I bought the car from a greasy, gray-haired man in tight jeans . . . the worn outline of his Skoal can tracing the right front pocket. He needed a shave, a bath and an oil change.
“Yeah, she’s a beauty, isn’t she?” he said. “Only 73,000 actual miles”
I thought, “Sure . . . and it was driven by a little old lady who only drove to church.”
Peering under the hood, I asked, “How new is the battery?”
Leaning in, his arm against mine under the hood he replied, “Well, the sticker on there is kind of ripped up, but if I remember right I got it in the winter of 2005. Should be good for quite a while yet.”
He was close enough that I could feel his breath on my shoulder and feel his gaze on the cleavage barely visible beneath my Oxford shirt.
Deciding I had provided enough titillation, I slammed the hood shut and asked, “How much?”
“Well” . . . his eyes shifted, looking anywhere but at me, “she’s a classic you know. I don’t think I could let her go for less than . . . oh say $900?”
“This car hasn’t moved in months,” I said, pointing to the grass grown high around all four tires. “How about $700?”
He leaned away to spit a stream of tobacco juice at the scrawny cat lurking nearby. “$850?” he countered.
“How about $800 and you throw in those jumper cables and that case of oil over there?”
He scratched his head and said, “You got a deal.”
We shook hands, his was grimy and slick, mine dry and reluctant and I nobly resisted the urge to wipe mine on my jeans afterward.
The car started, I think to our joint amazement, and with only a slight miss on one cylinder. As an unexpected bonus, the ride home was smooth; apparently the shocks and suspension were in better shape than the rest of the car.
I parked in the drive, anxious to examine (and do a little heavy-duty cleaning of) the rough diamond I had bought.
The car had an odor of used motor oil . . . and old french fries. In the glove box (which I am reasonably sure had never held a glove), I found: three packets of ketchup from McDonalds, numerous salt and pepper packets now solid with moisture or torn open and gritty, a dirty pine tree air freshener with a faint odor of disinfectant, an owner’s manual, the outside filthy and tattered, the unused pages inside pristine and slick, a tiny tin box containing red and blue tipped fuses already dead and corroded, a crumpled, many times refolded map of Tennessee with one completely worn through fold that cancelled out the cities of Nashville, Cookville, and McKenzie, a bottle of Visine with just a few drops in the bottom with the painted on label nearly scratched off giving the bottle the more appropriate name of “isine,” a cassette tape with no case titled “The Deed is Done” by Molly Hatchet, only the broken case of the tape “A.K.A. Wham Bam Sam” bearing a leering photo of Hank Williams Jr., and last and most certainly least . . .two small foil packets (guaranteed to be heat damaged and pinholed), with the evocative brand name “Ramses.”
I shuddered and went back into the house for the bleach.
LaVonda Krout is a nurse, writer and gardener producing stories, healthy herbs and not-so-healthy hydrangeas in the hills of southern Indiana. She has previously been published in “Midwest Outdoors”, “Main Channel Voices”, “Centaur” and numerous publications and anthologies.