Minor Adventure | Fiction
This is what the writing prompt from Writer’s Digest said: “Your family has always been a little off when it comes to holiday traditions. You eat tacos on the Fourth of July and hamburgers on Cinco de Mayo. How did this whacky tradition get started?” I didn’t write to that exactly, but contorted it a bit to get my fingers moving on something I could tell a story about. Writing prompts are fun, quick and a good way to flex your creative muscles. If you're not already filling your day with wondrous sentences, you should try prompts for the simple reason that your writing, like almost any talent, gets better the more of it that you do.
If you need some inspiration outside of the Writer's Digest link (which is a bit all over the place) you can check out this The Daily Post article. It has a link to a great, free ebook titled "365 Writing Prompts." It's available as a pdf, mobi or epub document. Look through the site, download the book and get to writing!
With a smile my dad asked me and my younger sister, “You wanna go poum poum?”
We said, “Yeah!"
Being only seven and four years old, respectively, we hollered in identically high-pitched voices while jogging from our kitchen to my dad’s Ford Granada '79 parked in front our Jamaica, Queens house.
In Spanish, comida means food; the Dutch word for blister is a piratety sounding blaar; to love in Korean is salanghaneun. My parents were from Haiti and certain Creole words just didn’t translate. Poum poum was one of those things. For one thing, it wasn’t a proper Creole word, but was something my father had used, and heard being used, while growing up—slang within a dialect within a national pigeon language.
Another problem is that there is no English word to describe what poum poum meant. Just like there is no word to describe the moment when you realise you're with someone for all the wrong reasons, there is no word to describe taking a car ride on a minor adventure to some nearby location. It was just poum poum. The words sounded funny to my young, Americanized ears so I giggled and jumped at the chance to be driven around.
Certain Creole words just don't translate
The destination this time was the home of my father’s childhood friend Edner, nicknamed Ti Edner, who had just moved into Queens. With no excitement at all, my mother stepped into the passenger side as me and Stacey hopped into the back to play kiddie car games and look out of the child-safety locked windows.
My dad started the car and began the trip on an exciting note by driving backward on our one-way street. He did so to avoid wasting time on the circular trip he’d have to make to get on the avenue behind us.
Egging him on I asked, “You gonna drive backwards again, Daddy?”
“No, I don’t think so. I can do it, but sometimes there are policemen who sit on the street. They watch and watch for people driving like crazy, and I don’t want them give me a ticket.”
He’d say something in Creole to my mother. She remained unenthused and waved her hand as if to say, “I don’t want you to do it, but whatever. I don’t care.” He put the gear in reverse and we sat in the back seat, bouncing up and down a little at the risky maneuver. Was a cop going to pop up and give him a ticket? Would he make it scott free? Was he going to back into an oncoming car and cause a terrifying accident? Who knew? No one knew, and the excitement propelled us pass that corner and through local streets where my dad would point out landmarks and comment on them.
“You see that store? I was driving home one day from work and saw that a big van crashed into it.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what happened, maybe the man was drunk, but it looked really bad. There were a lot of police officers and an ambulance.”
Later on, pointing his finger at a parked car, he said, “That is a very old car. I used to drive one like that when I was living in Haiti. It was fast, but not easy to control.” He’d say some more things to my mother in Creole and they’d have a small discussion about life in the poorest country in the hemisphere. My sister and I didn’t understand and instead would undo our seat belts to look out of the window and stare. When the car was out of sight we would find something else to look at as the breeze from acceleration hit our faces.
After about thirty minutes of fun my dad pointed at an ice cream shop. With a knowing smile that I could see from the backseat, he asked us, “You think we should go in?”
The Climax to poum poum, we’d beg and yell out our favorite flavors until my dad and mom both agree to make a detour and get us a cone that we promised not to make a mess with. We didn’t, or at least I didn’t, and the trip continued to Ti Edner’s new, two-bedroom apartment.
Looking back at the experience, and the several other poum poums of my childhood, I realized that kids are easy. I was a difficult kid in a lot of ways—I was naturally melancholy, I was shy—but I was still easy in that all I needed to be a well-rounded individual was food, water, love, patience and the occasional good-humored ride around the neighborhood.