Ode to Philip Seymour Hoffman

We were in my father’s ’72 Duster, which was colored with years of rust and roadside grime, and it shook from the springs and bent frame as we rocketed down the muddy highway. My mother and father were in the front seat, and my mother’s sunbonnet was pulled over her eyes. I was in back with my sisters, sitting between them. Our feet, those of mine and my sisters, were tangled together on the middle, carpeted hump between the footwells of the back seat, which were filled with Tupperware containers and casserole dishes bound—as we were—for our family reunion in Wisconsin.

When the front right tire blew, father tried to pull the car over, but overcorrected. The car slew to the left, sharply; in response to my father’s strong yank on the wheel, it skidded sideways and flipped.

The Duster had no seatbelts, which ultimately made no difference, as the roof caved in immediately, instantly killing my parents in front. My sister Judy, who was seated to my left, towards the side of the car that flipped, survived the impact, but suffocated in the casserole dish, which adhered to her face like some great white clam.

Adelaide, my other sister, also survived the impact, and did not suffocate. Instead she looked at me as the car finally shuddered to a stop among the sageweed and bristle-thistle along the side of the clay red ditch and told me her secret, her epiphany: that we would probably miss the family reunion.

She was wrong. We made it, she and I, having walked the remainder of the trip carrying whatever Tupperware we could salvage from the twisted metal of my father’s ’72 Duster.