By Katy Goforth
Daddy was a diesel ghost, floating into my room in the middle of the night and leaving a soft-edged memory in my dreams. The crispness of his shirt sleeve rubbed against my neck as he bent down to give me a goodnight kiss. No matter that I had been tucked in hours before.
Outside my window, the Duke Power streetlight lit my tiny bedroom, giving me just enough light for me to barely part my lashes and take a peep. Daddy lingered, giving my leg a few extra squeezes through the quilt. I’d quickly close my narrow view in the hopes he didn’t realize I was awake.
Lemon oil mingled and danced with the diesel fumes, shoving its way through my bedroom door left ajar. This meant Mama was up too. No surprise. Mama said after midnight, with the house at peace, was the only time of day to clean.
The stories from the road clung to Daddy, saturating him with mystique and adventure. Then they would drip dry off, leaving their marks on my still developing brain. Sure I wasn’t going to be jostled awake, I would feel Daddy sink into the edge of the bed, making it sag just like Mama always told me not to do.
“Don’t you break down the edge of that bed,” she’d say with her eyes transforming into angry slits.
I’d fight the urge to open my eyes, sit up, and throw my arms around Daddy. He was closest to you when he thought you weren’t looking. As he shifted his body to let loose the tightness from ten-hour plus days in a big rig cab, the diesel fuel and his cologne fought to dominate the air around us. I tried to inhale deeply without alerting Daddy. I let the scent overtake and lull me back to my dreams.
J. Chisholm-boot impressions would greet me the next morning—heels still visible in my plush harvest gold carpet. The edge of the bed where Daddy had sat left the faint evidence of his presence where the quilt had been flipped over to expose the plain backing. Throwing the quilt back, I’d swing my legs over the edge and slide down from the mattress, slipping my feet into the cowboy boot heel impressions from the wee hours of the morning. Inhaling deeply, I’d follow Daddy’s now faint scent from my room, down the hall, and into the kitchen.
But I was too late. Daddy, my real road cowboy, had disappeared. All that was left was the faint scent of my diesel ghost.