Fall, Freshman Year
Margaret Emma Brandl

Fall, Freshman Year

“But aren’t we going to have to wake him up, to take us?”

“He isn’t taking us,” Marta said, holding up a keyring. “We’re borrowing his car.”


“But Przybylak.”

I repeated our director’s name quietly to myself. “Przybylak.”


At Marta’s uncle’s house she unlocked the door under the carport, turning the knob so slowly and carefully I thought she would never get anywhere. The door opened quietly and she slipped in for a moment, emerging with a second keyring in her hand. She closed the door behind her, locked it, and motioned for me to get into the car.

It was white, and small, and not very sturdy-looking: some Mazda from years before either of us had been born. “But the noise,” I barely whispered to her across the carport, “when you start it.”

Marta wasn’t concerned about that. We closed our doors quietly, and then she turned the key in the ignition: The car made a little protest but then settled into a quiet hum. Marta backed out of the driveway, very nearly avoiding running over the mailbox, and it wasn’t until we’d turned out onto the old highway that I realized I’d been holding my breath.

“Have you done a lot of driving?” I asked as we waited at that weird five-points red light near Notre Dame. I was worried about Mr. Przybylak, but now that the rush was fading I was beginning to process our situation: driving illegally, skipping school, not telling anyone other than our classmates where we were going. I wasn’t a rule-breaker—not, apparently, until about twenty minutes prior.

“I practice a lot with Mom.” Marta shrugged.

“Where are we going?”

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Margaret Emma Brandl

is a Ph.D. candidate in English specializing in creative writing (fiction) at Texas Tech University, where she teaches English classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Her writing has appeared in Gulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPithead ChapelHobart, and other journals.