Winner Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction
I Ride Along
Leon likes me to ride along because no one’s going to think he’s up to no good if there’s a pretty little girl like me riding up front. He doesn’t say that exactly—except the pretty little girl part— but I’ve figured out the up-to-no-good part by now. Ma complains when he takes me, but just so Leon knows he owes her something, not because she wants me home with her.
“Come on, sweetcakes, let’s check the breeze in the trees. Let’s rocket down the highway. Let’s get us something tasty,” Leon will say, sliding his blue baseball cap over his bald spot and hunting for his keys. We may park in an alley while he dashes in somewhere real quick, or meet up with some guys in cars at the edge of town to exchange boxes of jumbled junk, or see what’s not bolted down in front of closed up shops downtown. And Leon always does buy me something—a shake at the Sno White drive-thru, or a whole box of doughnuts at Dunkin’s—so that part’s true. But he’s not so interested in me the rest of the time. For that my ma says I should be grateful. I’m thirteen, I know what that means—stepfathers and all. Only he’s just Ma’s boyfriend. Not a one of them has ever married her. Read more . . .