By: Basilia Vega
“Make sure the car is always turned off for a few hours before you check the oil, Cheese. Grab the red towel, wipe the end of the oil rod and squint if you have to make sure it is at the appropriate level.”
“Dad I got.”
“Look at the color of the oil. Especially on my Ford, the oil has to be a light honey color.”
“But it’s not.”
“Exactly, now go get the oil filter.”
This was my Saturday morning routine before soccer practice, every Saturday a different car, but my dad made sure his truck came first. There were four cars in our driveway. Since I am the youngest there was always a way for my older brothers and sisters to mess up any opportunity they had at my future. My mother lost trust in them so I was out of the question.
Except when it came down to my dad, my bashful eyelashes never fail at a Famous Footwear or Nike. Don’t even try to mention Foot Locker; my dad would drive me there quicker than figuring out which artist is singing on his oldies radio station.
“Now we have to lift the car because the filter is always under the car. If it’s not, then try and find a new mechanic, because I have no experience with rocket ships. Get the jack.”
“Dad, I can handle it. I know what to do.”
“It’s a hollow cylinder; try not to fuck it up, Cheese.”
“Oh my god, Dad!” An oil change every six months, this is the third year in a row. I’m just waiting to get a copy of the keys already.
“Good! Now go wash your hands, I’m not going to make you late for soccer practice like your mother.” My father tosses the red towel, which sticks to my face as a reminder than any mess can get cleaned up even with a little elbow grease.
We arrive half an hour early to practice listening to Elvis tunes that always makes me wish I lived in the sixties. My dad constantly reminds me of how many cokes I could have bought with ten nickels back in the day, and it always amuses me after making fun of how he deeply imitates Blue Moon. He patiently waits under the shade of the smallest tree admiring the faster I’m accelerating around neon orange cones at every practice.
“Okay ladies listen up! We have a big game tomorrow and I want all of you to eat healthy and stay away from T.V. Cartoons aren’t going to make you quicker, but watermelon will!” My coach was encouraging when the whistle wasn’t pasted to his lips. For any nine year old, every game was a big game.
After sweaty practices, my dad helps me avoid my mother by taking a little time shopping at Sports Authority for next season’s sweatbands. “Look they have new cleats! They’re like yours, but a different color, isn’t that cool, Cheese?” I don’t mind new gym shoes every weekend, but when it comes to soccer shoes, I love to keep it old fashioned.
“No, Pa, I like mines. The bottom didn’t open up yet.”
At every soccer game he would bring me early, and at every practice he wouldn’t mind staying late. My father would take off his Cubs spring jacket and take out a jack from the car to distinguish the goal posts. He has always made them wider than the ones I shot at for six years, until they were no longer disposable and bendable. The sizes went from three soccer games on a field down to one. Instead of four there were eleven girls on each side, each ready to tear each other apart for the upcoming playoffs.
I remember my mother coming to a few, only when my dad had to work overtime on Sundays. The rides home went from peaceful to irritating. From music and ten coke bottles down to one big chatter box. “How long have you been playing soccer, Basilia?”
“Ten years, Mom.”
“Okay, ten years. That’s fourteen seasons. How many games have you played?”
“Over two-hundred Mom.”
“Okay, over two-hundred. Don’t you find it odd that after two hundred games, fourteen seasons and ten years you don’t play any better? Don’t you have a strategy or are you too busy texting on your phone that you can’t even think straight when a ball is flying straight to your face? Why were you playing goalie anyways?”
“I wanted to try something new, mom, and the forward didn’t mean to. To be clear it wasn’t the ball, it was her foot, and my lip is fine, thank you for asking.”
“Did you swallow the piece?”
“I think so. I felt a slight scratch.”
“Let me see your teeth.” My mother pulls over on the busiest street just to make it seem like she always had time for me. She only had time to nag and to prove she was right, even though she wasn’t. I hated it when she was forced to take me, ten cokes sound pretty good right about now, with the summer sun, sandy water and small sea shells that quietly make their way in between your toes.