On the way home from the pharmacy, we drive through the shadow of the legendary college football stadium. Our son twists in his car seat for a better view of the massive bronze statues of players—glorious, muscular, helmetless young men, running or throwing. It’s just past five in the evening, late November, a few days after a big home loss, another season’s championship hopes dashed.
“How do you get on a statue?” our son asks.
I brake a little for a curve in the road. “With a ladder, I guess.”
“No,” he says, “I mean how do you get to be on a statue?”
I glance at him in the rearview. “On top of one?”
His curls bounce as he shakes his head. “What do you have to do to get them to make a statue of you?”
“I’m not sure,” I say.
A student in sweatpants and a hoodie steps down from the curb as we pass, a bit too soon for my comfort. My wife doesn’t see the near miss. She’s asleep in the seat beside me, mouth open, head lolling forward. We’ve only been in the car for five minutes. It’s a bad pain day, and her new pills are working.
“They make statues for just about anything,” I say, “but you’d have to be really good at something, whatever it is.”
“Oh, well that’s easy,” he says.
We roll out of the stadium’s shadow, into the sunshine, and I brake again for a red light. “I’m not so sure. Maybe you have to be the best in the world.”
“What’s the easiest way to get on a statue?” He takes a bite of his chocolate-chip granola bar.
“Playing football, probably.”
“Well I’m not doing that,” he says.
Two young women in oversized T-shirts and gym shorts pass us on the crosswalk, gesturing as they talk—though not to each other. They’re on cell phones. The light changes. I press down on the gas.
“What is easy for me?” our son asks. “What is something I’m really good at?”
“Farting,” his sister says from the seat beside his. She was listening to an audiobook on headphones, but she can’t resist poking fun. She wiggles her eyebrows.
She blows him a kiss.
He wipes it from his face.
“Teaching about animals,” I say. “You know more than anyone I know.”
“That’s it,” he says. “I’ll be the best at that. In fact, I think I already am.”
“You could be.” I drive on, past the engineering building and the technology center, toward the next stoplight.
“Will you still be a professor when I’m in college?”
“Probably so.” I scan the road and push down thoughts of retirement and unpaid medical bills and my parents’ old age and our kids’ future tuition and the unfinished novel on my hard drive.
“What will you be teaching?” he asks.
“Writing, most likely.”
“Can’t you teach something interesting? Can’t you teach a class about animals? A special one, for me?”
“Well, writing about animals, maybe.”
The next light turns red, and I stop too quickly. My wife slumps forward.
“Yes,” our son says. “That’s it. I’ll take that class.”
“It’s decided,” I say. “I should get to work on the syllabus.”
The turn signal clicks. The stoplight blinks to green. As the car rounds into a left turn, my wife looks around.
“Sorry,” she says.
“Don’t apologize,” I say. “I’ve just agreed to teach a course about writing about animals.”
“When I’m in college,” our son explains. “And I’ll teach it, too. We can teach it together, but it will just be me on the statue.”
Her hand brushes my arm. Her fingers slide to my elbow then drop to the center console.
I score a prime parking spot in front of the pizza place we like. I switch my sunglasses for regular glasses. The kids click out of their seatbelts and slide from their doors. I move around them with my arms spread wide, standing between them and anyone who might park in the disability spot beside us. When the kids have shuffled safely onto the sidewalk, I open the passenger door to reawaken their mother. She loves the pizza here. And she’ll want to hear about the statues conversation. I’ll do my best to recreate the setting, the statues, the passersby, the whole conversation. She will smile, and we’ll imagine bronze statues of the four of us walking hand in hand, reminding everyone we were here.
Eric Bosse is the author of Magnificent Mistakes, in more senses than one. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Zoetrope, The Collagist, FRiGG, Wigleaf, Literary Orphans, Hobart, and New World Writing. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife and kids.