you do. Look at the mirror.”
Dyna took the mirror out of the glove box and checked. "Come on, it’s like a little thing, okay? Like a tiny, little eye crusty.“
"Did you wash your face this morning?”
“Of course, I did.”
“Why do you sound like that?”
“Because you’re accusing me of not washing my face. Like basic hygiene.”
“If you did, you wouldn’t have that in your eyes, would you?” Nate paused.
Dyna hoped he’d lose interest and stop lecturing. He didn’t.
“Always take care of how you look. Look good. Clear your pores. You know how important it is to clear your pores.”
“I just want to go to sleep for the rest of the ride, can I do that?”
“You’re sitting in the passenger seat, now. It’s not like when you were younger, and you could sleep in the back. The person who’s in that seat needs to be watching the road.”
“Then pretend that you’re driving by yourself then.”
“What if we get into an accident?” Nate looked over and saw Dyna slouched in her seat, eyes closed. “No, open your eyes.”
Dyna counted her 2428th cactus. It was one of those saguaro ones: huge and prickly, with two hands thrown up in the air. It kinda reminded her of her dad.
“I made sandwiches.” Nate said.
Nate looked over. Dyna’s arms were folded. She stared out her window brows furrowed, scowl-faced.
Nate continued: "I thought we could stop off and eat them soon. Stretch our legs.” He paused waiting for Dyna to say something. "There’s not really anything around to eat for another couple hours until we get to the complex.“
She didn’t respond.
"Mom would be so excited if she were here right now, you know? This is a big day,” he said looking straight ahead at the road.
“What’s the matter? You not feeling well? Do we have to pull over?”
“You afraid you’re gonna fall behind because you’re missing school?”
Finally, she turned and made eye-contact. "Am I going to be alright after this treatment?“
"This is just a routine thing, you know? Same thing as every year except this time they’re using longer lasting parts that will grow with you.”
“So I’m going to be normal now? I won’t have to do the maintenance anymore?”
“This is completely normal. All girls like you have to do this when you get this age. There isn’t anything that’s all that different, or scary, or dangerous about today.”
“But after this, I’m never gonna have to come back, yeah?”
“Well…” he trailed off.
She interrupted: “I mean, only if I get sick or something.”
“…It all depends on what they say once you get there.”
“These drives are just a lot weirder now,” she said not looking up until about a minute of silence had passed. Dyna read Nate’s face. He looked like he just got punched in the gut.
“I’m just trying to do right, Dyna. You know I would never do anything or take you anywhere that was going to hurt you.”
“No, no, it’s not you. And it’s not mom not being here. I know that’s what you think I mean.” She stopped and took a moment to think. She needed words for what she was feeling. “It’s like… I’m sick. I feel like a sick person because I have to do all this stuff, and nobody else I know does. Like all my friends don’t have to go here, and get taken apart, and lie around in bed afterwards for two days. Like I don’t have any friends who are Skins, so it’s not like I can talk to my friends about this stuff.”
“I told you not to use that word.”
“It’s not a bad word.”
“It is a bad word.”
“Well, people don’t use it like a bad word anymore.”
“Things are different now, but not that different. So I don’t want you saying that word. And you don’t let anyone call you that.”
“Okay, yeah sure. But I mean. I just feel like it’s weird being the only person I know who has to do this.”
“You want me stop paying all that money I pay for private school and send you to the Acceloright school instead, so you can be with everyone else like you?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying.”
“Because you know that’s the only school they’ll let you go to.”
“And you know what happens when you go there, right? No future.”
“So I don’t understand.”
“I just wanna know if they can do something so I don’t have to ever go back anymore, like at all. Like, right now I have to make up excuses why I took three days off, so no-one will laugh at me.”
“That’s good you didn’t tell anyone. Don’t tell anyone your business. Except for your family. It’s just the two of us now, alright? If I die tomorrow, remember, don’t trust anyone with your business.”
“Everyone at school thinks this is weird.”
“This isn’t weird, Dyna. Be a leader, not a follower. You don’t know what these kids did to get the things they have.” Nate paused to check his rear view mirror. “You might think you’re sick because you have to do this, but one day, they’re going to get sick – really sick – and you’re not.” He stopped for a second, but it was clear he wanted to keep talking. “You were just telling me last week about how everyone was out from school because of chickenpox. And you can’t get the chickenpox… See everyone is just different.”
“Can you just ask and see if the people at the Center can do something to make this the last time I have to come back?”
Nate paused and thought about it. “I’ll ask.”
“No, really ask. Promise me. Okay?”
Dyna saw Nate check the time on the dashboard. She read the big green highway sign on the side of the road. Whenever they reached that sign, Dyna knew they were only about 150 miles out. “Your mom would be really proud of you right now.”
“I’m not looking forward to when you turn sixteen, you know?”
“You get your driver’s license.”
“So I won’t be able to drive you out here anymore.” Nate turned off a side road to find a good place to stop the car. “I know you hate it, but driving around – out here with you – it’s something I look forward to every year…”
“I’m gonna call the Center and see if they have any long-term or permanent maintenance options when we stop for lunch. Okay?”
“I made sandwiches.”
“Yeah, what kind?”
“Did you remember your ID? Double check."
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