Joy Ride–Mark Scott Smith


It was almost midnight when our small-town policeman Tommy Lynch finally left and my parents told me to go to bed. In my room, a former moldy storage space under the eaves I’d recently been allowed to clean up and make my own, I pondered the situation. We hadn’t really stolen the car. It did belong to Pete’s neighbor after all, and we were going to put it back in the barn. We just went for a joyride after Dave hot wired it. Unfortunately, when the spliced wires came undone half way across the old Saugatuck bridge, we almost signaled the patrol car with our suspicious behavior. It didn’t take Tommy Lynch long to surmise that three 14-year-olds probably didn’t own the car, much less have drivers’ licenses.

Tommy took us home, one by one, to confront our parents. When I entered my parents bedroom, my dad’s smile quickly faded into concern, then anger as I told him a policeman was waiting to talk with him downstairs. After Tommy Lynch left, my mom flipped out over the top. I was a juvenile delinquent, a car thief who idolized Marlon Brando and James Dean. A punk really. With angry tears, she retired to her bedroom. “Go to bed now! “My Dad barked.

Alone in my room, I sat on the bed feeling pretty bad. I’d really screwed up this time. I fished behind the bookcase for my pack of Lucky’s and lit one up, watching the silver gray smoke spiral up toward the ceiling. A creak on the staircase sent me into high alert. I crushed the cigarette out between my fingertips and flung it out the window just as my mom came into the room. She glanced at the thin stream of smoke escaping out the window. “Does smoking make you feel better?” She asked in a tone I couldn’t quite decipher. Was it more angry irony or just residual empathy for a wayward son?


After a career in academic medicine, Mark Scott Smith now pursues creative writing on the Oregon coast. He has published three novels (Enemy in the Mirror; The Osprey and the Sea Wolf; Night Fire Morning Snow) and essays/poems in the North Coast Squid, Rain and the Word & Image Project.