Keeping Cool, by Alarie Tennille

Alarie Tennille

The used car was a steal
Daddy said. Air conditioning.
So we piled in and headed
for Richmond. Broad Street,
downtown—scalding pavement.
What did we care that traffic
crawled? We enjoyed
the novelty of not sweating.

The woman in the next car
seemed cool, too, as she
asked Mama, “Did you know
you’re on fire?”

Flames shot up from the chassis.
My brother saved himself,
watched from the corner as Mama
turned into Wonder Woman,
yanking me up and over
the front seat.

Now the three of us stood
on the curb yelling at Daddy.
The fireman with a bull horn
yelled, too, “Sir, get out of the car
NOW!” But Daddy just stayed

Author’s Comment: Obviously this family car trip was a dramatic and frightening event for a child of about eight. But what struck me as I began to tell it was how it highlighted the differences in my parents’ personalities. Mama was at her best in a crisis—knew what she needed to do and jumped to action. Daddy was famous for taking his time, which was why his army buddies nicknamed him “Flash.” Keeping cool must have come in handy for a paratrooper
(82nd Airborne, WWII), but it sure could annoy the rest of us.

Bio: Alarie Tennille is a Pushcart Prize nominee and serves on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri. Her chapbook, Spiraling into Control, is available on Alarie’s poems have appeared in numerous journals including Margie, Poetry East, ByLine Magazine, Untitled Country Review, I-70 Review,and The Little Balkans Review.

3 thoughts on “Keeping Cool, by Alarie Tennille

  1. I had a good laugh at this one! My father was notorious for buying cars that he said were a good deal but always turned out to be lemons 🙂

    • spoke a lot to me about a certain period of time, when families were together, small things meant a lot, mothers were heroines, fathers were obstinate in their ways and passions, and life was cool.

      thank you. Randy (from

  2. Terrific poem that vividly draws a picture of a family in a stressful situation–with overtones of each personality.

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