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A Convertible, A Tree, and A Lesson Learned

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“Go fish,” Iris said, glancing up at Barry from behind her cards.

Barry sighed and picked up another card. He asked Joe, “Got any fives?”

Joe looked through his cards, taking his sweet time as Barry and Iris sat at the table growing increasingly more impatient. Barry checked his flip phone for what was probably the tenth time in the past five minutes, and Iris drummed her fingernails on the table.

“Nope,” Joe replied. With a smile he looked up at Barry and said, “Go fish.”

Barry groaned and picked up a card. Setting his cards down, he kneed Iris under the table and showed her the time. Noticing that it was getting closer to 11, she asked her dad, “Are you getting tired? It’s late.”

Joe checked his watch. “It’s not that late, we can finish this game.”

But Barry and Iris didn’t want to finish it. They wanted Joe to go to sleep so they could sneak a couple beers from Joe’s minifridge in the basement. Looking at each other, they had an unspoken idea.

Doing her best fake yawn, Iris set her cards down and said, “I’m exhausted. I think I’m going to go to sleep a bit early tonight.”

“That’s alright baby,” Joe said. He looked at Barry expectantly. “Barry and I can finish the game.”

Barry attempted to also fake a yawn. “I’m pretty tired too. It’s been a long week.”

Joe stroked his chin with his thumb and responded, “It’s summer vacation. The two of you have spent the past two weeks watching movies on the couch.”

“What can I say, Dad,” Iris started heading upstairs. “Good night!”

Barry was now stuck at the table, Joe eyeing him cautiously. “Is there something the two of you don’t want me to know about?”

“Uh,” Barry looked around, his eyes flickering toward the basement door behind Joe’s head. “I don’t think so.”

“Mhm,” Joe replied. He also put his cards down. “If you don’t wanna play, you can just say so.”

“I just think I’m tired, Joe,” Barry said. “We can pick the game up tomorrow, if you want?”

He shook his head in response. “It’s not that important. Head on up, I’ll clean the table.”

“Are you sure, cause…” Barry began to slowly walk toward the stairs, backwards. “I could help if you need?”

Please don’t say yes, please don’t say yes, he thought to himself.

Joe sighed and started swiping cards off the table. “It’s okay. Good night.”

Barry turned around and bolted up the stairs, yelling back, “Night!”

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, he almost ran into Iris, who was waiting for him. “Took you long enough,” she teased with a smile.

“You abandoned me! What was I supposed to do?” he whispered back. “So what are we going to do now? He’s probably gonna stay down there for awhile.”

“I figured,” Iris said with a smirk. “That’s why I swiped these on my way up.” She pulled Joe’s car keys out.

Barry’s eyes went wide and he shook his head. “We can’t; he’ll kill us if he finds out we took it out.”

“So? He doesn’t have to find out.”

“Why would take his car when we could just take ours?”

Iris rolled her eyes. Joe had gotten the two of them a cheap but reliable car to practice driving in, but it wasn’t as fun as the convertible.

“And who’s gonna drive?” Barry asked. “You don’t have your license yet, and -”

“But you have yours,” Iris said. “It’ll be fine.”

He wanted to talk Iris out of this awful idea. Barry was perfectly confident in his driving abilities, but under pressure, he could get anxious and mess up. The last thing he wanted to do was screw up while driving Joe’s convertible.

At the same time, it was summer, and the two of them had barely gotten to do anything fun yet. How much harm could a short nighttime drive do?

Ultimately, looking at Iris’s wide, excited eyes, he gave in. “Yeah, let’s go.”

She shrieked happily. “Great, meet me in my room in five minutes. Make it look like someone’s sleeping in your bed.”

She ran off to her room, and Barry went to his own. Five minutes later, they were ready to go.

Iris opened up her window and climbed out of it, stepping carefully on the porch roof. Barry followed, making sure to close the window on his way out. Iris walked across the roof and sat down, slowly sliding off until she was able to jump safely down. Barry did the same, though he wasn’t as careful as Iris. On the way off the roof, he landed awkwardly.

“You okay?” Iris said, leaning down to where Barry laid sprawled in a bush.

“I think so,” he replied, groaning. “My wrist hurts a little, but I think I’m fine.”

“Good to drive?”

With Iris’s help, Barry stood up, brushing leaves off his t-shirt. “Yeah. Keys?”

Iris tossed him the keys. Laughing, the two of them ran to Joe’s convertible, which was parked in the street.

“Is this a bad idea?” Iris asked, jumping into the passenger’s seat. “This is a bad idea, isn’t it?”

“It was your idea!” Barry replied as he turned the keys in the ignition.

“That doesn’t mean it’s any good,” she said, buckling her seatbelt.

Imitating her voice, Barry said, “It’ll be fine.” She whacked him playfully with her wallet, and they drove off.

“Where do you even wanna go?” Barry asked, looking at her out of the corner of his eye as they drove down the street. Her curls were blowing in the wind, and she was shaking them out.

“I dunno,” she responded, relaxing back in her seat. “We don’t have to go anywhere, necessarily. Just driving around with you is nice.”

“Yeah, it is,” Barry smiled. He snuck another glance at Iris, who was putting some kind of lipstick on. He started imagining the implications of his wildest dreams; was this it? Was she about to-

Crash.

Upon impact, the airbags deployed, and they screamed in unison.

“Barry!” Iris yelled, her voice muffled. “What happened?”

Stunned, Barry wasn’t sure what to say. He found the handle to the car door and staggered out to see what had occurred. When his mind finally adjusted, he blinked and looked at the wreckage. Iris followed him out of the car, and she was stumbling over spare tree branches to meet him at the front of the car.

Together, they gasped. The car had driven directly into a tree. Thankfully, they hadn’t been going too fast, but the damage was done. There was definitely a tree-shaped dent forever etched in the hood of the car.

“What the fuck happened?” Iris asked again, getting more distraught. “Did you get distracted or something?”

Barry hid his face in his hands. He didn’t want to admit what he’d been thinking about when they’d veered off the road and crashed. “Something like that.”

“Dad is literally going to murder us. We’re not make it out of this alive.” Iris started to cry, and Barry moved to comfort her.

“It’s going to be okay, Iris,” Barry reassured her. He pulled her into a hug. “I’ll tell him it was all my idea and my fault.”

She didn’t say anything at first, but she continued to cry for a few moments before she gathered herself. “You should call him.”

He rubbed her back for a bit before stepping away and taking out his phone. Hesitantly, he dialed their landline. Joe picked up almost immediately.

“What happened?”

“Uh,” Barry looked at the wreckage, while Iris stared at it with tears in her eyes. “There was a bit of an accident. We’re okay, but…”

“Where are you? I’m coming.”

Reluctantly, Barry told him they were at Fairmont Drive and Crescent Road. He was there within minutes, showing up in the other car. Barry and Iris huddled together as Joe got closer to them.

For a couple horrible minutes, no one said anything. The two of them watched as Joe walked around the car, touching the front gingerly.

“I’m sorry, Joe, it’s all my-”

“It’s both of our faults,” Iris interrupted, looking up at Barry. “It was my idea to take your car, and Barry drove. We’re so sorry, Dad.”

Without saying a word, Joe took his phone out of his pocket to call a tow truck. Silently, Barry and Iris watched him, worried about the moment when he’d finally snap. They’d been there before, but never with an incident this major.

But even after Joe got off the phone, that moment never come. The three of them stared at each other until Barry couldn’t take it anymore.

“Are you gonna yell at us? We deserve it. I deserve it.”

Joe glared at him. “Oh, you definitely deserve it. But I’m not going to.”

“Why not?” Iris wiped away a stray tear.

“I don’t need to. I know you regret what you’ve done, and I know how you’re going to make up for it.”

Barry and Iris looked each other anxiously.

“How?” Iris worked up the nerve to ask.

“You’re going to pay me back for the repairs,” Joe replied.

“We don’t have jobs, though,” Barry objected.

Joe had an answer ready. “There are two temp positions open at the precinct. The two of you are about to spend your entire summer making minimum wage, working in a dark, musty basement, digitizing old paper files.”

Their jaws dropped open, and Joe laughed.

“That’s the reaction I was hoping for.”
----------------------------------------------------
Though the job was mundane, cramped, and dingy, Barry and Iris made it work for them. Every time they came up from a shift laughing together over ridiculous police reports they’d seen or dumb mistakes the other person made, Joe glowered at them from behind his sunglasses.

On the last day of summer, they came upstairs and turned the flash drive into the Captain before walking by Joe’s desk.

With a massive smile, Iris said triumphantly, “I believe our work here is done.”

Joe looked up from his computer. “Did you learn your lesson?”

“If we say yes, can we move past this?”

Joe sighed. “I really need to know that you fully understand the responsibility that comes with being an adult, owning a car, and paying for that car. Do you think you can say that?”

Barry and Iris looked at each other, nodding. Barry said, “I think we can. Thank you for giving us these jobs and the chance to make up for our mistake.”

Iris nudged Barry’s side with her elbow. “What he said.”

Joe looked between them, relatively satisfied with how the situation turned out. “You’re free to go.”

They exclaimed, “Yes!” and ran out of the precinct, hand in hand.