“LETTERBOX WINDSHIELD” by Andy Jenkins
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The ad read;
‘84 LINCOLN TOWNCAR
fully loaded 1 ownr divrce!
low miles—$3k must drive!
“Want a beer?” he held out the Heineken he’d just opened for himself.
“Ahh, no thanks.” I was about to go out and test drive his mother’s car.
“You sure? I got a whole fridge full...”
“No, it’s cool. How many miles does it have?” I glance into his mirrored aviator sunglasses and see myself standing on his porch.
“I don’t know. About 85,000. Not much for an ‘84... let’s go check it out.” He came out of the doorway, hand extended. “The name’s Kevin.”
“Andy.” I shook his soft, Nerf Ball hand. I couldn’t tell if he was younger or older than me. He was in limbo, stuck in time — partially balding, but with no wrinkles and no outward physical maladies... besides a slightly protruding gut. We walk down the deteriorating wooden steps of his bungalow apartment and around the front house to the street.
“There she is.”
It’s big. A navy blue American boat. The outward condition is nice. “Hell, I’d keep it if I had the parking space — this street is just so damn crowded.” He does a sweeping motion with the beer then takes a drink, holds back a burp and thrusts out his free hand. “Here’s the key, go check it out. I’ll be here when you get back.”
“Thanks.” I walk around to the rear of the car, resisting the temptation to kick a tire. I open the trunk. Big enough for a Christmas tree it seems — there are dry pine needles everywhere. I slam it shut — solid — and walk around to the driver’s door, fumble with the keys a bit, then notice a little sticker on the window just above the lock. It illustrates the two parts of a seat belt about to click closed with the words “Get it Together” written above.
I step in. Slippery leather seats. It smells 20 years old. A clock with hands and Roman numerals. 113,000 miles, not 85. Start her up. Easy enough. Pushing my foot to the floor, the heavy machine lumbers forward, engine grumbling. Adjusting the rearview, I see him there, standing akimbo in the street, flip-flops on, draining his beer.
The hulk accelerates slowly up the hill while I force it to wake up, touching every button and knob on the dash. The hood protrudes a hundred yards. Its massive interior makes me feel like a child. But it runs good and I hate shopping. I drive back and park it. The owner’s son is nowhere to be seen. I walk up the steps to his place and knock on a partially open door. Nothing. I knock again. I peek in and am assaulted by the overwhelming stench of a hundred cats... I suddenly want the hell out of there and begin to put the key in the mailbox.
“HEY!” comes a happy voice from the depths of the apartment.
“I thought you weren’t coming back,” he chuckles. “Whadyah think?”
“It’s nice. Big.”
“Yep, American metal machine. Can’t beat ‘em.” An uncomfortable pause. “What do you do for a living, Anthony?”
Anthony. I mumble something about computers and his eyes light up. “Oh yeah? I do animation for the internet!” he exclaims. I don’t want to talk about work, I don’t want to talk to him, and I especially don’t want to enter his apartment. But I need a car. This one?
He holds his door open for me.
I stay on the porch. “Will you take $2,000 cash?”
“For the car.”
“Oh, well, I’ll have to call and ask my mom... and she’s on the East Coast right now.” I pull out an envelope filled with 100s and give it to him. He peers into it. “But I’m sure $2,000 is okay, she’ll be glad to shake the car, it was dad’s — part of the divorce settlement.” He forges his father’s signature on the title, hands it over, and I walk down the steps again, this time to my car. I put the key in the blue door...
GET IT TOGETHER
and drive it away.
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Originally Published in Level magazine (UK)Photo: Andy Jenkins