Where’s the Money, Lebowski?
Posted by mousewrites on June 9, 2008
Quote from the ageless movie, The Big Lebowski. I adore this movie. I named my computer The Dude after this movie.
But you’re not here for the money, you’re here for the video of me getting my hair chopped off, or perhaps the disastrous ‘after’ picture. I don’t have them for you, not yet. Now, let’s all just be chill. You’ll get your movie. I just need some more time, man, that’s all.
To tide you bloodsuckers over, here’s a piece I wrote about 4 years ago about losing my car. This is also in honor of my purchase of a EEE PC 4G to write on. I don’t write enough anymore. I used a bit of my Stimulus check to get an older model. I don’t really need the extra bells and whistles the 900 series has, so I went with the little one. Isn’t it cute?
Of Ships by Mousewrites
The first time she saw the car it was parked in front of a very nice house. So nice, in fact, that the girl thought there must be some kind of underhanded deal going on; why would somebody in that big a house be selling a 1985 Honda Accord, let alone for 1,400 bucks?
But it wasn’t sinister at all; the car was their daughter’s. She had bought it while in collage, and now that she was back, mommy and daddy got her a nice silver Lexus, and she didn’t need the little bronze Honda anymore. The price was low just so she could get rid of it.
The girl had only had her license for about a year, and had driven all of twenty minutes in her friends’ cars in that time. She was 24, old enough that her father thought she would never learn to drive. Her younger brother and sister had their licenses before she did, though her sister only beat her by a handful of days.
Of course, her sister was 8 years younger, but never mind.
The girl didn’t know how to buy a car. She had almost 2,000$ saved up, scrimping and pinching money for a few months, and some money from her boyfriend, and she bought the car on the spot.
Later she learned it had a cracked axle and a hole in the exhaust pipe, but the axle was actually cheap to fix, and it still passed smog, so she didn’t mind.
Right before she bought the car, the girl had seen “Pirates of the Caribbean” with Johnny Depp. She saw it 8 times. Her favorite line was this:
“It’s not a keel and a deck and sails; that’s what a ship needs. What a ship is…is freedom.”
She got a license plate frame for the car that said “The Bronze Pearl.”
At first she was so careful. Insurance, and washed it every day, and sometimes just went driving because she could. No more waiting for people to pick her up! No more saying she couldn’t go places because she had no ride. She was free.
She broke the door handle about a week after getting it. Just… clink! And from then on she had to roll down the window and use the outside latch to get out. But that was ok. Sure, it was a little ghetto, but it was hers. She put a Devil Ducky on the ledge in front of the odometer. It was red and black, and she dusted it every week.
She put 15,000 miles on it the first year.
The car had a few problems. It needed a new alternator at one point, and when the radio died and she coasted to a stop a few blocks from home, she panicked completely, in tears and almost hyperventilating when she couldn’t turn it over. She tried getting someone to jump start it, but it just didn’t work.
It took 80$ to get it to the mechanic, and another 300$ to fix it. Steve, of Steve’s Expert Honda repair, told the girl that the car was old, and had a lot of small problems. The break fluid was leaking. The power steering fluid was leaking. And there was a hole in the exhaust pipe.
The girl didn’t have the money to fix anything else. She bought a bottle of break fluid and another of power steering fluid and kept them in the little rattan basket in the back, with the water bottle, half quart of oil, and the emergence stash of Pepto Bismol and tampons.
She put 16,000 miles on it the second year
Times were hard. She couldn’t make the insurance payments, so she didn’t. The little card in the door pocket said she had insurance, and she had to make do. She was careful not to speed, and tried to keep an eye out for cops.
The car wasn’t getting the gas mileage it used to, but gas was so expensive she was trying not to go anywhere. It didn’t work, but sometimes her friends paid for gas.
She bought googly eyes, and stuck them around the rear view mirror and on the Honda ‘H’ on the steering wheel. The Devil Ducky had been joined by a hand crocheted pin in the shape of boobies that she got for going topless through a maze in the middle of the night. She was the only woman who did it stone cold sober, and she thought maybe it was the most wild thing she had ever done.
Around the rear view mirror hung a beaded necklace that the girl got from a Brazilian aborigine at an international weaving festival. He had given her a turn with his blow-dart gun, and she had ‘killed’ a balloon on her first try. She never knew if she or the aborigine was more surprised. He took his necklace off and told her she was an honorary head hunter now.
The little black pattern on the necklace looked like Strongbad from Homestar runner, and she liked to make him swing back and forth when she was in traffic.
The last morning, the girl was upset. She had a whole bunch of reasons; her tiny apartment was messy, she was sick of eating ramen noodles everyday, her wrists weren’t quite as healed from the cortisone shots, she was going to miss her friend that was leaving for college. Her boyfriend’s car was having problems, so she was driving them to the going-away party for her collegiate friend. They were only about 10 minutes ahead of the car with the guest of honor, and it was supposed to be a surprise party.
The girl was driving fast.
It was hot in the valley that day. Not has hot as it had been, but hot enough. The 210 freeway was busy, thick with cars, and it took almost all of her attention to drive it. She was hot, the road was hot, the air was hot, and the car itself was running a bit hot.
The girl didn’t pay attention.
In Pasadena, she noticed the car was driving a bit rough. She didn’t panic, just mentioned it to her boyfriend. Just another thing to worry about.
Except it wasn’t.
A few minutes later the needle pushed into the red, and the girl managed to pull over and get off the freeway. At the end of the off ramp, the car made a weird noise and died.
The girl started it up, and it groaned, but did it’s best, sputtering to life enough to get her out of the way of the oncoming cars. She eased it into a Chevron gas station, and coasted it to the air and water station.
It died again when she stopped, and for a moment, everything was quiet.
She didn’t look at her boyfriend. She looked at the googly eyes on the steering wheel, touching them with one finger. The plastic had gone brown from the sun. It looked just like the rest of the car, a soft, faded brown.
They opened the hood, and peered inside. Eventually it cooled down enough that they could open up the radiator, and she winced at the bright orange water that ran down the cap. She filled it with water, and it filled, and filled, and filled…. And some of it came out the bottom, gushing wet orange and smelling of rust. She waited a while, and started it up again.
It blew smoke and orange water from the tailpipe, coughing and wheezing. Something clunked rhythmically deep inside.
The girl turned it off slowly, her fingers reluctantly pulling the key out. She rested her head on the steering wheel, feeling sad and stupid and lonely.
When the tow truck guy got there, she explained what had happened, and he lifted an eyebrow. He pulled the dipstick and showed her the water in the oil, the bright orange easy to spot in the clean oil. He shook his head, and told her to sell it for whatever she could get at a scrap heap. She nodded; she knew what she had done to her car, and this was only a confirmation.
The day dragged on. The girl arranged for somebody to buy the car for scrap, and took everything out. Her boyfriend did most of it, lifting the heavy stuff and throwing out the trash, moving the sleeping bags and the costuming and the books. She took the Devil Ducky, and the booby pin, and the Strongbad necklace. She took her CDs, and found her missing d20 dice stuffed in a corner. She got the CD player, and all her spinning stuff. She left the yarn holding the steering wheel plate even, and she left the googly eyes. She left the Nanowrimo stickers on the back, and the sticker of the duck-monster. She found a piece of metal and unscrewed the license plate frame, petting the car as she did so. Everything else she put on a blanket and bundled it up, and when the guy got there to buy the car, she didn’t cry.
She signed it away, and took the sad little check he gave her, and hugged the car one last time. It had tried so hard, and she had let it down. Let all her little troubles add up until she had a big one to deal with. And she had to do it without her car, her symbol of responsibility and freedom.
And she took the check and her laundry money and bought a good pair of walking shoes.
Of Ships by Mousewrites is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.