For a while it was cute. Donnie found his dad’s sunglasses and bomber jacket while playing in the car. He put them on and pretended to drive.
I noticed Mike snickering, looking at the car, so I came over and saw it, too. There was Donnie with the too-big sunglasses barely clinging to the nub of his nose and the sleeves of the jacket crumpled, pushed back so he could use his hands to hold the wheel. He was whirring and whooshing.
We drifted closer. Carolyn and Tip, Donnie’s daddy, were there, too.
“What the fuck are you thinking?” Donnie yelled and lifted an exasperated hand toward an imaginary driver.
Mike and I weren’t sure what to do, but Tip let out a burst of laughter. We chuckled then.
Donnie stood up in the seat and projected a fist and then turned it upside down, middle finger extended toward the windshield. “Stick this in your tailpipe, and I don’t mean your car!” Donnie yelled at the unseen transgressor.
Tip laughed first, and then we were all laughing. It was bend-over-at-the-waist, hands-on-knees laughter. When it eased, we would look at each other looking at little Donnie in the misfitting grown-up clothes and lose it again. He would sit down and hum for a while, rolling the steering wheel a few degrees one way and then the other. Then another outburst: “Do you all have shit for brains?” Or he’d look to the vacant back seat and say, “Quiet down. We’ll get there when we get there.”
We were kind of laughing at ourselves, I guess. Seeing our meanness made harmless. We were laughing at everything. Nothing seemed serious. Mike called out, “Don’t take no guff from no one!” Then Carolyn went up to the open window and said, “Hey, Donnie, you want a sip?” She held her bottle of beer out to him and tipped it when he put his lips to the spout. I don’t know if she actually let him get any, though.
“That’s good, woman,” Donnie growled.
Carolyn came back with us, and Tip hugged her, laughing so hard his legs weakened and he almost dragged both of them down in the grass. I looked to see if Nora, Tip’s wife, might have seen that.
Donnie was playing at hitting the gas pedal and the brake, scooting low under the steering wheel to reach. His driving noises got louder and higher pitched as he went faster and faster. He jerked the steering wheel from underneath and hit some of the buttons on the dash.
Tip must have left the electric key in his jacket, because we heard the engine turn over. Tip jumped forward, but Donnie mashed the gas and the car squealed out of the driveway, across the road, and kept bumping through the field opposite their place.
We ran as hard as we could to try to catch it, but it was soon a good quarter mile ahead of us and speeding on, with Donnie at the wheel.