“They” say that the majority of automobile accidents occur within a few thousand miles of home and “they” are correct. I was within a few thousand miles of our garage when the woman who was presumably driving in front of me decided to stop. In the middle lane of three, in the middle of the block, no red lights or stop signs, no endangered species like children or puppies in the roadway. She just . . . stopped. And so did I. But unfortunately for me, the lady behind me did not.
It was quite a crash. Loud, and the sound of smashing plastic and tearing metal was quite distinctive. Her airbag deployed, but the only thing of mine that deployed were my eyeglasses, which ended up under my left foot—the one that was frozen to the clutch pedal.
The good news is my eyeglasses did not break.
The bad news is the lady does not have insurance.
The good news is the front end of her car ended up in pieces.
The bad news is I dropped my collision insurance four months ago because my vehicle is elderly.
The good news is it’s drivable.
The bad news is the left rear end is elevated and the right front end is de-elevated.
The good news is there were no serious injuries.
The bad news is my brain is loose.
I can tell because it kind of squishes when I walk. Squish, squish, squish. But it also rattles, not unlike the snake of the same name.
“Do we own a snake?” I asked Martha last night at the dinner table. “I could swear I hear a snake. Do YOU hear a snake?”
“Nope, must all be in your head,” she replied.
She’s right. And so is the pounding headache. Not to mention the squishing. And sore neck vertebrae numbers 1, 2a, and 4c. Maybe I have a concussion, or delineation, or just a good old-fashioned parting of the ways.
Then again, maybe it’s all in my head.
* * * * *
My Mom used to name her cars. I think her 64 Merc, the last car she owned, was named “Fluffy”. I might be wrong. Maybe Fluffy was her stupid cat. I don’t remember. Nice woman, but a little . . . odd.
Fortunately, I didn’t inherit her “odd” gene. All my genes are even: 18, 12, 16, and so on. Oddly enough, those evens are also my measurements. I am painfully thin.
To me, inanimate objects are nothing more than things. Some things are self-contained, like rocks, while other things are made of bits and pieces of still other things. Like my truck. Which doesn’t have a name—other than Thing, of course.
On January 11, 2006, a knuckleheaded woman who was offensively driving crashed into the rear end of my Thing, a 1995 Ford Explorer. She had a cell phone stuck to her face, but she did not have auto insurance.
In mid-February I got a call from Knucklehead’s employer. Since Knuck was driving her personal piece of thing on business, the employer would pay for Thing’s repairs. I sang every hymn I know with the word “alleluia” in it, and I praised the car-god himself, Henry Ford.
The insurance company sent an estimator to my personal driveway, where he took a lot of photos of Thing and went “hmm” at least two hundred times while he was under Thing inspecting its underthings.
A week later, I got the bad news. Thing’s rear frame was broken and beyond repair. No fixee-fixee. Kaput. Worst of all, totaled. I was devastated.
* * * * *
Thing and I go back a long way, back when Thing was a mere baby with less than 100 miles on it. I raised it until it was a healthy, bouncing 55,000 mile adult Thing. I changed its oily diapers regularly. I gave it gasoline, antifreeze and coolant, brake and transmission fluid, and a brand-new set of sixteen-inch tires. Everything a Thing could possible need and want. In return, over an eleven-year span, Thing never let me down once. Not once. Ever.
And we had fun together, especially in Colorado. We would sneak off together, just Thing and I, find a safe icy place, and throw ourselves into slow giddy skids, laughing like little kids as we spun around. When I installed a CD player and better speakers, Thing learned to sing along with me to the oldies—not sing, actually, but it ran a whole lot happier.
But those times are over. The wrecker-hearse is coming this morning to take Thing away to the salvage yard. I will hand over Thing's keys and birth certificate to the auto mortician. A perfectly good and beautiful Thing, still shiny and proud except for its frame. Thing will be cannibalized, giving its "stuff" so that other Explorers may live. Admirable, but personally I don’t give a shit. I want my Thing back!
Martha, good egg that she is, said I could keep it. But watching Thing waste away in the garage, melting in the heat, its stuff falling off in bits and pieces, would be cruel. Knowing Martha’s love for digging holes, I know that sooner or later she would bury it in the back yard with my cross-shaped breaker bar for a marker. And then take over the garage floor space for storing more stuff.
Okay, so maybe I'm making a big deal out of this whole Thing thing. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe I have Mom’s odd gene after all. But dammit, I feel sad as hell. And I’m tearing up. So let’s get this over with.
"Goodbye, old friend. I’ll miss you, Thing, and I’ll never forget your faithfulness. If someone gets your horn, give me a good long honk if you see me so I’ll know that it’s you."