By Margaret Combs
In the warm, thinning light of summer evenings in Colorado, I knew where to find my father. Once our supper table was cleared and I’d dust panned the crumbs away, I reached for the kitchen door knob.
We lived far out in the country beyond a bend in the road in a small ranch house painted soft lavender, the color my mother loved. It was a place of virtues for me, a wandering child of ten prone to loneliness and reverie. A wild weedy field full of dragonflies wrapped around the side of the house, and, along the front yard, a row of giant climbing trees dipped their arms low enough for my hands. But at twilight, when chiggers and mosquitoes forced me indoors, I sought out my father’s domain: our two-car garage.
Daddy’s VW Bug, painted sky blue, greeted me as I swung the door wide. Not two feet away sat Mama’s finned white Fury, both cars side by side, the way my parents would be throughout life, an inseparable fleet of two. Despite this, I believed my father belonged to me. I was most like him, taking after his side of the family: my blondish hair a whisper of his mother’s; my nose and eyes a regeneration of his aunt Malta; and my middle name, Ray, his.
I pushed open the screen door and, for a moment, paused, dizzied by the pungency of warm engine oil, gasoline and treaded rubber. A funnel of soft light fell through the only window, and there, half perched on a stool, my father curved like a fishing pole over his work bench, casting and dropping his fingers into a pool of parts and bits that seemed from another world: model pins, Xacto blades, ball-headed studs, swivel socket links, stabilizers. Dust motes swirled around his dark thatch of hair, curling upward to the ceiling, where a flock of delicate model airplane skeletons dangled from the rafters, covered in sleek flawless skins of brushed reds and buttery yellows. Though meant to float on the air like prairie birds, Dad’s airplanes, with their tissued wings and opaque membranes, appeared more to me like pterosaurs: mysterious, primal creatures taking shelter in our garage.