(Ramona and Nobody) –Allan Shapiro

Left turn in .5 miles.”

“Got it, Maggie. Thanks,” Esau says. He is hunched over the steering wheel now. Time is short and sweat is beading. Class-conscious bumper stickers bleeding the streets of friction, causing everything to skate, causing Esau to say, “The roads are more slippery than normal,” causing Maggie to say, “Approaching left turn.”

“Thanks, Maggie,” Esau says mechanically, preparing the approach to the left turn with his left-hand turn signal, checking mirrors, glinting glares and soulless eyes from oncoming traffic.

Left turn. Beep. “Continue on current road.”

“Thanks, Maggie.”

Meanwhile, Ramona, Esau’s four-year-old daughter, has been discussing the inherent flaws of a free-market economy with Nobody while playing Paddycake. The discussion has ranged from the notion of winning, to the reality of losing; the realization of failure and the idealization of success, epitomized by a country of sycophants; that, and why blue is actually a much better color than green, but none can compare, of course, to red; let alone pink, which remains in a category entirely of its own.

“Hey, Ramona,” Esau interrupts.

Ramona looks up from her perpendicular palms. “Yeah, dad?” she asks.

“Ask Nobody if God’s hatred for us is actually his love, and if his love is actually his hate?”

Ramona shakes her head. “Huh?” she says.

Esau uses his hands this time while looking at her in the rearview mirror. “You know,” he says. “If the way God loves us just seems like extreme, horrific abhorrence. You know, maybe we’re just misinterpreting it all. Maybe we’re just seeing it in the wrong context.”

Ramona rolls her eyes as she turns to Nobody. Esau can see her lips twitch with whisper as his own twitch with another smirk. Then Ramona giggles and looks up to the reflected eyes of her father.

“Nobody says,” she says, “that God says that it’s all the same to him,” and ends with a sympathetic shrug of her shoulders.

“Huh,” Esau says.

Approaching destination on the right,” Maggie says.

“Thanks, Maggie,” Esau says, then “Hey, Ramona!”

“Yeah, daddy,” Ramona answers suspiciously.

“Tell Nobody he has to wait in the car.”

But, daddy!”

“Too bad,” Esau says with a shrug of his shoulders.

But daddy,” Ramona continues to whine. “I swear he won’t say a thing.”

Esau is still shaking his head, trying to hide his own amusement at his own insistence that his daughter’s imaginary friend–who is also his brother, Jacob–cannot come to watch him get his back waxed. “I already said no,” he says with a smirk.

“Whatever,” Ramona says, crossing her arms over her chest and staring daggers out the window. “Nobody says shame is for the weak.”

Esau laughs and shakes his head. “Fucking Jacob,” he mutters.

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