Column: That old Mercury’s a dream to drive

“It’s good. The right thing to do. Getting rid of the old Mercury. What a relief. Especially now. December, end of the year. A clean start. What’s taking Fred so long? He’s been out there with this guy from some children’s charity to take our car away. Of course, the Mercury has been with us for so many years, good and bad, but mostly good. When it’s gone it will make a big empty space in the yard. Got accustomed to it like to an old tree that’s not growing anymore but it’s our tree, part of our life …

“At least Fred won’t keep polishing the hubcaps again, whistling away. For what? For nothing, that’s what. And he comes back in the house, his hands dirty, and the terrible smell of the cleaner, what’s it called? But I kind of liked his polishing the hubcaps. Gave him a purpose to start the day. He always has this idea we’ll take the car on the road, go for a ride, go far. Ridiculous. Battery’s dead, no insurance, tires pretty flat. But I don’t tell him. Let him believe. Sometimes I believe it myself. We’ll take the Mercury out. But no, impossible. I know it and I don’t know it. But what’s Fred doing with that guy? I hear the truck leaving.

“Well, well, Fred, you’ve done it.”

“Done nothing, Molly. The truck is gone. On its way back to Riverhead, where it should stay.”

“The car is gone, too?”

“It ain’t going nowhere.”

“But why, Fred, why?”

“Just because, that’s why. I didn’t like the man. A diamond in his ear, long hair, a stupid tattoo, he don’t belong here. The way he put rusty chains on the Merc’s front bumper and he opens the door like it’s his car. It’s my car, I tell this wimp. Show some respect. You wasn’t born when that car won drag races, you idiot.”

“But you did call him, didn’t you, to take the car away?”

“Don’t interrupt me, Molly.”

“And then what?”

“I told the guy to get the hell out of my driveway. So he complains he came here all the way to do me a favor and get the damn rotting piece of junk. He said the ‘damn rotting piece of junk.’ Can you believe that?”

“He said the ‘damn rotting piece of junk’? Our car. They should put him in jail.”

“So I tell him, go now or I call the cops for trying to steal our car, thief.”

“And then, Fred?”

“He left, Molly. And I showed him the finger. I could have demolished him with one punch. I tell you, these young punks. Plus I forgot to tell you, he was playing music so loud, everything was shaking in the yard. I have some bad words for him.”

“I don’t need to hear, Fred.”

“While he was kicking the car, I was thinking, you know, sometimes I sit with Muffin. We don’t go nowhere except in my head, I’m traveling. I put Muffin on my shoulders and she looks out the window like the scenery is flying by real fast and Muffin, she barks at the squirrels and she’s traveling too in her little head … ”

“So it’s like we got a new car but it’s our old car and nobody’s going to take it away for as long as we live.”

“So you’re not mad at me, Molly?”

“The best Christmas gift ever. I really like the way you told this guy to get lost.”

“Thanks, Molly. I was afraid to tell you.”

“And for your Christmas, I’m going to pay the kid down the street to wash the Mercury, make it shiny like new. I know you’ll get that car running one day, Fred, with its beautiful hubcaps. Perhaps on my birthday.”

“Yeah, I’m kind of proud of the old Merc. It’s been good to us. The Christmas Eve rides, the night, the moon, the snow, and you with your pretty hat. Muffin, listen, we’ve got a new car. We’ll travel. On your mama’s birthday.”

“I believe you, Fred. Carry me to the car and let’s take off, and Muffin, too … ”

“Muffin at the wheel. And I can drive this car with my eyes closed.”

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. E-mail: [email protected]

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