The Adventures of Mark and Mary:
Mark Teaches Mary How to Drive
By Jake Lasprogato
Copyright 2016 Jake Lasprogato
Mary was leaving her dad’s car dealership at the end of her workday and Mark met her to walk her home. As they walked together down the street Mark said, “I can’t believe you work at a car dealership and you don’t even have a driver’s license.”
“Well I really don’t need one. I can walk anywhere I need to go.” Mary replied.
“Yeah, but you might want to go outside the city someday. What would you do then?”
Mary shrugged, “I’m really not that worried about it. I don’t see why you’re giving me such a hard time, either. You don’t drive.”
“That’s not true! I have a license. I can drive when I need to.”
“Well what am I supposed to do? Hop behind the wheel of a car and teach myself to drive? Whenever I bring it up to my dad he says he’s too busy and my mom, well… you know my mom.”
“I’ll teach you!”
“You? You don’t even have a car.”
“My neighbor will let me borrow hers. She told me I can use it whenever I want.”
Mary eyed Mark skeptically.
“I’ll come by and pick you up tomorrow afternoon.” He added.
“Okay. I’ll be ready.” Mary said warily.
The next day Mary was in her bedroom brushing her hair when she glanced out the window and saw Mark pulling up in an old Plymouth. She set the brush down on her vanity and hurried down the stairs. She had just made it to the door when she heard her mother ask, “Mary, where are you going?”
Mary turned around and saw her mother standing in the hallway alongside the stairs. “I’m just going out. I won’t be late.” She answered. Then she quickly turned back toward the door and tried to get away.
“Out with who?” Anne asked as she swiftly stepped between Mary and the front door.
When Mary didn’t answer right away, Anne turned and opened the door herself. She stepped out onto the front porch and looked toward the street. The first thing she saw was the ratty old Plymouth. It was a 1959 Fury painted flat pink with a black front fender on the driver side and a faded blue hood. The Plymouth emblem had come off of the grill and was replaced by a tiny metal statuette of the Virgin Mary, her hands clasped tightly in prayer. Mark was leaning against the fender lighting up a cigarette. “Hello.” He called to Anne with a friendly wave.
“It’s that hoodlum!” Anne said as she turned back toward Mary.
“Yeah, well now you know.” Mary replied as she casually stepped passed Anne and headed down the front path toward Mark.
Anne followed on Mary’s heels calling after her, “Mary! Mary! What are you doing riding around with this gigolo in this… this… sexmobile!”
“Ooo! That’s a good name for it.” Mark said.
“Shut up!” Mary hissed at him. Then she turned to her mother and said, “He’s just giving me driving lessons.”
“Driving lessons! What on earth do you need to learn to drive for? So you can leave me like your sisters?”
“If I do my job right.” Mark quipped.
“Just think about what you’re doing, Mary,” Anne continued, “Look who you’re going to be with.”
Mary turned and looked at Mark. He really was quite a sight in his ripped blue jeans and t-shirt, leaning on the battered pink Plymouth smoking his cigarette and with his tattoo of a large pink rose visible on his upper arm. But Mary couldn’t help smiling when she thought of how harmless he really was.
“Mom, it’s fine. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
“Mary, he has a tattoo! You know what I always say about boys with tattoos.”
“I have a lot more but you can’t see them all.” Mark said.
“No he doesn’t! He’s just kidding.” Mary added quickly.
Anne raised her eyebrow and gave Mary a questioning stare. “How do you know, Mary?”
“Because she sees me naked all the time. Tell her, Mary.”
“Oh my God! We have to leave, Mark! Goodbye, Mom. I’ll see you later.” She said as she hurried around to the car’s driver side.
When she got in she held her fingers to her temples as she tried to think how to put the car in gear while her mother tried to lecture her through the closed window.
“Put your foot on the brake and press the button on the dash that says ‘D’.” Mark said.
Mary followed his instructions, then hit the gas and the great old car lurched forward and sped off down the street. When she reached the stop sign at the end of the block she glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her mother still standing in the middle of the road staring at them.
As soon as they were around the corner and on the main road, Mary slapped Mark with her right hand and said, “Why would you say those things to my mother, Mark? Why?!”
“She needs it.” He answered with a casual laugh.
“I sure don’t. Do you know how difficult she’s going to be to live with now?”
“Aw, fuck it, Mary. Who cares what she thinks. She’s wrong about everything anyway so what does it matter?”
Mary took a deep breath and made herself comfortable behind the wheel. “Where are we driving to?” She asked.
“I don’t know.” Mark answered.
“Well shouldn’t we find an empty parking lot or something to get me started?”
“I think we’re passed that stage already.”
“I would really feel more comfortable off the main road.”
“Forget that, Mare. Real skill only comes from real experience.”
Mary glanced at Mark from the corner of her eye but didn’t speak.
“Whoa! Hold up!” Mark said as they whizzed down the block.
“What?” Mary asked as she hit the brakes.
“There’s a laundromat on this block. Park the car.”
“I’ve got some laundry in the trunk. Just find an open space and park the car.”
“I don’t see a parking space.”
“We just passed one. Turn here and go around the block.”
Mary did as Mark said and drove around the whole block but there was no open space on their second time around. “Someone must have taken it… fuckers.” Mark said as he crushed out his cigarette. “Go around again.”
This time they did find an open space on the side street, but Mary was very unsure of her ability to fit the Plymouth into the space. “Nobody likes to parallel Park, Mary,” Mark told her, “You should be happy that you’re having this experience early so you can get it out of the way.”
Mary didn’t find any comfort in Mark’s words. She just stared at him blankly.
“I’ll get out and guide you.” Mark said as he opened his door and climbed out.
He stood on the curb and yelled, “Okay. Back it in!”
Mary pulled up, then put the car in reverse and cut the wheel to ease into the spot. She was moving painfully slow.
“Alright, Mary. Keep it going. Back it up, back it up, back it up…” Mark said, waving her along with his hand.
Then Mary hit the car behind her. Mark didn’t say anything though except, “Okay, now cut the wheel and pull forward.”
“Is that car okay?” Mary yelled out the window.
“Yeah, it’s fine. Just pull up.” Mark replied without actually looking at the car. “Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going…”
Then Mary hit the car in front of her.
“Okay. Now back up just a little bit and you’re golden!” Mark said.
Mary backed up like Mark told her and then shut off the engine. “How did I do?” She asked as she climbed out of the car.
“You parked that thing like you knew what you were doing.” Mark said with a smile as he rubbed Mary’s head and messed up her hair.
Mary looked at the Plymouth. It fit so tightly in the spot that Mary didn’t think a sheet of paper could even fit between the cars. “How are you going to get your laundry out of the trunk?” She asked.
“Don’t worry.” Mark said. He leaned over the rear fender of the Plymouth and punched the trunk as hard as he could and, to Mary’s surprise, it popped open without any trouble. Mark grabbed a bag of laundry from inside then asked Mary, “Would you mind grabbing the other bag?”
Mary reached in and pulled out a second bag of clothes. “Isn’t this going to take a while?” She asked.
“Nah. We’ll get them started and I’ll come back and finish up later.” Mark said. Then he slammed the trunk shut and led Mary away toward the laundromat.
When Mark and Mary came out of the laundromat, the car that had been parked behind them was gone. Mary breathed a sigh of relief to think that she wouldn’t have to navigate out of the tight spot she had gotten into. Mark opened the passenger side door and tossed his laundry into the back seat and then got in the car.
Mary started the engine and adjusted the rearview mirror. “God dammit!” She yelled as she took her hand away from the mirror.
“What?” Mark asked.
“Someone wrote ‘Queef Cookie’ across the back windshield.”
Mark turned around and let out a big laugh when he saw the words scrawled across the glass in pink spraypaint. “They even wrote it backwards so you can read it in the mirror! That’s pretty good.”
“Get out and scrape it off!” Mary said.
“I’m not gonna scrape it off. You can still see.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to drive around with that on the window, Mark. What will people think?”
Mark shrugged as he lit up another cigarette. He took a few puffs and then said, “I guess they’d think you’re a queef cookie.”
“Mark that’s not funny.”
“Just don’t worry about in now, okay Mare? Put the car in gear and drive us somewhere before we get mugged.”
Mary reluctantly backed up, put the car in drive and pulled out of the spot. She navigated back to the main road before she asked, “So where are we going now?”
“I don’t know.” Mark answered. “Just drive around. Learn.”
They stopped at a red light where there was a man standing on the corner with a suitcase. He walked up to Mark’s window and tapped on the glass. “Hey, are you going by Logan?” He asked.
Mark rolled down his window and replied, “How much will you give me?”
“A buck fifty.”
“Five Dollars.” Mark said as he stuck his cigarette in his mouth and looked at the man through narrow eyes.
“Five dollars!” The man shouted.
“We’re in the middle of an oil crisis, dude. Or haven’t you heard?”
The man stood still and gave Mark a long, contemptuous gaze. Then finally said, “Alright.”
Mark held his hand out for the money and the man grudgingly reached into his pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill, which he slapped into Mark’s palm. Mark smiled and rolled his window up. He opened the door, stepped out and folded his seat forward. The traveler tossed his suitcase in on top of Mark’s laundry and climbed in.
While he was getting settled, Mary sat and stared straight ahead through the windshield. “Come on, Mary. Let’s go.” Mark said.
“I don’t know where we’re going.” Mary said.
“To the airport.”
“I know. But I don’t know how to get there.”
“Are you kidding me? How long have you lived in this city?”
“How many times have I been to the airport, Mark? Most of the time I do good just to get out of my neighborhood.”
Mark let out a big huff and said, “Well just go straight down the road here and I’ll tell you where to turn.”
Mary hit the gas and took off down the street, she was tense behind the wheel. Mark was relaxed on the passenger side, slouching down in his seat with his right foot up on the dashboard and his cigarette held loosely between his lips. “So what’s your name?” He asked the stranger in the back seat.
“Where are you flying to?”
“Memphis! What are you going down there for?”
“I got a girl down there.”
“She got any teeth?” Mark asked with a laugh.
“Yes.” Jim replied indignantly.
“Hey, turn right here.” Mark said calmly.
Mary was zoned out though and continued to go straight.
“Mary, turn! Come on! Look alive!”
“Oops!” Mary said as she hastily cut the wheel and turned down a little side street.
“Hey, take it easy, little girl.” Jim said from the back seat.
“Give her a break.” Mark said. “This is her first time driving.”
“What! You charged me five dollars for a ride from someone who doesn’t even have a license!”
“You’re the one that approached us.” Mark answered casually.
“I thought you were a gypsy cab!” Jim said.
“Oh, Mark! What did that sign back there say?” Mary asked.
“It said ‘stop,’ sweetie. That’s alright though. Turn left up here.”
After Mary made her turn, she found herself driving up the freeway on-ramp. “Mark, this is taking me onto the freeway.” Mary said nervously.
“I know. That’s why I told you to get on it.”
“I’m not comfortable driving on the freeway yet.”
“Well don’t worry. After this you will be.”
As Mary came to the end of the ramp and started to merge onto the highway, a truck blew its horn and Mary swerved back onto the shoulder.
“Watch what you’re doing!” Mark yelled.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t see it.”
“Well then you’d better get you’re fucking eyes examined.”
“You know what,” Jim interrupted, “Just get off at the next exit and let me out.”
“Nope. You paid us to take you to the airport and we’re going to get you there.” Mark said.
“You know, it’s just five bucks. I think I’ve got my money’s worth.”
“Forget it,” Mark said, “We’re almost there anyway.”
Jim sunk deep down into the back seat and closed his eyes. He stayed that way until the car came to a stop and Mark said, “Alright buddy. We’re at the terminal.” Mark hopped out and pushed the seat forward for Jim to get out. Jim just sat and looked at Mark with his eyes wide open. “Are you nervous about your flight?” Mark asked him. “Because for an extra five dollars Mary will lay you before you go.”
“No I won’t! Mark, don’t tell him that.”
“No, that’s alright.” Jim said quietly.
“I know she’s not much to look at, but I think I’ve got a towel in the trunk you could throw over her face if that’s what’s bothering you.”
“No.” Jim repeated as he pulled himself out of the back seat, grabbed his suitcase and hurried passed Mark into the terminal.
“That guy,” Mark said as he settled down into his seat and shut the door, “Talk about high strung.”
“You’re a jerk.” Mary said with a grin.
“I’m not a jerk!” Mark protested. “All I’ve done today is try and help people. I’m teaching you how to drive. I helped that poor schmuck get to the airport. I tried to get you both laid and make you a little extra cash. And I’m the jerk.”
“Oh, you poor misunderstood soul.” Mary said with a fake air of sympathy.
Mark glanced over at the dashboard and said, “Hey, pull over at the next gas station you see. It looks like we’re running low.”
Mark helped Mary navigate the backroads to avoid the freeway and they found a little gas station on a quiet corner in a seedy neighborhood. After Mary had parked and shut the engine off, she began to open her door and climb out when Mark said, “Hold on, I’ll pump the gas. I don’t want you to get out here.”
“Oh, Okay.” She said
Mark climbed out of the car and went inside to pay. He came back out, walked back to the Plymouth and started pumping the gas. As he was standing by the pump a drifter came walking by and called to him from the sidewalk, “Hey!”
Mark tried to ignore him at first. He hated being bothered by anyone and he hoped that the man might just move on. But he didn’t. He began to walk toward Mark from the sidewalk. “Hey, I need some money.” The man said as he walked right up to Mark.
“Yeah, so do I.” Mark replied.
“Aw, come on. You must have something.” The man continued.
“Uh-uh. I’m flat broke.” Mark said.
“Come on, man.” The drifter continued.
“Fuck off!” Mark said.
The man turned away and Mark thought that he was finally going to leave. But instead he put his hand on Mary’s door handle. Mary was looking at herself in the rearview mirror and playing with her hair. She turned around when she heard the door begin to open and just as the man began to say, “Hey, I need you to give me some…” Mark came up behind him, grabbed him by his long, scraggly hair and smashed his face into the roof of the car.
Mary screamed and Mark scrambled to hang the nozzle up on the pump and get back into the car. Just as Mark closed his door, the cashier inside the station came running out shouting, “What’s going on? What’s going on out here? I’m going to call the police!”
“Start the car, Mary! Come on! Go! Go! Go!” Mark said as Mary fumbled to start the engine.
She finally got the car in gear, peeled out of the gas station and sped off down the street. Mary’s door swung open and then slammed shut as she took the first turn. After they had drove several blocks and Mary’s heartrate had settled she asked, “What the hell was that?”
“That fucker wouldn’t leave me alone,” Mark said, “Then he just turns around and starts to bother you.”
Mary settled in behind the wheel. She glanced at Mark from the corner of her eye and started to smile. Mark lit another cigarette and took a few puffs. “What?” He asked.
“I can’t believe you smashed that poor guy’s face into the roof of the car. He’s probably going to need surgery.”
“I hope he does!” Mark said. “And maybe he’ll get a fucking job too.”
“How do you know there wasn’t something wrong with him?”
“I’ve been around, Mare. I can tell what people’s problems are. The only thing wrong with that guy was he didn’t know when to give up.”
Mary turned onto her street and as she cruised down the block she said, “Speaking of knowing when to give up, I don’t think I want any more driving lessons. I’m content with walking.”
“Aww, come on. This was only your first time.” Mark argued.
“I just don’t like driving.”
“Is this because of that guy at the gas station?” Mark asked.
“You might not be the best person to give me driving lessons,” Mary answered. “Actually, you shouldn’t even have a license.”
“What! I thought I did great.”
Mary parked the car in front of her parents’ house. She put a hand on Mark’s knee and said, “I really love your belief in yourself.” Then she opened her door and got out of the car.
“Come on, Mare. Give it one more shot.” Mark said as he shimmied across the seat onto the driver side.
“Goodnight Mark.” Mary said.
“I’ll take you out for another lesson after school tomorrow.”
“Mark, what did I just say?”
“Okay. I’ll see how you feel in a week or two.”
“Goodnight Mark.” Mary repeated firmly.
“Goodnight Mary.” He replied. Then he put the car in gear and drove away.
When Mary came through the door she tried to hurry up the stairs before her mother caught her, but she wasn’t quick enough.
“I hope you enjoyed your day driving around with that junior criminal.” Anne called after her.
“Oh, I had a great time!” Mary replied.
“Well I just hope for your sake that you didn’t do anything too stupid. If you start having children, don’t count on me to help you.”
Mary got a wicked grin and said, “Well I guess we’ll have to wait a few weeks before we know anything for sure.”
Anne gasped and held a hand up to her chest. Mary ran up the stairs and into her bedroom. She spread herself out on her bed and laughed.
About The Author:
Jake Lasprogato is an artist based in Northern California. “The Adventures of Mark and Mary” is his first published series. He will be publishing new chapters frequently. He is also working on several other literary projects at this time. For updates visit his website.
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Mark thinks that it would be a good idea for Mary to get her driver's license as a step toward gaining her independence. Mary is reluctant and tells Mark that even if she did want to learn how to drive, she doesn't have anyone to teach her. Marks steps up and offers to teach her, telling her that he's as good a teacher as any. Knowing Mark and his tenacious way of holding on to ideas, Mary agrees to a lesson. Mary knows that she is in for a new experience, but she never guessed how her first day on the road would turn out.