Friday, December 14, 2012

The Duster

Photo Credit: Morguefile by Anita Peppers

Today's post is a response to the GBE2 prompt: First Car.

My first car was a Plymouth Duster, and I used to climb in the windows like the Dukes of Hazzard because I could. I was nine then, and I wanted a pair of Daisy Dukes. I also wanted to drive, but not really.

Later I got to have the car, which by some sort of alchemy, still ran, but not really. A cloud of fetid smoke erupted from its bowels as I turned the corners of my winding streets. On the roads it made a sound like a heavy corpse shifting in a tilting metal room. I beat the dashboard to get the lights to work.

The car was legend. I had one, and some of my high school friends did not. Its seats had been chewed by ravening cats, its turn signal had to be operated like a clavé with the repeated strike of a hand, it smelled of mildew and of old magazines and years of my father's exhaled smoke.

"I can smell you coming," said my best friend Anne one December Wednesday. "And I can hear the sound of your car breaking as you drive to get me on the way up my street."

"Well, at least it gets your prissy ass to school," I told her.

She sniffed. "No reason to get your panties all in a bunch, Violet."

Rich kids with no cars. They pissed me off. She'd probably get a BMW the day she turned eighteen, so she could drive sloshed into a telephone pole in style.

"Mind if I smoke?" asked April, getting into the car.

"No," I told her. "I'm trying to keep it nice in here."

We drove without speaking, the sound of cigarettes flaring and Bic lighters flicking accompanying the percussion of my hand-operated turn. The girls exhaled. Anne blew smoke rings, like she thought she was Gandalf, as if blowing smoke rings did something that improved her general status in this world. I parked the car. Brakes ground, gears ached and groaned. The exhaust pipe belched putrescent fog. Gravity settled the Duster into place, and the teenage princesses issued forth, like clowns out of a circus car, grabbing onto satchels and cigarette packs and hairbrushes and illicit whispers they'd exchanged in the back. They walked off, gyrating hips with intention, shaking asses just like upright ducks, skirts all ruffles that drew the eye like the rumps of two baboons. I looked after them for a moment, feeling the pavement spread between us like years that could not be abridged. Then I turned to the Duster and locked the asshole up, placing the key in my purse.

"Do you think that's strictly necessary?" said a voice.

I turned. A tall, ragged sort of a boy stood in front of me. Brown eyes. Brown hair, longish, unbrushed. A leather jacket, nice but very old and covered with sewn-on patches. He looked half-awake, half-caring, halfway to being a man. Stubble punctuated his face. Too much silence had passed while I looked at those patches, at that stubble, into those strangely probing eyes.

"What?" I said.

"Do you think that you gotta lock that sucker up? Someone's going to steal that, you suppose?" A wry smile lifted one corner of his mouth.

I surveyed the parking lot, finding ten year-old Chevys, older Beemers, plebian station wagons, the occasional brand-new car.

"No, I suppose not," I conceded. "but my dad likes me to lock it up." This sounded ridiculous the instance it left my lips, and I suddenly wished to be anywhere else but talking to this boy, standing next to my wreck of a vehicle, in a parking lot that enshrined by status as the lowest of the low.

"No, it's cool," he allowed. "The point of a car is that it gets you where you want to go. Does that Duster take you places—?"


"Violet, does that car take you places? Anywhere you want to go?" He looked straight at me. I realized then that no one had ever looked at me before. He saw all of me, right through my clothes and my skin, down to the muscle and the bone. He saw each instance of cat hair on my jacket, the torn lace on my panties, each freckle on my hipbones and my back.

"It takes me to home and to school," I told him.

"Then, Violet," he told me, with a penetrating stare. I could taste my own name in his mouth. It sounded like chocolate.  "You are doing it all wrong. A car should take you where you want to go. Where do you want to go, Violet?"

The air became a colloid and the wind shut up. Nothing passed through that moment but the look between he and I, as I stood there staring into the question of where I wanted to go. Autonomy and lust fused together in my solar plexus. They felt like truth.

"I want to see the ocean," I whispered.

"Get in the car, Violet. Get in the car," he said. "Let's go."

He was right. That Duster took me exactly where I wanted to be. And, with a blanket thrown down, the chewed-up seats weren't even as bad as I'd thought.

Note: This is fiction. I completely made it up, except that my dad did have a Duster when I was a kid. By the time I was in high school, he had a Hyundai, but I never had my own car until later on.


  1. Ooh, this one makes me happy.

    I remember that boy. "...half-awake, half-caring, and halfway to being a man." Man, do I remember that boy. Mine shook me right out of my goody-two-shoes--a shaking that as very much overdue.

    1. Yes, for some of us that boy is rather an important stop along the way. :)

  2. My first car was Ford Pinto. It did not go up in flames, but I almost didn't get my driver's license because of it.

    Nice story! If my sons weren't at that age of being halfway to a man, I might sigh a little more, in remembrance.

  3. "That boy" is in the memory of many lucky girls. The one who made you look at your life and life in general just a little differently and more openly.
    Fiction is often based on truth and I see what could be a pretty cool line of truth in this one.

    Love it.

  4. Great story! I really liked that you locked it! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Such a picture you painted--it's damned near three-dimensional. Nice work.

  6. Nice, very nice. Did they go to the ocean together is what I would like to know!


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Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License