Iowa Writes

Driving Lessons and How I Saved the YMCA

The other day I was listening to NPR and David Sedaris was telling outlandish stories about his father. I'm concerned. If I don't set the record straight now, someday I'll be confined to my rocking chair, drool trickling down my chin, while my wife and children spin tales that bear no resemblance to the truth. It's already started.

Last month I was giving my daughter Christie her first driving lesson. No parenting milestone can compare with the excitement of sitting in the passenger seat of your own car while an eighteen-year-old girl with lip piercings and orange hair hits the accelerator instead of the brake as she approaches her first stop sign.

"Jesus Christ, stop the goddamn car," I say.
"I don't think someone who crashed their car into the post office should be screaming at me," Christie says.
"Where'd you hear that?"
See? Okay, I might have raised my voice, but screamed? No way. And only their mother could turn a story of stunning heroism into some kind of tawdry disaster.
"First of all," I say, "it wasn't the post office. It was the YMCA. And I didn't crash into it. I saved it."

"Concentrate on your driving, okay?" We're crawling towards the next stop sign. "Try to go a little faster," I say in my calm, soothing voice. The car jerks forward and she slams on the brakes. I gasp, quietly. I don't scream or anything. "I tried to push the LTD off the ice, but it wouldn't budge. Then I got an idea."
"Can we go home now?"
We've been driving the same quiet block for twenty minutes—no traffic and she can make all right turns. I'm not ready for a left turn.

"Not yet," I tell her. She exhales. Stares at the ceiling. "Keep your eyes on the road and let me finish. I shifted the LTD into reverse and eased out of the car. The tires spun slowly. My plan was to nudge it off the ice, then jump back in."
"That's not a good plan. You might've run over someone."
"The parking lot was empty, okay?" She sighs. "I shoved the LTD..."
"And you fell on your face?"
"No! The car took off, headed straight for the Y. I raced after it, grabbed the door, threw myself in and slammed on the brakes. A superhuman effort."
"And you saved the BLT?"
"Unfortunately, the door hit a parking meter and sprung its hinges, but that's not the point."
"I didn't smash into the YMCA or any other building. Remember that, okay?"
Christie turns wide into our driveway, just missing the basketball hoop on the side of our drive. She turns and smiles. "Is that the car you were driving when you knocked off the side-mirror pulling into the garage?"
I have a lot of work to do.


About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting


Len Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and three children. For fifteen years Joy owned and operated an automobile engine remanufacturing company in Phoenix. In the past year his work has appeared in Hobart, 3:AM Magazine,, GlassFire Magazine, 21 Stars Review, and Boston Literary Magazine. He is currently working on a novel.

The Daily Palette Vintage
This page was originally published on November 17, 2008. Len Joy's first novel, American Past Time, was published in 2014!

This page was first displayed
on June 18, 2017

Find us on Facebook