When asked which apparatus he would prefer, he answered, “Truck.” His father had been on a truck. He had been a tillerman on the hook-and-ladder. When two fire apparatuses collided during a run, his father became pinned under the wheels of the engine. He spent nearly a year in recuperation. Ever after he carried tire marks across his chest and shoulder. The candidate began his training on Truck 66 in Uptown.
My dad eats peanuts, leisurely drops the shells to the ground, and teaches me how to keep score. Different fans score differently, he says. The important thing is the ability to look back and understand what happened.
It was a logic I could easily ingest because it’s the logic of my identity. I’m half-Afghan, half-Italian—and American. Half-inserted, half-outside of two dense, sagging bubbles, floating in an open sky.
From Issue 13: Richard Hoffman's "Wheels"
Listed in Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2018, as selected by Robert Atwan in Best American Essays 2019.
We slot our bikes into the rack and hang our helmets on the handlebars. The café is crowded and there’s a line to the counter. At a table nearby, a teenage boy in a wheelchair is being fed through a straw by a woman who looks to be his mother. I recognize the round face, the narrow shoulders, the lolling head of someone with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the disease that killed my brothers ...