I get up one morning to find my car is missing from my driveway. I’ve been out of work for about a month now. I am dumbfounded by this. I go out to the driveway and stare at the spot where I parked my car. How could it fail to be here? I call the police. An officer comes by, shakes my hand, and takes my statement. When he leaves he tells me, “Give us a call if it turns up,” which is not particularly encouraging.
The next morning I get a call saying the car has been found. I breathe a sigh of relief. I spent most of the previous day thinking about all the stuff I’d left in the car. There were gadgets, clothing items, and more than a few books. There was also a large cache of cassette tapes, some of which were from obscure bands that are now long out of print. Every time I’d think of a new item left in the car it was like another punch in the gut.
I figure out where the car has been towed, then I call the place and see if I can recover it.
“You want to get your car?” asks the uncertain voice on the other end. He sounds like an old guy.
“Yes!” I say cheerfully. I’m feeling great relief.
“Have you talked to the police about it?”
“Uh… yeah? They said you had my car.”
“I think you need to talk to them about it some more,” he says firmly.
Fine. I call the police again, and ask about the car. They give me the news.
The auto yard is a gravel lot ringed with spent cars in various states of decay. Most of it is hidden from the road behind a curtain of trees. This place is far from town, among the rolling hills and trailer parks that are scattered across the face of western Pennsylvania.
Mom parks her car and I get out, dazed. The cavalier is on the far side of the lot, a blackened metal skeleton. I take a few steps towards it and then stop. There really is no point in getting any closer. The fire has done its work in absolute terms. There is nothing left.
There has been a rash of these sorts of crimes over the past few months. Someone is taking cars for joyrides, which end when they set the victim’s car on fire. I don’t know why. Maybe they do it to destroy evidence. Maybe they enjoy destroying things. Maybe they like fire.
In a few months they catch the culprits. One was an underage kid. The other was an adult. I get some stuff in the mail, letting me know who they are in case I want to take civil action against them. I laugh at the notion of suing a teenager and and a jailbound twenty-something who already have the destruction of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of vehicles on their hands. I throw the paper away without noting the names. It’s done, the bad guys are caught, and thinking about it more will just lead to nurturing an unhealthy grudge.
In the meantime, things are bad. I’m out of work, I’m broke, and I’m fat. A lot of the money I made at the job had been sunk into that car, and the rest has been spent buying a replacement. I’ve gone from (relative) riches to rags in the space of a couple of months. I can’t find a job to replace the one I lost. Sure, I could always go back to fast food, but I wouldn’t make nearly enough to pay the rent. I’d have to move back in with my parents.
|I replaced the Cavalier with a Dodge Daytona. I don’t know why. I didn’t even like it. I just wanted something that didn’t look overly practical.|
Heather is relentless in her support. She brings me food when she visits and gives me money to pay the bills. She’s in a college full of promising young guys. Guys who are thinner than me. Guys who are about to get a degree and begin a career. I’m very suddenly unemployed and broke. She has every incentive to back off and look for a man elsewhere, but instead she seems to be doubling down the bet she’s made on me.
I am suddenly struck with a realization, one which is about four years late in coming: I should marry this girl. I should do it quickly, before she comes to her senses. We’ve been talking about marriage on and off for a while now, but never to the point of making plans or setting dates. Unfortunately, I’m not in much of a position to marry her right now. We talk it over, and agree that we’ll get married as soon as she graduates. She should be nearing graduation now, but her ambitious double-major has pushed that back by half a year.
In the meantime, my cousin is married to a guy who knows a guy who has an interesting job offer for me…
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
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