Car Notes

March 19, 2017

Photographs by Vince Evans, taken in Downtown Jackson, Mississippi.

Random words by Julian Rankin. 

 

"Who art thou, beside me on the interstate, behind yonder tinted window?"

 

 

Jake’s car was a family car.

 

His family and other families. His ex-wife both conceived and delivered a child in that car - separate children, separate men. She and Jake conceived in 1991 on the hood under the stars at the dam. When they split later, she got the car and a new man, and drove him and his son around in it to their video game tournaments, where the son guzzled two liter bottles of cream soda like a man of desperate thirst. She got pregnant with the new guy and went into labor on the highway at rush hour. Ahead, an eighteen wheeler crashed into a column of the overpass and froze traffic. She gave birth - splayed out over the middle console gazing up through the tears in the rag top - with the help of a brilliant medical student with a red Audi who left his car running to lend his hands. Twelve years went by and the car kept kicking. The ex-wife didn’t want to pay the insurance on it and, one day, left it in Jake’s driveway like a dumped kitten. He drove it to work the next morning like it'd been there all along. Jake thought about all of that history sometimes. Some people might say it was a living thing dripping with all that memory. Driving down the road, Jake smiled. He’d give it to his son. That felt right. His son was a much better salesman than he and could flip it for sure. Then they could both get motorcycles.

 

Polly kept a trash bag in the passenger seat where she threw her empties. She ate orange marshmallow circus peanuts while she drove, the kind her grandfather had always liked and bought her on Christmas. After he got dementia he'd open packages three at a time in the kitchen at 4 AM and pour them into the sock in absent-minded dullardry like he was filling a pail with sand. In addition to the recycling bag, Polly had a bag for perishables: banana peels, pizza crusts, dirty tissues, but also failed crumpled short stories, the carcass of a baked chicken she ate alone under the overpass between shifts, condoms (used), unfilled prescriptions for ointments that burned her skin, an overdue library book (why R.L. Stine?), and other things she wanted to hide and see become mush in a wet trash heap. Polly had a pantry in the hatchback with canned food and microwave popcorn. She kept a jar of unopened mayonnaise. Paula Deen - and Polly listened to Paula Deen - said mayo was shelf-stable as long as you didn’t open it. Polly was saving it for an occasion. Maybe a cookout with the friends she didn't have. 

 

 

Angus had always been told that a man’s car was an extension of the man,

and not to trust one that didn’t keep it either showroom clean or hog sty dirty. The first meant he had his shit together; the other, that he was getting shit done and wasn’t afraid to wade through it. Angus was born to be a genius; he was certain. A once-in-a-lifetime type, like Ben Franklin or Einstein or Toby Keith. But he’d gotten sidetracked. Run off the road. It started with the paint chips. As a child, he heard his mother whisper about it; the day she turned her back to him in the corner of the federal building and he picked at and chewed the peeling wall like scabs. Angus also blamed secondhand smoke, sugar, and the fact that he didn’t have a dog as a boy for the disintegration of his great potential. He knew that only the Lord could save him now. Through hard work and sacrifice and allegiance to the tenets of the Book, he would be cleansed - as his cup holders were. When he is some day called to the doorstep the Kingdom, he will have, just that morning, eaten a protein-rich breakfast, changed the oil in the car, made his bed, and dusted off the mantle where he keeps the Swarovski crystal kitty cat, with the yellow crystal ball of yarn, that had belonged to his mother. Next to it is a framed quote that Angus first discovered in a paperback biography of Teddy Roosevelt. “Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty."

 

 

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