Wow, it's been a while since I posted here. What's interesting is that Joe - I think he's probably 16 - asked if I'd written about this really strange thing that's happened between us. I'm not sure he even knows about 50 first dates or where he thought I'd write about it, but this would be the appropriate place. However, before I do that, I have to post this story about Jericho.
I wrote this story in June when I was at a workshop led by Erica Jong in Aspen. It was an awesome week with some really incredible women. This story was an assignment to write about anger. As with everything else I wrote, everyone ended up laughing a lot, and Erica said that Jericho was a metaphor for me. Ouch. Maybe my love life. Definitely my love life. After this, I'll post the "truth is stranger than fiction" story of Joe16.
Jericho, the Car
Even though I've vowed not to borrow the car again, I'm picking it up. It isn't really clear whose car it is. Joe put the title in my name so he wouldn't have to pay the fee for late registration. I'm not sure how the state can justify charging a late registration fee when it's 2010 and the last time the car was running was in 1994, but they do. So I had the title to this big brown piece of garbage, but I signed it back over to Joe when I left him in January. It didn’t seem right to keep the car. Besides, Joe is a hoarder of anything that runs, and I know that if I kept it, it would be like kidnapping a beloved child.
I’ve named the 1980 Dodge Aspen station wagon Jericho. Jericho is the name of a television series about a small town in Kansas that has survived 23 (plus or minus) atomic bombs detonated throughout the United States. I think this car, that runs without computers or electronics and is large enough to live in, would be extremely valuable in a post-apocalyptic world. Until then, it just sucks.
The car has been nothing but trouble. Sometimes the gauges work. When they don't, I usually run out of gas, hence the gallon can of gas in the back of the wagon. Sometimes the turn signals work. When they don't, I'm flailing my arms out the window trying to get people to figure out what my directional intentions are. I have a toothbrush in the glove compartment that I stick in the carburetor if the car won't start. I've finally learned that if I want to be on time while driving this car, I need to start 15 minutes earlier than I would have if I hadn't sold my perfectly reliable Toyota Corolla at Joe's insistence. No car payment seemed like a great idea at the time. Now I'm just mad.
Joe is a great mechanic, but it seems he doesn't want to fix the car completely. I've determined it's his way of getting me to keep coming back. I want to buy another car, but my credit sucks, and since I have my motorcycle, I refuse to be raped by the "Buy Here, Pay Here" jackals. It's six months until winter. I'll have my finances straightened out before then. But summer has been slow in coming during this crazy Colorado spring, and I need a car. It's raining. It's going to be raining for probably the next week, so I'm going back over to Joe's to pick up Jericho.
I get the car and even pay to have the oil changed since Joe couldn't get around to it. As I'm heading back to the high plains on county road whatever, the windshield wipers quit working. I break the law and text my friend Amy while I'm driving to tell her about the latest failure. Amy doesn't speak poorly of anyone, but she's become fed up that Joe can't manage to fix the stupid car so that I'm not risking my life every time I drive it.
I keep heading toward my home, the ranch-hand's house wedged between the crops and the cows. About the time I reach the field of Longhorns on the north side of 34, I notice that the heater isn't working any more. Rolling up to an intersection frequented by fast moving semis, steam is flowing from under the hood. Ahh, that’s why the heater quit working. I ignore it. I've got two miles to go. If I pull over here, I'll die.
I’m approaching the intersection a half a mile from my house. I’m almost there. Oh come on! The car has quit running. There’s a spot next to the stop sign where there's a wide spot in the road, and I manage to get the car in that space. I jump out, not bothering to put on the emergency brake since, well, it doesn't work. Just as I reach for the hood of the car, it starts rolling backward in a large, perfect arc. The tractor-trailer that was turning down the road I was on stops to view the scene while I throw my hands up in the air. I’m done with this car. I’m just done. Executing the perfect parallel parking maneuver, all on its own, the car gets wedged alongside a barbed wire fence, a good ten feet below the road surface. I call my landlord.
“Hey Brad, it’s Abby. I managed to get this piece of junk off in the ditch. Can you come down with the tractor so we can roll it, end over end, back to the house?”
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I wasn’t in the car.”
“How’d it get in the ditch?”
“Ummm... I’m going to call a tow truck too.”
As I’m calling roadside assistance, Brad shows up with Junior in the flatbed. Junior’s driving because Brad’s had a few cocktails by this point. Despite my extreme frustration with the car and anger with Joe, I appreciate Brad’s tipsy sense of humor.
“Hey Abby, I’ll go get the tractor and dig a hole and we can just bury it right there.” He doesn’t realize that I would love to do just that. The tow truck comes and with considerable maneuvering, the car is out of the ditch.
I finally get Joe on the phone and tell him to come get the pile of scrap metal. I'm angry. He doesn't get it. I've tried to tell him I don't want the car anymore, but you'd think I'm telling him that his son is a loser.
"Don't condemn the car!" He yells when I tell him it belongs in a junkyard. "It's not the car's fault."
Of course my deductive reasoning kicks in, and since it's not the car's fault, and I'm the only one driving it, he must feel it's my fault. He keeps saying it's my fault that I run out of gas in it, that I have some aversion to buying gasoline, despite the fact there’s a leak in the gas tank and no gauge. Somehow it's my fault that the thermostat failed, causing the hose to explode. Apparently it's my fault that the stiff clutch and lack of power steering makes my body hurt, I have to put water in the radiator every time I drive it, and I can't get the monstrosity to start without popping the hood and shoving a toothbrush in the carburetor.
A month later, it’s back. He says he’s really fixed it this time, but for me, that statement has joined the other list of great lies that include, “The check is in the mail.” Once it’s parked, I never manage to get it started again. A month later, Joe shows up and tells me I flooded it. I find it hard to believe that the gas I pumped into the carb a month before is still in there, but I refuse to discuss it, because I know I’ll blow a gasket of my own.