Bad Car
Anthony Varallo

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. Couch. Tonight."

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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