External Photo Clues:
The man eases me against the curb in front of a house the color of red mud. About ten inches out; just right, and he corners the tires. He’s a pretty good driver — way better than my last owner, who never remembered to shift and always scraped the curb. New neighborhood, I think — no trees, and the road’s still smooth. Hot though; the tar feels a little squishy against my tires. No sign of a garage; at least there’s a driveway.
A boy and a girl come pounding out the door of the house, followed by a woman in a housedress. The woman’s tall and thin; she looks a little worn. No surprise — the girl looks to be maybe 8 and the boy might be 11, and that combination would tire anyone out.
The man opens my door and gets out. He closes it gently but firmly. No slamming. Another good sign. He spreads his arms wide. “Ta DAH!”
The boy jumps up and down. “A new car! Is it ours? Can we keep it? COOOOL. How fast will it go?”
“Slow down, Buddy. Let’s take it for a spin and find out. How about all the way to Miller’s Creamery?”
“I scream you scream! Can we get two scoops Dad? Can we get the carhop and eat in the car?”
No, no, please no frozen custard in the backseat – my upholstery was just cleaned! I’m starting to worry about this kid. He’s awfully bouncy. I remember my old owner’s grandkids wiggling and jumping up and down on my back seat. Lucky the springs didn’t break through. And this boy’s sneakers are muddy — hope he wipes them off before he gets in.
“What do you think I’ll say, Bud?”
“I know. House rules. You never let us eat in the car.” Whew. That’s a relief.
The woman gives the man a worried look, and quietly asks, as if she’s hoping the kids won’t hear: “Honey, how can we afford a new car? We just moved here a month ago, and with the mortgage and everything?”
“Don’t you worry your head about that, Sweetie. I’ll take care of everything. Don’t I always? Besides, it isn’t exactly new — it’s a 53. Guy at the factory hooked me up with his brother-in law, he’s a dealer. Only one owner, an older gentleman. I got a deal. And I work hard. I deserve something nice, not that old beater.”
Glad he thinks I’m nice. But it sure sounds like they didn’t tell him about how the old man had his license taken away after that second accident. Good thing he was such a pokey driver and the damage wasn’t bad. I guess this guy didn’t notice the repairs on my passenger side. It took them forever to match the paint.
“Chop chop. Everyone into the car!”
The boy races around to my passenger side. “I call shotgun!”
“You know your mother gets to ride in the front, son. You get in back with your sister. Roll the windows down, now — it’s hot. But first — wait a minute, kids. I’ve got the Brownie — let’s take a picture.”
The kids climb into the back, muddy feet and all, kneel on the seat and mug for the camera.
“Cheeeese.” They plop down, sliding as far as possible from each other, separated by an invisible line straight down the middle. The man gets behind the wheel, and the woman slides into the passenger side, crosses her feet at the ankle. He starts me up, checks the mirrors, smoothly shifts, eases the clutch, pulls away from the curb. Nicely done. I indulge in a bit of an engine purr, just a little, to let him know.
The boy’s hanging out the window, waving at other kids. The girl goes all quiet. “Daddy?”
“I liked the old car. Betsy was special. She smelled just right. And I remember riding with Grandma in it before… before.”
“Nothing lasts forever, Little Bit. I got a good trade-in on the Buick, and now a new family will take good care of it. Tell you what, you can name the new car. What should we call it?”
Cindy? A little strange, but I can live with it, I guess. Better than just being “the car.”
The boy stops bouncing on me and gets all indignant. “You can’t call a car Cindy, Dopey. Tell her, Dad. It’s a boy. It’s a car, not one of your silly dolls.”
A boy? I’m a car. Not really one or the other. Never thought about it before. I was built in a factory, not in a backseat.
“But she’s so pretty. She’s got those different colors of blue, like the sky and the river, only upside down with the river on top.”
The truck that carried me here crossed a lot of rivers. Most of them were more brown than turquoise like my top half, but I know what she means. I’ve always thought of myself more in terms of chrome and paint, but sky and river — I like the idea of that.
I guess the boy doesn’t. “BLUE IS FOR BOYS! When we get a pink car you can give it a sissy girl name.”
“Shut up, four-eyes.“
The woman turns her head sharply. “Susan Marie, you watch your mouth. Act like a lady.” It sounds like something she says all the time, but I don’t think her heart’s in it.
“He started it, Mom. And girls can so wear blue. What about me? I’m wearing a blue shirt. It even matches Cindy.”
“That’s because you’re a tomboy and not a REAL girl, Suzy face.”
The man half-turns. At least he’s still watching the road, but he takes his hand off my wheel and stretches his arm across the front seat. “Frankie, get your head in. And no more bickering! Don’t make me stop this car.”
I’ve heard that one before. They never actually stop.
The girl doesn’t seem to be giving up. “I am so a real girl, and so is Cindy. If boats are all girls, cars are too.”
The boy pulls his head inside and drips scorn. “Stupid girl. You don’t know anything. It’s a Pontiac CHIEFTAIN. Girls can’t be chieftains. Tell her, Dad.”
Ooo — extra points for him, he knows my make. Still don’t know what that has to do with boys or girls, though. And I don’t much like the yelling, it echoes.
The girl is almost vibrating, she’s so angry. She twists all the way around, towards the boy. “CAN SO! Dad, what about Queen Elizabeth? She’s in charge of a whole country! And Mrs. Roosevelt. She was in charge of the whole U.N. for the USA. Wasn’t she, Dad?”
The man chuckles, and maybe there’s a touch of pride. “Suzy’s got you there, Frankie. I sure wouldn’t bet against your little sister growing up to be whatever she wants. Seems like girls can do anything these days. Now, quit your bickering, or no frozen custard. We’re almost there.“
“Listen to your father, kids.” The woman’s back suddenly gets very straight against my seat. She starts to sound a little less tired. “Honey, I know you say you don’t like woman drivers, but even Mamie Eisenhower has a license for when Ike isn’t around. If women can do anything, does that mean you’ll finally teach me to drive? It sure would show Susan you really mean what you say.”
“No wife of mine… oh. I suppose I could.”
“Thanks, Cindy,” whispers the lady.
I hope she’s a good driver.
About The Author:
Hope O’Keeffe lives in a post-it yellow bungalow in Virginia with her husband, two sons, two cats, a third-hand piano, and too many books. Most of her friends are invisible.
Authoring For The Imaginary Family Project:
We are not taking new author request at the moment, but will open it back up later this year. Thanks!
About The Imaginary Family Project:
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles. This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir. Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects. At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.