The man used to think that cars grew on trees. He imagined them growing like apples or lemons, weighing down the boughs of trees until they snapped and the cars settled slowly on the uneven dirt. He liked thinking this way. It was nice that the blue blush of the late afternoon sky in summer and the shine of cream leather seats had something in common, or that the tap, tap, tap of acorns in autumn meant a spring of loose nuts and bolts on the electric grass.
When he told his wife and daughter, his wife laughed at him and his daughter listened to him. She had faith in her father like a plane in its pilot, but her mother, her mother thought her husband had a screw loose and wanted to justify himself to her. So the man set out to prove to his wife that the rubber of car tires was not so different from the skin of a tomato. That peach juice would stick to your face like grease, and that everything was fuel in the end.
The man was a mechanic by trade and a writer by nature. He went to work every day except Sundays, when he stayed home and did odd jobs around the house. He called himself a jack-of-all-trades and his wife called him Tom and his daughter called him Dad and his boss called him in for extra shifts almost every weekend so that he never spent Saturday with his family.
Tom decided that he would work from the outside of the car in, and that he would eat an Acura.
Tom didn’t mind. He liked his work well enough and now, now he could really get something done at the garage. He decided that he would work from the outside of the car in, and that he would eat an Acura, partly because it was the car the family used, and partly because it was relatively small. Size mattered for this.
When Tom placed an order for a side-door mirror, he wrote down under reason for purchase that a customer from out of town had come in and insisted on buying new instead of using what the garage had in stock. When Tom placed the order, he thought of the time in college when his wife, then his girlfriend, stole a packet of pens from Staples for him but felt so guilty that she made him promise to pay them back somehow. For four weeks he wrote poems with her pens and taped them to the store windows; that, he thought, was enough.
The car mirror arrived at the garage the next day. The warranty promised it wouldn’t rust or corrode, but it didn’t say anything about oxidizing in a man’s veins or dissolving in the acid of his stomach. The mirror cost $10.49, tax included, but Tom wasn’t in the mood to write his boss any poetry. She owed him for overtime. He held the mirror in his hands and felt its weight, the chrome-plated plastic hardness of it. He wondered if the pieces would eventually break apart inside him into bits or whether they would disintegrate, fixed to the iron in his blood.
The fridge was in the back corner of the garage, but his boss didn’t notice Tom walk by her and back with a brown paper bag, and she didn’t notice him leave. So when he sat in the driver’s seat of the Acura and listened to the rain tap, tap, tap the roof of the car he paused before calling his wife because that would mean that he had to go through with it. He called her anyway, the sky marbling overhead, and made plans to meet at home for lunch.
Image credit: Dimitry