It didn't seem like a bad car, the father would have everyone know. Not
with those low miles, new tires, and an interior still redolent of the
assembly line, something the seller had pointed out when the father had
first taken the car for a test drive. The car had driven wonderfully.
Smooth. The sound system defied the wind rushing through half-open
windows. The engine hummed and purred. Had the seller mentioned the
car's exceptional handling?
On the first drive home, though, the father noticed something wrong.
Other drivers turned to him, often with angry looks, often with
threatening or lewd hand gestures. Small children, seated in the
way-back of station wagons, stuck out pink tongues. Teens, slouched
behind the wheel of SUVs, waved middle fingers and shouted expletives.
A small, elderly woman in a copper-colored Town Car tailed the father
for half a mile, flashing her high beams and punching the horn in what
seemed a loose approximation of "Take the A-Train." An entire
van of Cub Scouts pressed threatening notes to their windows, many with
hastily drawn pictures of the car falling from cartoonish heights.
The father's family told him to take the car back. Why did the father
buy such a bad car? What was he thinking? That's what the father's
family wanted to know: what was he thinking
when he bought such a bad car? "But it's not a bad car," the father
began to say, before his wife tossed a small ceramic bowl at his head,
before his daughter upended a coffee table, and before his son
screamed, "Why can't you do anything right!" and then stormed upstairs.
The family dog sprinted outside and peed on the car's rear bumper.
"Listen," the father said.
But his wife only threw him a pillow and blanket, and said, "You.
The next morning, the father woke to discover that someone had spray-painted
DIE CAR DIE! across the car's hood. Someone else had etched the
car's roof with a fairly complex scrimshaw of the car rising from the
depths of hell. Two-dozen robins, with the regularity and indifference
of lawn sprinklers, freckled the car with blue-white shit.
The father didn't care. He climbed into the car and started the engine.
"Just listen to that!" he cried. He rolled the windows down. "Would you
listen to that?" He honked the horn and turned the radio on.
The family materialized behind the family room windows. "And you should
see the way it handles."
The family watched as an angry mob descended upon the father, their
crowbars, golf clubs, rakes, two-by-fours, baseball bats, lead pipes
and rifles ready to rid the world of the bad car for good.
Anthony Varallo's most recent book is THINK OF ME AND I'LL KNOW: STORIES. He lives in Charleston.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Marcello Bardi.
Read AV's postcard, and see more of his work in the archive.
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