Today, we are excited to share with you Sarp Sozdinler’s “Houses Acting Like Cars.” This story follows Blue, a young girl in Tampa, on her search for her father. But could she ever be ready for what she finds in Drew Park? Tag along with Blue, Pistol and Elwood below.
There is a time and place that stand out from where Blue’s favorite memories as a kid are stored, and in all of them, in a dreamlike fashion, she’s riding in her father’s thirty-year-old Ford Bronco along the blacktopped guts of Florida. It may very well be a false memory, but she can vaguely remember the man reaching out to the backseat to fasten her seatbelt, and the more she pushes, the more the colors on his face crystallize into geometric shapes and then zoom back into a vagueness of features. Many a night, halfway between sleep and wakefulness, she tossed and turned in bed to conjure that man into her dreams.
There are two years between Pistol and Elwood, and Blue clicks into that gap. Yet she talks and walks faster than any of the boys in her hood—her friends can testify to that. Pistol looks as confused and genderless as that oyster he’s carving the life out of with his father’s old switchblade: a girl behind his shell; a boy in his glistening gold skin, with the curls of his copper hair combed back to the scalp and his baby-blue shirt untucked and two sizes too baggy from the waistband—his vision of perfection in another frame. Elwood, on the other hand, is an old soul stuck in a young man’s body who has long lost the need for words and now talks only about his dreams full of tumors and horses as dark as his skin. He leads the trio forward with nothing but a grumble in his belly and a squish under his loafers en route to Drew Park, where Blue’s mother used to pick her pastries and lovers from before she died of a combination of both.
Blue, as always, seeks Jesus, but in today’s case, one Jésus Parejo, her father, the first of many, as printed on the flip side of the letter in her bag. Just the month before, a military-cut man who looked too white to be a relative and too old to be her friend showed up at her late mother’s service and handed her the envelope with the heart-shaped logo of Social Services stamped on it. The skin on the back of her neck went cold as soon as she spotted the name on the first fold. She checked the print a few times, but the truth of the ink was absolute. The letter had a more personal vibe to it than some others she had to deliver during the day, a pearl of fate or a cut-rate omen she just couldn’t afford to avoid. At sixteen, she still knew as little about her father as her job, from which she took the morning off to work up the courage and finally meet the man.
“Ariel would’ve loved that,” said Mr. Pickering, her mother’s childhood friend who’d offered Blue the spot at the post office on Pinecrest, filling his voice with a teary-eyed tinge. “See you all gussied up and responsible for a change.”