Grace pt. 3

A freak snowstorm engulfed the city of Albuquerque. Schools were closed, and so was the rest of the city. It was in the dead of winter and Zane was getting ‘couped up.’ With twelve inches of snow on the ground, and two foot drifts, it would have been impossible to make it out of the long driveway without four-wheel-drive. Having said that, Zane went about the task of fastening snow chains to the drive wheels of his ’66 Impala. He knew that it was a long shot, but he had nothing better to do. Grace rolled on 14-inch wheels meaning that she sat low to the ground. “I’ll have to plow through those drifts.” Zane said to himself as his freezing fingers fidgeted with the clamping lever which secured the traction device to the rubber. To aid with clearing the windshield, Grace sat idling as the defroster blasted relatively warm air up against the frozen glass. Grace was buried in snow, and he would need to sweep her off. With the snow chains properly installed, Zane trudged back into the trailer house in order to procure a broom. By this time, the denim of his jeans was already damp with melting snow. He wasn’t in a big hurry, so he paused long enough to indulge with some coffee. He huddled up against the woodburning stove in an attempt to dry off. He was contemplating a dry pair of jeans when Charlie strolled down the narrow hallway into the kitchen. “You’re going to need some gloves,” Charlie explained, as he offered his ‘number-one-son’ a refill. “I’ll be alright,” Zane boasted. He didn’t want his father to think he was weak. In his heart Zane knew that he had already earned his stripes. For only being 17 years old, he had racked up a lot of respect from his father, and it was no longer necessary for the young prodigy to prove his manhood. “Your fingers are already turning pink, Son.” His father stated with parental concern. Charlie took a swig of coffee as he placed a pair of leather gloves upon the flat surface of the woodstove. He took the individual gloves and rotated them on the hot metal. As if they were two leathery pancakes, he flipped the gloves one by one as the heat from the cast-iron surface permeated the material with soothing warmth. After a quick minute, Charlie said, “now put these on!” It’s like an electric blanket for my hands, Zane thought to himself as he slid his fingers into the super-heated rawhide. From out of the blue, Charlie proclaimed that “I’m proud of you son, you’re going to be a good man someday.” He followed this up with a comfortable silence, as he knelt down to stoke the dwindling flames. Charlie was becoming more soft-spoken over the years. He concluded that his young life was fading into memory, as he quietly grappled with the fear of old age. Zane, who was pre-occupied, finished his coffee and trudged his way back through the snow.

Promptly upon sweeping off the windshield, Zane went about the task of shoveling snow. He cleared a ten-foot-long swath directly in front of his intended path. “This will provide me with a short runway,” he thought while settling into the driver’s seat. Zane had filled up the fuel tank the previous day in anticipation of the blizzard. He understood the weight of extra gasoline would provide more traction. To supplement this, Zane loaded down the trunk with two stray transmissions and some cinderblocks. As a result, the rear suspension had sagged under the excessive load. The extra weight would substantially amplify traction at the drive wheels. Hoping for the best, and expecting the worst, Zane dropped the Power-Glide into low. He knew that gaining forward momentum was the challenge, so he applied some gentle throttle and crossed his fingers. Grace had a factory installed limited-slip differential which prevented excessive wheel slippage during hard acceleration, and it proved to be a huge advantage.  The torque from the engine was gently transferred to the wheels as Grace wiggled and squirmed. Zane literally felt a sinking sensation, as the rear of the vehicle sank into the snow. The chains began to bite, and with hardly any effort Grace began to inch forward! Zane gently caressed the accelerator pedal in an attempt to keep the rear tires from spinning. In silent wonder, he marveled at the incredible traction that he was able to achieve. He made it about 50 yards before he got bogged down in the first large snow drift. Grace had lost her momentum. Zane could have once again taken to the shovel, but instead he opted to make another run at it! Zane rotated his lanky torso and carefully reversed back towards the trailer house, being careful not to slip out of his own ‘track’. Upon making it back to his point of origin, Zane once again coaxed the Power-Glide into low. Knowing that he had already cleared a 50-yard-long path, Zane applied more throttle this time around. As a result, Grace had managed to obtain some speed. As if she were a charging rhino, Grace blasted through the snow drift at a blistering 20 mph! The crushing blow to the wet snow created an explosion of white powder that temporally blocked his vision! Much to Zane’s delight, he was able to keep up enough inertia to navigate the left turn which led to the main driveway. “It’s only another 1500 feet,” Zane thought as he burrowed his way through the snowy mess. By this time Grace was struggling again because the end of the driveway was slightly uphill. Upon reaching the intersection that led to the county road, he encountered another snowbank which had been left in the wake of a passing snowplow. The sharp incline, coupled with the impressive berm, was too much to overcome. Once again, Grace had become bogged down. Once again, Zane reversed in his tracks. He repeated this method 3 times before realizing it was time to break out the snow shovel. Zane was patient, and he knew that he was going to wreck his chains if he continued to abuse them in this fashion. The passing snowplow had simply deposited too much snow, and Grace couldn’t bust through. Knowing that he was nearly defeated, Zane carefully reversed his way back towards the trailer house utilizing the path he had just created moments earlier. He shut the engine down and left his car abandoned at the junction that led back to the trailer house. Zane traversed the remaining distance on foot utilizing the freshly created tire tracks as a path. He was on his way to retrieve the snow shovel that he had left behind.

By the time Zane made it back to the house, Charlie was attempting to free his own pick-up from the same snowy dilemma. He was scraping the frost from a freshly swept windshield as he noticed his son trudging through the snow. Charlie correctly assumed that the snow berm would be too much. In a booming voice he called out to Zane, “Did you get her stuck son?  Zane went on to explain that he needed to shovel out a path in order to make it ‘the rest of the way out.’ Charlie nodded with pride knowing that his son was learning valuable skills. Without offering much more than a grunt, Zane grabbed the shovel and started back about his quest, Charlie quietly admired his son from a distance as Zane tossed the snow shovel into the backseat. “I’m not going to be around forever Son,” came a silent whisper from deep within.

Although the snowplow had passed, there was still four inches of hard packed snow left upon the gravel road. As a result the roads were empty. They were always pretty empty, Zane thought. But today the absence of travelers was profound.  He began to carve out a path with the shovel, as he marveled at the clear blue sky. The peaceful serenity of the snowy rural landscape was a reward in and of itself. The silence of the winter’s day was accentuated by sudden gusts of wind that would angrily howl against the bare skin of Zane’s exposed face. In spite of the hard work, Zane found that the experience was thoroughly enjoyable. By this time, his shoes and socks were equally as damp as his jeans. Shoveling that much snow was hard work, and the resulting perspiration was adding to his chill.

By the time Zane finished his chore, a six-foot-wide slot was created. On each side were two impressive piles of shoveled snow that measured roughly four feet high, and six feet long. That ought to do it, Zane thought to himself as he tossed the shovel into the back seat again. His wet jeans had become icy jeans by this point and his hands were frozen stiff. He climbed inside of the Chevy where he knew it would be warm. He promptly restarted the engine and placed his pink fingers over the ductwork of the defroster vent. As he briskly rubbed feeling back into his hands, he contemplated how easy it would be to ‘bounce’ the big Impala over the remaining shallow berm! Zane sat there shivering in his idling Chevrolet as he pondered his next move. I could make it all the way into Albuquerque with these tire-chains, he thought to himself.  Getting out of the driveway was the largest obstacle. Knowing that it would be senseless to travel into town with wet clothes, he decided to abandon Grace one more time. Once again, he made the voyage back to the trailer house with the intention of changing into some dry rags. This was Zane’s first time experimenting with snow chains, and he wanted to play some more…but it wouldn’t be as much fun if he didn’t have a destination. In that moment he thought about Ivan, and how he had recently helped him replace a starter motor in his pick-up. They weren’t exactly what you would call friends; they were more like acquaintances at this early stage. Zane knew where Ivan lived however and decided to make an impromptu appearance.  Ivan knew that Zane lived out in the sticks, and he would never expect him to just show up; especially on a day like this! With Grace patiently waiting at the end of the driveway, Zane shimmied into a dry pair of unwashed jeans. He felt like showing off!

…To be continued

Grace pt. 2

The bacon was already sizzling when Charlie woke up his son. It was early spring, but it was still cold enough inside of the house for a fire, so he went about lighting the wood-burning stove. By the time Zane finally crawled out of bed the eggs were already cold. That didn’t’ bother him however because he was in a fairly good mood. It was Monday and the end was in sight. There were just under two months left before the end of school! Like a convicted felon, Zane was marking the days until the last day of classes. He got up from the table and rinsed off his plate. The weather was getting warmer, so he left his coat behind. He wore a faded red flannel shirt that was unbuttoned in front. Underneath, a poorly laundered white thermal shirt clung to his lanky torso. The jeans had holes in the knees and were littered with random stains. He would have passed for Punk-Rock if it weren’t for his shoes. “I’m leaving Dad!” Zane mindlessly exclaimed as he opened up the back door of the trailer house. Upon walking outside Zane was greeted by a literal armada of semi-drivable derelict vehicles. Charlie had his own menagerie, but Zane was building up a modest collection as well. Between the two, they had the entire property littered with partly salvaged automobiles. There were trucks, and broken cars. Some had tires while others were propped up on blocks. Random skeletons of salvaged motorcycles were strewn about the place! The car that should have been named ‘Grace’ was neatly parked parallel to a dilapidated pole-barn. Zane could have chosen the International bread van today; it was totally operational. On this morning however the sun was brightly shining, and there was an inviting hint of spring in the air. Being a fire-creature, Zane was feeling aggressive. Winter was over and it was his time to shine. Because of this Zane opted to drive his ’66 Chevy today. The days were getting longer, and Zane was in his prime. These factors would encourage him to push the envelope, meaning that he would increasingly put Grace through her paces. He was able to scrape together enough money to acquire a matching set of used front tires. This inspired confidence, and as a result, he was willing to strive for higher speeds. The rear tires had not been replaced, but they were only slightly bald.

They didn’t have any close neighbors, and strangers would never venture within a mile of the place. As a result they didn’t bother with locking the doors, and they left ignition keys in their respective switches. There were simply too many of the decaying vehicles; it would have been hard to keep track of the keys otherwise.  With his schoolbooks in hand, Zane opened up the door. He sat behind the wheel and shimmied into position. Dangling from the key was a relatively large rectangular placard that read “Go to Hell MHS, I’m a SENIOR.” It was crafted out of rigid purple plastic to coincide with his school colors.  Ivory fonts were engraved into the material using machinery from shop class. The teacher awarded Zane with a B- for his efforts.

He had to navigate two miles of gravel road before he reached the nearest asphalt. By now the engine had time to warm up, which prompted Zane to engage in some spirited driving. Zane had replaced the worn bushings and ball-joints that previous weekend; the steering was crisp and responsive. With glorious anticipation, Zane prepared himself for the gradual bend in the highway that was meant to be entered at 35 mph. Zane intended to push it to the limit as he accelerated hard into the straightaway that preceded the curve. This was followed up with some seriously aggressive braking. By the time Grace had her nose pointed towards the exit, Zane was accelerating once again. It was a wonderful time to be alive Zane thought, knowing that the local Sherriff had a lax attitude towards speeders. To play it safe, Zane always traveled the frontage road that ran parallel to the interstate in order to avoid a possible chance encounter with a stray patrol. Zane made the right turn which led to the main highway knowing that once he got past the Tijeras Post Office, it was a straight shot all the way into Albuquerque!

Grace was roaring like a lion because Zane had dropped the hammer! With his foot to the floor and his eyes on the road, he savored the sweet sensation of modest acceleration. Up until lately he kept her under ninety, but it was springtime now and Zane was feeling frisky. Like a pedigree thoroughbred, Grace inched closer and closer towards oblivion. She struggled and strained as the needle bobbed past 115. With a frenzied look and laser stare Zane noted a car up yonder that could potentially pull out. By the time he noticed, the moment had passed. It would have been too late. Zane was unphased, and Grace was screaming out loud! “Slow Down Zane. Slow Down!” Zane braced his back against the bench seat in attempt to apply every inch of leverage onto her accelerator. As if he had his foot to her throat, Zane demanded more speed. Grace obliged with obedience knowing somehow the madness must stop!

Upon reaching 120 miles per hour, strange things began to happen. Not only was the speedometer pegged, but Zane came to his senses. Something was wrong he told himself as he experienced an unwelcome sensation of deceleration. The speedometer confirmed the decreased feeling of speed as the needle fell from 120 down to 100. Before Zane’s mystified eyes, the needle continued its descent towards zero. “I’ve blown the engine,” he thought while smelling for smoke. The accelerator was still glued to the floor as the mystery unraveled. By now Grace was doing 60, and speed was falling fast. She had lost all power and no longer offered forward propulsion. He realized that Grace was coasting to a stop.

Fearing the worst, Zane limped onto the shoulder in shame. He was afraid he destroyed his favorite car! The mystery deepened when he realized the engine was still idling! “What the hell?” Zane asked out loud. He opened the door and popped the hood. Grace was finely tuned, and she sounded like music. “There are no signs of over-heating, and she sounds really nice,” he said to himself as he reached around and tugged at wires. As if by instinct Zane examined the accelerator apparatus which provides linkage from the engine to the accelerator pedal. Just as sure as the day is long, The linkage had been removed at its ball and socket joint. In effect, this caused the throttle plates to snap shut against the tension of a heavy spring. This has got to be the simplest repair in history Zane thought to himself as he popped the socket back onto its ball. It was a very snug fit Zane thought to himself, as he snapped the carburetor linkage back into its proper position. In a state of mild confusion, Zane closed the hood and ventured over to the shoulder. He was preparing to relieve himself alongside of the road when he discovered an extremely flat tire on the front corner of the passenger side. “You’ve got to be shitting me.” Zane said to his car as the gravity of the situation slowly percolated within his inquisitive mind. He knelt down in the dirt as he inspected his tire. The rubber had contacted some substantial road debris judging by a gash in the tread. Zane surmised that the tire could have blown-out at any given moment. It dawned on him that he should have been killed because it’s impossible to recover from a blow-out at such high speeds. If not for the spontaneous mechanical failure, Zane would have lost control and he knew it. Steve McQueen himself wouldn’t have been able to recover from such a catastrophic failure! By this time he reached for the key and twisted it counterclockwise in order to kill the idling engine. Utilizing a raggedy spare, he set about the task of swapping out the tire. It would have been a spectacular crash Zane thought to himself as he casually unlocked the trunk. “How in the world could linkage just pop off like that,” he asked while searching through the mess in order to locate a jack handle. He knew things like that don’t ‘just happen.’ Nobody is ever going to believe this, he thought as he cranked on the lug nuts. “I don’t even believe it myself.” Grace was a lucky car, and he knew it.

…To be continued

Zane’s Big Day! conclusion

George wouldn’t press charges because there were no lawmen on the scene. In the west justice is swift, and there was no need to call the Sheriff. Random acts of violence were a frequent occurrence at the Sweet-Meat, and the locals had grown accustomed to fisticuffs and bloodshed. Charlie was the un-elected local authority when it came to matters such as these. He was the man whom the crowd most respected, and it fell upon Charlie to arbitrate between the warring factions. As per Charlie’s instruction, George was silently led away by two anonymous white boys who helped him stagger back to his pick-up. The three men situated themselves into the cab and quietly drove away. It didn’t take long for the crowd to disperse. Charlie realized his young boy was shaken up by the skirmish and tried his best to calm the boy’s rattled nerves. “I want you to learn a lesson from this son,” Charlie explained as Zane carefully listened. In a constructive tone Charlie said, “Fighting isn’t what it looks like in the movies, and you can’t go around running your mouth off like that. If you’re going to be a man you have to learn how to take your licks!”  Staying close to his father’s side, Zane contemplated what he had learned. The hours ticked by as the father and son team continued peddling their wares. After the selling was done, the vendors began to pack up their belongings. One by one the loaded pick-ups would disappear into the hot afternoon. “Let’s start packing up Spud-Bud,” Charlie casually announced. Zane went about the task of carrying heavy cardboard boxes to his father who was waiting in the bus. Charlie neatly arranged the cargo in a way that prevented his items from becoming damaged in transit. Upon completion, the duo entered into the forward compartment and fired up the faithful engine. Once again Charlie aimed for the huge ‘chuck-hole’ in the dirt. Once again, Zane was tickled by the sudden jolt from the suspension! They drove silently back towards home as Zane lay quietly upon the wool blanket that was neatly tucked under the mattress of his father’s twin bed.

It was just past six in the evening when the pair returned to their humble abode. Before cooking dinner Charlie set about to count his money. As was customary by now, Charlie sat down at the kitchen table with a huge pile of cash. Zane watched in admiration as Charlie proceeded to separate the notes by their denominations. On this particular day Charlie had acquired two Fifty-dollar bills as well as a vast assortment of Tens, Twenties, and Fives. Charlie arranged the bills into neatly piled stacks according to their value. The neatly arranged piles of currency reminded Zane of the card game solitary. Upon completion of his task, Charlie gathered up all of the money and excused himself from the table. He proceeded down the hallway to his bedroom. Upon arrival he placed the loot into a fire-proof lock box that he kept stowed under the bed. “I’ve got a surprise for you Spud-Bud!” He exclaimed as he returned to the kitchen where Zane sat quietly. “What’s the surprise Dad,” Zane asked?  You’ll find out soon enough Charlie informed him, as he went about the task of digging through the food pantry. “First we eat,” Charlie explained as he produced a tin of canned ‘Chinese’ food. It was a tall cylinder filled with delight Zane thought to himself as Charlie wrestled with a hand-held can opener. By the time the tin was opened the cast-iron skillet was already pre-heated. Zane’s father proceeded to dump the contents of the “La-Choy Chinese Dinner” into the hot pan which created an impressive sizzle. “After dinner I need you to take a bath,” Charlie casually announced as his stirred the limp noodles. “I’ll start it for you and help rinse out your hair.” On any ordinary occasion, Zane would scoff at the idea of getting ‘cleaned up,’ but tonight was different. Tonight there was a ‘surprise’ involved, and the boy knew it would not be revealed until he obeyed his father’s request. 

After they finished with their meal, Charlie jumped into the shower. He put a drain stopper over the cavity which led into the sewer pipes in an attempt to conserve water. He intended to just ‘rinse off really quick’ as the water pooled at his feet. About an inch of water accumulated in the bathtub by the time Charlie was finished. He quickly dried off and proceeded to don his best clothes. At this time, Charlie knelt down beside the bathtub. The water was running from the faucet as the water level increased. Knowing that it wasn’t that much extra trouble, Charlie grabbed a half-empty bottle of “Mr. Bubble.” He mixed the soapy liquid into the flowing water as a wonderfully pleasant bubble bath came into being. “Your bath is ready Spud-Bud,” Charlie hollered! Zane, who was pre-occupied with his toys, heard his father from a distance.  He immediately stopped what he was doing and bolted down the hallway which led to the small bathroom. As Zane noticed the unexpected foaming of the white bubbles he thought to himself, “this must be my surprise!” You get your clothes off and jump in, dad instructed as he closed the door behind himself. “I’ll be back in a minute to help get the soap out.”

While Zane was in the bath Charlie walked outside into the early evening. He intended on taking his newly acquired flat-bed into town, because the bus was ‘too hard to park.’ Knowing that the sky-blue Chevy was an oil burner, he popped the hood and pulled out the dipstick. Sure enough, it was two quarts low. Upon adding the supplemental engine oil, Charlie gently slammed the hood shut and proceeded back into the trailer house where his son needed assistance.

As promised, Charlie helped Zane rinse the shampoo from his hair being careful not to get soap in his eyes. Upon completion, Charlie instructed his son to drain the water. Zane obliged as Charlie placed an assortment of neatly folded clothes onto the lid of the adjacent toilet seat. Before Zane could ask if the bubbles were the surprise, Charlie announced, “We’re going to the carnival!” Charlie spouted the words with an elusive youthful enthusiasm which caught Zane off guard! Promptly upon getting dressed, Zane asked for assistance with tying his shoes. “You go get into the truck now,” Dad instructed. “I’ll meet you there in a minute!” Zane didn’t know what the word ‘carnival’ meant but judging from his father’s excitement he knew that something incredible lay in store.

Her red Mercedes stuck out like a sore thumb in the busy carnival parking lot. Louise sat quietly behind the wheel as she silently contemplated her ‘shitty marriage.’ She was a fire-creature, and she was on the prowl. She hated cheating on her husband, but she just couldn’t help herself. Suddenly she took notice of a man and a small child as they strolled past the front bumper of her car. “Someone get me a baby-sitter,” she thought as Charlie caught a passing glance! She decided to keep Charlie in her sights, so she immediately exited the vehicle. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him!  By this time Zane was begging to ride the Tilt-o-Whirl and his father eagerly obliged. Louise strategically placed herself against the vacant corner of a snow-cone vendor’s van, which provided an excellent vantage point. Charlie and his little boy were literally hand in hand as they patiently stood in line. She studied the pair as if they were lab specimens, while sub-consciously biting into her lower lip. Charlie began to laugh uncontrollably, as his boy begged him to ‘spin faster!’ As the whirling ended, the dizzy pair stumbled out of the amusement ride. “Let’s get us a snow-cone Stud-Bud,” Charlie announced in a booming voice! Louise couldn’t believe her lucky stars! “This is going to be easy,” she thought as she quickly poised herself into seductress mode.  Louise couldn’t hold back any longer and found herself being pulled towards the approaching duo. Suddenly she found herself directly in the path of the little man, so she immediately donned her most reliable smile. “Oh My Goodness…is that your son?” She asked the question as she knelt down on one knee in an effort to brush an index finger alongside of Zane’s rosy cheek. “He’s so gorgeous!” Charlie knew when a lady was suffering from a case of the vapors, and as such, he knew how to let them down easy. The fact that he was hopelessly in love with Betty made the whole process a lot simpler. He casually draped his left arm around his young son’s shoulders in an effort to display a gold wedding band. “Oh, so it’s going to be like that,” Louise thought as she slowly returned to her feet. “What are you doing after the show?” asked the flamboyant stranger. Zane thought this was a silly question, but he was too tired to make a fuss about it. At this time, Charlie gazed directly into her eyes and flashed an authentically loving smile as Louise silently melted. She was truly dumbfounded! “This is the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on,” she thought as she struggled to come up with another come-on. Zane’s Dad saved her the trouble because he explained that he had to get his boy back home to Momma. “You can’t be for real,” she thought to herself. She was unaccustomed to such warm rejection, and it stunned her. “Excuse us,” Charlie said in a respectful tone. “We’re off to get a snow cone. Come on Spud-Bud!” Louise was still reeling, and all she could manage to say was, “it was a real pleasure meeting you.”

Louise, in a state of confused amazement, staggered back to her waiting Mercedes. She had plans to head over to Bob’s Country Palace if the carnival didn’t pan out. On this particular occasion however, Louise drove herself directly to the liquor store instead. She picked up a bottle of Cuervo Gold for her husband who was slated to return in the morning. She was still daydreaming about Charlie’s striking features when a bottle of Pinot-Noir beckoned from the corner of her eye. It was at that moment she knew what had to be done. She paid for the spirits and left the store; she was suddenly eager to return to an empty house where a hot bath and candles were waiting. She couldn’t get Charlie out of her brain.

In the meantime, Charlie made an executive decision to call it. He knew his number-one-son was exhausted and so it was time to head back home. Zane struggled to keep his eyes open while riding shotgun. “Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” was softly playing on the AM radio. The rhythm of the music peacefully resonated throughout the cab of the sky blue flat-bed. The lullaby soothed Zane’s optimistic soul, and soon he was fast asleep. Upon pulling into the driveway, Charlie knew Zane couldn’t walk, so he picked him up and threw the boy across his shoulder as if he were a large sack of potatoes. In the process Zane woke up long enough to realize what was happening, but he was too exhausted to make a fuss over it. With Zane asleep on his shoulder, Charlie unlocked the back door and proceeded into the trailer-house. Charlie walked softly down the dimly lit hallway so he wouldn’t jostle his boy too much. Again, Zane woke up for a brief instant as he realized he was safe in bed. “Could I get some bed milk,” Zane asked? “Nope, not tonight son! You go on back to sleep now.”

Zane’s Big Day

Zane’s Big Day! pt. 2

Relatively speaking, Floyd was a wealthy man. He owned a modest used car lot which provided substantial income; but the amount of money he piled up by selling turquoise was nearly obscene. He drove a brand-new Ford F-150, and he also had his own small private plane. Floyd loved the six-year-old because Zane reminded him of the son that he had lost in a fatal accident. Floyd was joyfully shooting the breeze with the young prodigy while apprehensively studying his father through the corner of his eye. Floyd was concerned for Zane’s safety because it was payday, and the white boys were restless. It wasn’t uncommon to hear random gunshots at the flea-market. There was always at least one firearms vendor, and they used the vast junkyard behind the butcher shop as an impromptu firing range to prove the reliability of their goods.

After completing his rounds, Zane returned to his father, who had the bus partly unloaded. “Have you seen Hector,” Zane asked. Charlie knew that Hector was the leader of the pack which consisted of a group of local kids who would free-roam the entire property. “Hector is at the butcher-shop with his Dad.” Charlie said. “After you help me finish setting up you can go play.” Upon the completion of his task, Zane sauntered over to the butcher shop, which doubled as seedy convenience store of sorts. There was a sign over the threshold that read, “Welcome to the Sweet-Meat.” Zane went inside the dimly lit shop in order to locate his friend who was sitting behind the deli-counter on a barstool. As per usual, the two children began to pack their bags. Hector’s Dad owned the place and would let the kids take expired breads and lunchmeats with them on their journeys. Today’s voyage would lead Hector, and his small expedition to the play fort, which was located about a mile and a half due east. The two-lane blacktop that led to the local power plant was the only boundary set by the adults. By this time the sun was brightly shining, but it was still early yet, and Hector had to work. Zane decided to use the time wisely and set up his own stall. Charlie allocated to his boy a cardboard box filled with miscellaneous trinkets and bric-a-brac. It was Zane’s responsibly to ‘practice selling his own stuff.’ The previous day, Zane found some red crayons and scribed the word “B-A-R-G-I-N-S” on the side of the paper box. The operation was akin to a lemonade stand meaning that Zane had his own cashbox and everything. Zane was on his hands and knees spreading out a small blanket on the hard packed dirt. As he continued to set up his display, he heard a strangely soothing voice emanate from behind him. “You spelled bargains wrong,” said the voice in flirty tone. Monica Hunt, who was also Hector’s cousin, lived in the huge white house that lie across the imaginary boundary that made up the flea-market. Zane was too young to know what love was about; but he did know that Monica made him feel “funny.” Just as soon as she had appeared, she was gone. Monica was an elusive being in Zane’s mind, meaning that she only made an appearance once in a blue moon. She was not accepted by the boys and spent most of her time in the big white house.

Zane was becoming restless as he waited for Hector to finish his chores.  To bide his time, he was sitting ‘crisscross-apple-sauce’ on the blanket as he pretended to ‘peddle his merchandise.’  Finally, Hector appeared from out of nowhere! “Let’s go!” he said. “I’ve got luncheon meats and Twinkies!!” Zane knew he had permission, but he always asked his Dad anyways. “You kids stay on this side of the Highway!” I mean it he continued. “If I find out you’ve been putting rocks in the road, I’ll Bust Your Butts!”  Charlie suspected that Hector was a bad influence, and because of this he intended to strike fear into eight-year-old’s heart; and that’s exactly what he did.  Hector listened to Charlie in the same way he obeyed his own father.

By this time the remaining kids had joined the group. They numbered six in total. The young flock of Native explorers voyaged to their private clubhouse that was constructed from ram-shackle corrugated tin scraps and busted up wooden pallets. The interior of the fort measured about six feet square, but it only had three walls. The corrugated tin roof provided shade from the blistering sun as the youngsters divided up their loot. Zane and his small crew thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. They would sit and talk and eat for hours. The fact that he was a white boy never entered into the equation. After a while Hector said, “I’m bored. Let’s go to the highway now.” He stuck his head out into the daylight and motioned for the boys to come along. Being the intellectual of the group, Zane reminded them of Charlie’s stark warning. Hector argued that it would be okay as long as they didn’t cross the highway. It was a loophole.

The group of six agreed, so they gathered up their supplies and hastily embarked on the final leg of the voyage. They were talking and laughing and enjoying themselves as they trekked through the desert heat. By the time they had reached the crossroads it was high noon, and the bright sunlight reverberated up from the hard packed dirt in a way that forced rational adults to beg forgiveness.

“I’ve got an idea!” Hector declared in an informative tone. “Let’s make bets on who can throw the largest rocks.” The young crew immediately went about the task of gathering stones, when they heard the rumble of an approaching motorcycle in the far distance of the blistering hellscape. “I’ll bet it’s the Bandidos,” Hector noted as he stopped right in his tracks! Suddenly the contest was put on hold, because in all of the excitement they forgot about their previous scheme. The tension mounted as the ‘hard-tail’ rumbled closer to the intersection. Straddled upon the hog was large man with gin on his breath.  It was obvious that he had been drinking by the way he struggled to handle his heavy machine. It wasn’t uncommon to witness random bikers in the vicinity because they were known to frequent the Sweet-Meat on occasion as well. Charlie correctly assumed the outlaws congregated in the open wilderness in order to ‘peddle their own wares.’ Bikers preferred to conduct their business in the absence of prying eyes.

Charlie abhorred illegal drugs, and he would instruct his children that “Drugs are the worst thing that had ever come down the pike!” Zane didn’t know what a pike was, but he knew that Dad was serious when he warned his children about drug use. On more than one occasion Charlie lectured his children of the dangers of narcotics. With a bone-chilling stare, Charlie explained how ‘drugs will ruin your life.’ He would go on to explain in an authoritative tone that “if I ever catch you kids doing drugs, I’ll kill you myself…because you’re just throwing your life away anyway.”  

As the inebriated biker approached the dusty intersection, he noticed the small group of children who were by this time dancing, jumping, and waving! They were trying to get his attention he noted, as he struggled to keep his balance. “What the fuck is all this shit?” the lone biker thought as he wrestled the heavy bike to a stop. He was a big man, but not in any muscular sense of the word. The biker sported a huge beer belly. His greasy unkempt hair was subdued by a soiled red bandana that had been fastened into a makeshift headband. He wore a tattered jean jacket with hastily cut-off sleeves. Zane couldn’t help but notice how the blazing sun was reflected from his mirrored sunglasses. Stitched to the back of the blue denim vest was a very large, embroidered patch which was intended to identify himself as an outlaw. Clearly, the man was not to be trifled with. His jack boots were scuffed and un-loved. The machine was tattered and unwashed. The distinct smell of burning motor oil was accompanied by small whisps of translucent smoke that emanated from the engine bay. This was due to a failing gasket which allowed black liquid to seep out onto the exhaust pipe. The dripping oil would instantly evaporate as it came into contact with the blistering chrome.

“You kids need to get out of the God-Damned road!” the biker shouted in no uncertain terms. “Don’t you know the shift is over at the plant?” “They’re all going to get runned over,” The biker thought to himself as he struggled to drop the shifter into first gear with his left foot. Upon engaging the transmission the biker dumped the clutch. The meaty rear tire spun out for a second as it desperately sought to gain traction against the scorching asphalt. The clumsy biker negotiated the left turn that led back into civilization as the boys stood there in silent awe.

By the time they returned to the flea-market, it was going on three o’clock. Zane and the boys noticed a small commotion erupting around the tailgate of Floyds F-150. There was a faint smell of spilled whiskey in the air, and people had gathered around. “This is what happens to people when they act like assholes,” Charlie explained as the crowd quietly listened. Zane instantly absorbed the grotesque vision that had manifest before his innocent eyes. George had been beaten to a bloody pulp by some rough boys who were previously test firing their newly purchased revolvers. Apparently, George had gotten himself drunk, and provoked the Natives who promptly returned the favor with a crushing blow to his head. The incessant ethnic slurs were too much for the Natives, so one of them grabbed a two-by-four from the bed of Floyd’s pick-up. The impromptu weapon struck George directly across his forehead while impacting the upper portion of his nose in the process. Zane’s rational mind told him to run away, but he couldn’t summon the will to stop looking! By this time the bleeding had stopped, and his left eye was already swollen shut. His right eye could only open wide enough to manage an eerie slit. The upper portion of George’s western styled shirt was still damp with blood as the man sobbed uncontrollably.  “Your nose is broken,” Floyd explained to the man as he wailed in agonizing shame. Charlie agreed and calmly stated, “He’s going to need a doctor.”

To be continued…

Zane’s Big Day!

Charlie always woke up early, but today he meant business. The fact that he had awoken to an empty bed was startling at first because his wife was missing! Am I still dreaming, he must silently have asked himself? As he slowly awakened from his slumber, Charlie remembered that his wife had left late last night because they were fighting quite a bit these days. They desperately needed a respite from one another, so the disgruntled couple concluded that an impromptu trip to Oregon might be helpful. It was akin to a trial separation, but only for a week.

It was the beginning of another scorching hot summer’s day in Farmington, New Mexico. “The weather is going to be good today,” Charlie told himself, as he looked forward to the day’s events. He knew that he would have his ‘number-one-son’ all to himself. It was a perfect day for a flea-market because it was the first of the month, meaning the Navajo Indians had all received their government subsidy checks by now. Charlie needed coffee, so he briskly kicked off the polyester comforter and rolled out of the king-sized bed. Knowing that his wife, Tammy, and Quentin were safely in Oregon, he felt an elusive feeling of liberation. As a result, he didn’t bother putting on a bathrobe. Instead he just stumbled down the narrow hallway in sagging Fruit-of-the-Loom briefs. As he struggled to feel around for the light switch, he stubbed his toe on a mysterious metal object. It was pitch black in the trailer-house because they never left any lights burning at night. By the time Charlie illuminated the slender corridor he identified the culprit as one of Zane’s toys. It was a 12-inch-long steel replica of a Chevy pick-up truck that ‘Santa’ had brought.

It was sometime during the previous afternoon that Charlie’s wife proclaimed she was leaving and taking the kids with her! Betty was highly agitated, and as a result she didn’t care if the children were eavesdropping from behind closed bedroom doors. It was a modest home with three tiny bedrooms, and because of this it was readily apparent when the parents would argue. The children were accustomed to the friction because it would permeate through the paper-thin walls. Yesterday’s bout was especially tumultuous, and the shouting match was peppered with the sounds of shattering glass! On this particular occasion, Zane had enough, and he took it upon himself to defend his father’s honor. In the heat of the moment Zane stomped into the kitchen and informed his Mom that he was going to stay home with Dad! Cleary this inflamed Betty’s insecurities, but she was secretly relieved. Not only did she need a break from her husband, but Betty also needed some time away from her eldest son! As she hastily packed a suitcase, Betty informed her oldest boy that, “when you grow up, you’re going to be just like your dad!” The words slowly spewed from her mouth with a seething vitriol that was representative of Betty’s upbringing.  Zane resented his mother, and the feeling was mutual. With every ounce of restraint a six-year-old boy could muster, Zane resisted the urge to lash out! Instead, he secretly screamed out the word “GOOD!!!”  Of course Zane wouldn’t dare say something that hateful ‘out loud.’ His mother had a propensity for violence, and he knew it. Because of her limited coping skills, his mother could be dangerous at times. Fortunately for Zane, most of his mother’s pent-up aggression was taken out on Charlie, but on rare occasions, Betty would unleash her fury on the young lad as well. In uncontrollable outbursts, Betty was known to use whatever was within her grasp as a projectile. Hair brushes and high-heeled shoes were her weapons of choice.

Over breakfast, Charlie casually asked Zane if he missed his mother. He was quietly pondering the state of his marriage. Zane was hardly listening as he eagerly sopped up some egg yolk with the remainder of his half-eaten wheat toast. He gulped a large swig of milk from a glass tumbler, and with a perfectly formed milky mustache, he asked his father to repeat the question. His blue eyes were shining like diamonds. “I guess he didn’t hear me,” Charlie thought to himself. It was probably for the best he reasoned as he treated himself to a huge gulp of black coffee. “Never mind,” his father said. “I was just thinking out loud.” Zane didn’t know what that meant, so he continued to finish eating his bacon.

It was just passed six in morning by the time Charlie and his boy finished their breakfast. The duo walked out of the house and towards the back yard. An antique decommissioned school bus awaited them in the sunlit dawn. By the time Charlie acquired the bus, the seats had already been salvaged. The extendable folding stop-sign that was common among school busses had been removed. The lenses of the assorted amber and red warning lights had been camouflaged with some surplus lime green paint. In the forward area of the interior was a small hastily installed wood-burning cook stove. A small folding table, that measured four-feet square, was stowed behind a beer cooler that lie adjacent to a neatly kept twin bed. Charlie, who wasn’t a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination, did his best to fabricate a wooden partition that separated the living area from the cargo hold. From a small child’s standpoint, the bus had seemingly fallen from the sky; from out of nowhere! In reality, Charlie had purchased the old bus from a ‘business associate’ by the name of Floyd. Charlie got the dilapidated school bus ‘for a song,’ because he was such a clever negotiator. In Zane’s mind, the bus was the greatest thing in the world! He would proudly proclaim to the envious neighbor kids that, “My Dad’s got a school bus you know!”  The bus was a hideous sight to behold. It was a 1960 Chevrolet Viking with four protruding headlights, and a gigantic bumper that could have been used as a battering ram. Promptly upon obtaining the old bus, the crew took to the task of painting it with a hand roller. They used the remaining green paint to cover up the traditional yellow and black color scheme. They only had one gallon of the dull green liquid, so they had to use it sparingly. As a result there was barely enough paint for one thin coat. They left the front bumper painted black, which contrasted the pale green matte finish in a strange but soothing way.

Charlie went to open the gate, while Zane sprinted towards the starboard side of the raggedy bus. Zane’s tiny arms couldn’t muster enough strength to open the passenger side entrance, but he tried with all of his might just the same. He would use two hands, one to push against the inner edge of the tall inboard door, while tugging on the outboard one. Zane, who wanted to prove his own strength, mimicked his father as he groaned and squirmed. He put all of his intention into opening the stubborn doors while Charlie watched from a distance. He admired the will power of his favorite son, but somehow Charlie couldn’t stand to see his boy struggle. He made his way towards the bus and said. “Let me do it Spud-Bud!” His father motioned for Zane to step aside as he effortlessly pried the panels open with two thick fingers. Charlie was just about as strong as a gorilla. To alleviate his son’s apparent disappointment, Charlie told his boy not to worry. “You’ll be just as strong as the old man some day!” Upon hearing the news, Zane beamed with optimistic pride. Now that he had the doors open, Zane eagerly proceeded on through the threshold. He carefully navigated the large black rubber steps that led up into the cavernous interior. Upon doing so he hopped up onto the driver’s seat so he could practice ‘driving.’ Charlie didn’t mind that his boys played in his vehicles in this way, as long as they didn’t ‘mess with any of the switches!’ Zane sat behind the wheel in glorious rapture as he attempted in vain to twist the gigantic steering wheel back and forth. He would extend his right arm, as far as he could reach, in order to grasp the round black ball that made up the tip of the shifting lever. He could only dream of a time when his dangling legs would be long enough to reach the clutch pedal. “All right Spud Bud Stud,” His father exclaimed as he suddenly appeared from out of nowhere! Charlie joined his son in the small living quarters, and boldly informed him that, “It’s time to switch drivers!” Without saying a word, Zane obediently disembarked from the captain’s chair and plopped himself onto the bed; being careful not to get his dirty shoes onto the wool blanket. Zane preferred sitting at the edge of the bed while his dad drove because it provided a panoramic view of the world ahead through a cracked windshield. There weren’t any seatbelts.

There was nothing in the world that Zane enjoyed more than spending time with his father. In the boy’s heart he knew his dad was a good man. Charlie was ineffable as far as Zane was concerned. The ‘number one son’ carefully studied his dad’s motions as they departed. Zane was mesmerized by the way his father could rapidly ‘double-clutch’ the old Chevrolet. He wanted so badly to be like his father when he grew up. They traveled southbound on LaPlata highway until they came upon the first intersection. At this time the duo was greeted by a large white highway sign with black fonts. For only being in the second grade, Zane was pretty adept at reading. He understood that the sign indicated the town of Shiprock was only 33 miles away. The text was accompanied by an arrow that pointed west. Zane watched in silent amazement as his father wrestled with the large steering wheel in his attempt to negotiate the hard right turn. “How strong is he,” Zane pondered as he recalled how impossible it was for him to even budge that thing. As Charlie straightened out the wheel, he simultaneously started ‘grabbing gears.’ Zane watched as his father masterfully manipulated the push-pull switch that was fastened to the top of the gear shift. The old bus had what they called a ‘split rear-end’ meaning that the differential had two speeds that could be activated independently of the main transmission. In effect this gave the vehicle a total of eight forward speeds. It took a lot of skill to manipulate the gearbox cogs, even for a grown-up. But Charlie made it look just as easy as falling off a log.

They traveled west through the Bisti-Badlands with the rising sun at their backs. Due to high altitude in the New Mexico desert, mornings tended to be a little chilly. In spite of this, Charlie decided that they could use a little fresh air. As he drove, he called out to his son and instructed him to “crack open one of the windows! Zane jumped out of the bed which doubled as a passenger seat, and clumsily stood up as the bus swayed from side to side. Zane had to choose which window to open, and he decided upon the one that was right behind the driver’s seat, so he could be closest to his dad. Upon drawing down the window a sudden whoosh of brisk frigid air swept through the cabin which blended nicely with the fresh scent of his father’s after-shave. Unbeknownst to his father, Zane stood behind him for a long while as they trundled down the highway. He admired the collar of Dad’s button-up shirt. He noticed the texture of the fabric as he sensed the vibration in the floor while the Chevrolet droned on. Zane drifted away as the miles crept by.

Upon arriving at the flea-market, Charlie wheeled the big bus onto the bumpy hard packed dirt that lie adjacent to the main highway. He knew that Zane enjoyed being jostled by rough roads, and he intentionally drove over a large ‘chuck-hole’ in the dirt. The resulting shock to the rigid suspension caused Zane to literally bounce three inches into the air!  This was Zane’s cue. The young man knew that it was time to ‘get to work,’ as his dad would say. Charlie navigated the old bus into position, and then he killed the engine. With a huge right hand, Charlie gripped the chrome handle which actuated the swinging front door. With this, Zane bolted out of the bus as if he were on a mission. He was greeted by a smattering of men who had arrived earlier. Floyd, who dealt in turquoise jewelry, was already set-up; meaning that he had already completed the task of displaying his wares. Floyd was an early bird. He called out to Zane in a booming voice and said “Ya-Te-Hay Hosteen!” This was tribal dialogue which translated into ‘Hey Zane! How’ve you been? “Ya-Te-Hay!” Zane replied with an angelic smile! The various other venders were busy unloading their trucks in preparation for the day’s events as the dusty cool morning air yielded to the harsh burning sun.

…to be continued.


“What have you got planned for the next five minutes,” Zane asked his daughter as their paths crossed in the cluttered dining room? Elise paused, as if she had just been asked a trick question. She was on her way to the kitchen to return a dirty plate.  After a moment she uttered the word ‘nothing’ in a strangely cautious tone. “Well that’s good,” Zane explained. “I want to show you something outside!” Elise nodded in agreement and said that she would get her shoes on. “You do that, and I’ll meet you out there!” Zane said these things in a confident yet commanding tone. His intention was to teach Elise how to diagnose a broken car.  

As expected, Elise Joined her father outside as he had requested. She strolled down the pathway which led to the car park as Zane instructed her to climb into the passenger seat. He was holding the door open for her. Elise did what her father asked as he proceeded to explain the situation. In preparation, Zane had previously removed the glove compartment and various panels which revealed the vehicle’s Electronic Control Module. “Do you see all of these wires sticking out,” Zane asked? Without waiting for a reply, he went on to explain that it was these wires that connect with the car’s computer. “What’s the computer do,” Elise asked with genuine curiosity? Without a pause her dad said, “It does everything!” He explained how the ECM is the brain for all of the electronic circuity, and without it the car won’t run. It was about this time that Zane went on to say, “I want you to reach over and start the engine.” He motioned to the dangling key chain with a quick flick of his arm. Without hesitation Elise rotated her torso in a way that would allow her to reach the ignition switch with her right hand. As she twisted the key, the obedient engine fired and coughed. It took a second, but the car came to life as it sat in the driveway that had become its tomb. Zane looked to Elise as if to say, “Now Pay Attention.” As he did this, he produced a vintage flashlight from under the seat. Elise, who had expected her dad to illuminate the work area, was surprised when he began striking at the large electrical connector with the business end of the flashlight. “The batteries are dead,” he explained as he continued tapping on the computer. “I’m just using it for a hammer.” Elise nodded in agreement as she listened. Her dad was explaining that the car had a stalling problem, meaning that something caused her to stop running intermittently. He explained that the car runs great until you hit a pothole or a speed bump. Sudden jolts caused the engine to die. An experienced automotive technician would know this was indicative of loose wires, or a short circuit. Elise correctly assumed that her dad was thumping on the wiring harness to simulate a bump in the road scenario. In theory, tapping on the ECM would cause the engine to die indicating that the problem lie within the circuitry. For the time being the test was rendered ineffective because no matter how he tried, Zane couldn’t get the engine to stall in this fashion.

If it had been any other car, she would have been scuttled for parts by now, but somehow Little-Toot deserved better. “Little-Toot” was the name of the vehicle. As her dad was fiddling with the flashlight, Elise noted a stagnant pool of brackish water that had accumulated due to the dried out weather-stripping. The lingering smell of mold was undeniable but neither of them mentioned it out loud. In a helpful tone, Elise said, “Maybe we should get a car cover, like for the motorcycle?” It was a valid question. It would have been possible after all because a decent cover would have only set them back about a hundred bucks. Zane silently asked himself why he hadn’t made the investment yet, but he couldn’t come up with an answer. Instead he responded with a grunt and a stern look.  Elise knew she had struck a nerve because her father would become dismissive when he was hurt. Historically, triggers like these would send him into a manic fit. On this occasion however, Zane tuned back in and placed his attention back onto the task at hand. “Where did I leave off,” he silently asked himself? “Oh yeah,” he answered back. He recalled that he was teaching his daughter how to fix a car if it breaks down.

Zane clung to latent insecurities pertaining to his mental illness because he could suddenly ‘check-out’ and lose focus. This was one of those times. After an awkward moment he looked up at Elise as if he had hurt her somehow? He didn’t want his daughter to absorb his shame. As if to gently remind him Elise said, “You were telling me about looking around under the hood to look for loose connections, and bumpy roads.” Zane struggled to retain his composure as he continued to rap against the ECU. His daughter’s confidence was contagious, and it spawned a fascinating revelation of sorts. It was at this instant that dad realized ‘The engine hadn’t died!‘ Who knows how much time had passed, but the car was still running! It was as if the internal circuitry responded to the presence of Elise’s energy in an effort to say ‘hello.’ In fact, Little-Toot hadn’t sounded this good in years! The notorious rattle of the worn valve lifters had vanished, as well as the loping that indicated a misfiring cylinder. It was if Little-Toot was her old self again! “It should have stalled out by now,” Zane exclaimed. The duo shared a measurable optimistic electricity because Little-Toot was purring like a kitten.

In spite of the excitement Zane tried to be cool. For some reason he always stifled his own joy. Perhaps he equated it with mania. He squelched his happiness out of fear of appearing foolish. In a brave attempt to shunt his own enthusiasm he abruptly commanded Elise to “turn it off!” She did as she was told. Suspecting that the car would not start again, Zane instructed his daughter hit it one more time. Upon his request the young lady turned the switch once again. The BMW roared to life! Zane was internally ecstatic, but he tried not to show it. “That’s why I brought you down here,” he told his daughter! “I knew you had the magic!”  There was a gleam in his daughter’s eye that couldn’t be dampened by the bright winter sunlight. With an elusive grin, Zane went on to exclaim, “It kind of makes you want to take a ride don’t it!” In a rare display of youthful enthusiasm he told Elise to turn it off and turn it back on again one more time. The engine fired upon command. “That does it,” Zane said! “We’re going for a drive! I think it’s fixed!” He had come to this conclusion because he had removed the electrical harness earlier that day in an effort to apply a liberal dose of electronic contact cleaner from an aerosol can. Perhaps the chemical treatment had dissipated some invisible corrosion. Zane cautiously asked himself, “Could that have alleviated the problem?”

Sadly however the moment was short lived. Zane suspected the problem was more severe than a loose connection when he noted an erratic oscillation emanating from the tachometer gauge. At first the needle would fluctuate violently, indicating that the engine was being revved, even though it wasn’t. Just as abruptly, the needle would settle upon the three thousand revs index. Then it decided on seven. Suddenly the needle would begin to oscillate wildly, only to find solace at another point of reference yet again. The dancing needle was reminiscent of a Ouija Board planchette as it plunged violently back and forth, landing at various random points on the dial as if to spell out some sort of secret cosmic message. Zane pointed this out to Elise and added that he had never seen this happen before. By now the tachometer’s needle was pegged at the red line; but the engine was only idling modestly. “This is an indication that the computer is still at fault,” Zane’s rational mind concluded; but the metaphysical portion of his brain suggested the car had a life of her own. Maybe Little-Toot was communicating from beyond the veil, using the electrics as a conduit? Perhaps it was Little-Toot’s way of saying, “Hi Elise…I missed you!” Whatever the reason, Zane knew it wasn’t prudent to take the vehicle out on the highway for fear of being stranded. To prove this to himself, he once again grasped the flashlight. Zane drew a deep breath as he tapped the computer one last time. Upon impact Little-Toot’s engine abruptly cut out, which was followed by a deafening silence. The magic had departed just as quickly as it arrived. He glanced over at Elise as if to say “it was fun while it lasted.” He explained how the vehicle still wasn’t road worthy. They would have to take her for a drive some other day. Zane knew his daughter understood judging from the look on her face. In the moment, Elise learned how her dad must have struggled to keep the cars running throughout the years. More importantly, Elise realized how fortunate they had been. They were fortunate because the tattered BMW was the primary source of transportation for several years, and she seldom faltered. Thanks to proper maintenance, Little-Toot had faithfully burned up a lot of miles, but now the car was suffering profusely. In a solemn tone Elise said, “I learned how to drive in Little-Toot.” After a small silence, Zane noted that Elise had also been twice returned from the hospital in the rusty car. Once when she was first born, and another when she nearly died from pneumonia. “It was also Little Toot that drove us to Oregon for our honeymoon.” Zane recalled the story internally as an authentic smile brightly flashed across his weathered face. He went on to remind Elise of another meaningful journey. The one where Renee and Elise drove up to Seattle together a few years earlier.

Little-Toot had been sitting in the rain, neglected, for more than three years at this point. It was akin to a Greek Tragedy because the repair would have been painfully simple. It would literally take Zane about ten minutes to complete the task; but now money was the problem. A replacement Motronic Electronic Control Module would cost them an arm and a leg. The black box would set them back $1400. They were just too poor to afford it. The car had unfathomable sentimental value, but now she was a literal mess.

…To be continued