Driver’s Ed

by Joe Meno

Imaginary Oklahoma is an ongoing project in which some of today’s most important and influential writers combine with artists to provide a fictional take on this place we call home. Through a wide variety of voices, styles and literary devices, these works prove that “Oklahoma” is much more than a place, it’s an idea.

The girl had been slumping behind the driver’s seat, pleading silently for her own death, when the mountain lion struck, its great gray paws putting a sizable dent in the center of the vehicle’s beige hood; the girl had just taken a right hand turn down Snow Road, and had forgotten to signal first, and Mr. Flutie, the driver’s education instructor—with his brambly red beard, feverishly hairy knuckles, and drab, plaid shirt—had taken notice, shaking his head, jabbing angrily with his pen at the clipboard tilted upon his chest; Marissa—the girl, aged sixteen, had been late in getting her license because she had been rigorously homeschooled, and the thought of her roaming the unpatrolled roads alone, without a guardian or chaperone, had weighed heavily upon her parents’ hearts until a weekend job had opened up for the girl at Lawton’s only Christian roller-skating rink Holy Rollers—Marissa now saw the beast staring at her confusedly through the automobile’s windshield and forget her brief training, turning the wheel to the furthest right, running the car up the curb directly into an unpainted mailbox-post; the sleek-muscled animal then bounded off the hood, slipping through the stalled traffic in a single, inelegant bounce; while in the backseat, Jeremiah—also sixteen, face rendered unlovable by the depredations of acne, having also been wistfully dreaming of his own death, having also been forcibly schooled at home—let out an audible cry of shock. Afterwards, while waiting for the tow truck, while waiting for Mr. Flutie to stop hyperventilating, while waiting for their unhappy families to come pick them up, Jeremiah leaned over and took in the smell of Marissa’s gloriously blonde hair.

For the boy, the sight of the cougar staring at him through the front windshield of the car became as prismatic, as unknowable as the previously considered face of God.

Joe Meno is a fiction writer and playwright who lives in Chicago. A winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Great Lakes Book Award, and a finalist for the Story Prize, he is the author of five novels, The Great Perhaps, The Boy Detective Fails, Hairstyles of the Damned, How the Hula Girl Sings, and Tender as Hellfire.