I had been sixteen for under twenty-four hours. I sat in my truck. It rained. I stared at my new, hot-off-the-press driver’s license.
Big nose. Goofy grin.
I hated birthdays with a purple passion. Three years earlier, Daddy died. Birthdays lost their punch.
Anyway, that day my driver’s exam had been easier than I thought. I weaved past orange cones like a kid who’d grown up on a Ford 2N tractor.
After the test, I showed the license to Mama. She was proud. She fired up the skillet. While she battered chicken, I decided to take the truck out for my first legal driving experience.
“Don’t be long,” said Mama. “Supper will be ready.”
I never left the driveway. My dog, Cody, sat in the seat beside me. The truck was off. It rained like hell.
My chest ached. Birthdays were supposed to be fun, dammit. Friends, family, parties. They weren’t. These days were hateful reminders that happiness is a white-headed dandelion in a hurricane.
I was changing. My body was turning against me. At night, my shins ached something fierce. The doctor said my bones were growing too fast.
Stubble appeared on my cheeks. I’d tried to teach myself to shave using Daddy’s old cutthroat razor. It was like shaving with a barn axe. Blood ran all over the bathroom sink.
Big stinking deal. I was sitting in a truck, in the rain, with nothing but a snoring dog and a new license.
A figure walked toward me wearing a raincoat. Flashlight in hand. The door opened and Mama crawled in. She handed me a plate wrapped in foil.
“You shouldn’t have,” I said.
“No trouble,” she said. “I didn’t want it to get cold.”
My shirt was greasy in a matter of seconds. Cody watched my every bite with sincerity.
“You know,” Mama went on. “One day, you’re going to get a second chance at all this. At turning sixteen, I mean. And it’ll be a happy day.”
I’d heard of those. I heard life doesn’t give them. That you only get one crack at things. You can’t fold the hand you’re dealt; you can’t get new cards.
Yesterday was my birthday. I sat in my truck. It rained. Hard.
I’m older now. I’ve got a mortgage, a back-surgery, and one arthritic left foot. I have a different dog. But she still rides shotgun—and she still snores.
On the radio: an old-timey preacher hollered. He claimed that every day was a second chance. Every hour, minute, second. Every word.
He said that sadness might be a hurricane when it hits, but hurricane season doesn’t last forever.
I don’t know how old I am this year.
Because every year I give sixteen another shot.