983 words about a car, a past and a wish to reclaim one and revisit the other.
|A lot of songs tell us, “Life is a highway” But Meatloaf sang it best, “If life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car”. How much of our soul gets left in our first car? A lot. Even if someone borrowed it and ran the damn thing into a field and the damn farmer refused to give it back!
That’s what happened to my first car. It wasn’t much to look at when my Daddy first offered it to me and it’s not much to look at now. But it had its glory days. And so did I.
It was my first, but it had seen a lot of mileage before I came along. A couple of wrecks and a lot of disuse had left their toll. To say it needed cleaning was an understatement but I knew I could make it look decent with a new paint job and a lot of elbow grease. As for the motor, let’s just say, it had heart. And muscle, a lot of muscle. My sister said she drove it once. Only once. And the only time she touched the gas pedal was to start it, the rest of the time, she used the brake to control it. But that didn’t stop me. And once I got that baby on the road, nothing was going to come even close to stopping either one of us.
One thing I learned about a muscle car. Teen-aged boys loved muscle cars. And they learned to love a girl that drove a great muscle car. Dual exhaust, double carburetor, V-8, four on the floor, all became my catch phrases and that car served as my personal “man magnet” every time I went out. The revving of that bad ass engine was like a mating call and I used it for all it was worth.
To top it off, it was a money maker. Back then, drag racing was commonplace. And I knew a guy whose driving could match the power underneath that shiny exterior. Because although the car and I looked good together and I could manage to keep her under control most of the time, I wouldn’t even attempt to let her loose on a long straight patch of asphalt. Not on a dark night with a worthy opponent at her side. No, because that is when that chunk of metal showed her true soul and let her dark side take over. I was a good enough driver, but I knew my limitations and I knew that car had no limitations and it needed a crazy man at the wheel. And so that’s how I paired the two of them and how I financed my insurance, because working the counter at the local burger joint sure wasn’t doing it.
It worked out pretty well for us, most of the time. I’d go to work and crazy-eyed Luke would pick up the keys and then me at the end of my shift. We’d split the winnings from his drag race adventure, after we topped off the tank and then head out for one of those lonely country roads all us kids knew so well and celebrate in our passion fashion. My sixteenth and seventeenth summers were made up of those hot nights where cool breezes and tight squeezes were the only thing that could cool down an engine. That went for cars and young lovers, both.
It was all well and fine, until one night the betting got out of hand and Luke got a little too confident and well, maybe the other guy’s car was a little faster or maybe he could handle that stretch of road just a little bit better. Whatever it was, my car was how they decided to up the ante to make it the best two out of three. I’m just thankful I didn’t see Luke or the car get humiliated. And I am particularly glad I didn’t see what came next.
Though he always made good on his bets, mostly because he usually didn’t have to pay out, he was not giving up our “baby” without a fight. He held the keys out the window, but never shut the car off. Something about that ignition let you do that. Like I said the car had a lot of mileage on her and things weren’t as tight as they used to be. Anyway, just as the winner reached for the keys, Luke pulled them back in the window and floored it. He took off and kept going until the other guys lights were barely a blink in the darkness of that vast summer night. Then he glanced back and in that split second, in that one brief moment of lost concentration, the road turned. The car did not. It leapt the ditch and landed in the middle of old man Reeger’s cornfield. And there it stopped and refused to start. And after a lot of explaining to my Father and a lot of pleading on my part, my Daddy went to Mr Reeger and tried to get my car back. But he wouldn’t let us on the property to get it back. And the local law, who were just too glad to see that four-wheeled menace off the road, backed him up. And once Daddy heard about the car’s fame on the drag race circuit, he was just too happy to let it rest, and rust in peace in that farmer’s field.
Well, it’s been a long ride, and Luke long ago rode off into the sunset with a wife and family and their mini-van. And Daddy and Mr Reeger are gone to a better place. And me, I write stories of the glory of old muscle cars and I finally made enough from that writing to buy that farm and rescue my four-wheeled “man magnet” and bring her home.