Sand rides up my butt. If I sit still it doesn’t bother me too much; only when the car goes over a bump do I feel itchy. I drag my hands across my wet bathing suit, still sticky from the ice cream I was too stuffed to finish. My soggy cone sits next to me on a crumpled paper napkin.
Leaning toward the front seat, I ask Dad if I can roll down the window. He says No because the air conditioning is on, but Mom immediately pipes in and tells me to go ahead, then she says something else to Dad that I can’t hear. He turns up the radio before answering.
I open the window part way and a hot gust blows damp hair across my face. The thrumming of the incoming breeze drowns out the voices in the front seat even more, like I’m inside a giant cocoon. From my tote bag on the floor I grab a bottle of bubble solution. I unscrew the cap and pull out the plastic hoop from inside, the syrupy liquid dribbling down the outside of the container and onto my fingers.
I look up; Mom and Dad are still talking. Dad looks annoyed.
After wiping my hands on my bathing suit once again, I stick the coated hoop out the window. The moment the wind catches hold, bubbles explode from the flimsy piece of plastic. I tighten my grip so it doesn’t slip out from my hand. The eruption of swirling light and liquid color gives me chills despite the stifling heat. And even though it takes less than a second for the bubbles to stop forming, these soapy fireworks feel much more satisfying than a single bite of the ice cream cone.
I pull the hoop inside the car and dunk it in the solution for a refill, then stick my hand back out through the window and make more bubbles appear out of thin air. It reminds me of swimming underwater and blowing air out through my nose, the misshapen blobs rising to the surface in a flurry of commotion.
The hoop runs dry a second time. I quickly draw it inside then spin around and look out the rear window, the sand in my bathing suit scraping against my skin. The bubbles drift down the road behind our car, like hovering balls of glass shimmering in the sunlight. Gusts from other cars violently push them up and around, but somehow the bubbles manage to stay intact, as if made of steel.
I imagine myself inside one of those indestructible orbs, silently hovering above the earth, impervious to any sort of harm. Better still, I picture the mean things my parents say to one another trapped inside, their hurtful words floating far away where they can’t be heard by anyone ever again.
Growing up in rural Ontario, writing and drawing was Ron McDougall’s chance to build and explore worlds that existed beyond the hayfields and pastures outside his bedroom window. Since receiving his BFA Honours from York University, he has continued as a writer and illustrator to explore the narrative form, honing his ability to draw emotional resonance from character-driven scenarios.