Car Keys

By Bridget Lillethorup

December 21, 2020

Car Keys

“I can drive today,” my partner said, and I tossed him the keys over the hood of my 1999 Jeep Cherokee.

Up went the key to my mom’s house, which opened a small home of wall-papered, floral prints and a retired woman shuffling in a bathrobe, slowing sipping coffee, leaving lipstick stains on the mug, and listening, always giving space to listen.

Up went the key to my dad’s house, square and efficient, always greeted with a faint smell of cigarettes on flannel, fresh paint on canvas, and stories from old newspapers, as well as the sturdy bark of Bear, his drooly German Shepherd.

Up went the key to my bike lock, mostly unused, but existing just in case I go back to my college town and lock my bike to my own history: to the library’s reference room, to my best friend’s unkempt dorm, to the sandwich shop where I managed shifts.

Up went my sole keychain, featuring Mary’s sacred heart, a relic of my Catholic school upbringing, with echoes of plaid skirts, in-class essays, erasable pens, sermons and a healthy dose of doubt.

Up went the key to my own apartment, light and familiar, dusty and loved, filled with model airplanes and anthologies and the color blue, inside of which I had just woken my partner up and made his coffee sweet.

He caught the keys in his hand. “For you,” I said, and we got in the car together.


Bridget Lillethorup lives near some train tracks in flyover country. She is a graduate student and teaching assistant in the English department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her work can be found in The Rupture and Atticus Review. She is a blog editor at Literary Mama.


Photo by Brett Sayles courtesy of Pexels

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