I steal my brothers 1962 Chevrolet Impala (Indeed the same car I replace with a Green Rambler--another family car--in the story and song of that title) and set it on fire in a parking lot under the Throng Neck Bridge in Queens. The circumstances are dire and while I know that I'm breaking the law--if not my brothers heart--and destroying a thing of beauty, I'm driven and I think I'm doing the right thing. An excellent thing, in fact. As I drive off in the back seat of my friends Trans-Am, a1981 Datona 500 pace car, I look back at the culmination of my brothers big dream, now burning orange green and blue in the forefront of the Throgs Neck Bridge and I KNOW that I've gone too far. That I will never live this down. That although I've temporarily solved one problem, I've created a steeplechase of others that will
haunt me. Taunt me. Punish me. But it's too late now.
I'm working at 7 am. I'm in the kitchen and stressed out about--among other
things--the condition of our overheating 1886 Plymouth Voyager which has over 160,000 miles, a slipping transmission, a quart a day oil leak and a curse. Toothless Jeff was going to fix it today but when I drove the smoking beast past his makeshift shop in the automotive repair shanty-town by the oil refinery in Oceanside at our agreed upon time this morning, he was not there. He'd never struck me as the most reliable, but has done good for us until now and the price was always right. He'd assured me that it would be fixed
today but now I'm sick again with that very particular kind of sick that my mind and body reserve just for car issues...the nausea that takes over every cell in my body when the engine light goes on or a new grinding sound appears under the hood because I know that I don't have the money to get it fixed and that there is foolishness and abuse inherent in the non-fixing and the associated shame and helpless resignation.
Jenn says "Seth! The cars on FIRE!". I run to the front of the store and see
black smoke rising from under the car and flames dancing around the front tires. Cars driven by good samaritans veer into the parking lot--en route to their respective jobs--stop, grab their fire extinguishers and begin to do what they can. Contractor types, mostly. The fire truck pulls over the curb and the work continues as one by one the tires explode from the heat. I lose dozens of books, cassettes, a treasured pair of baggy courds, a platform bed
I'd built in the rear for the half year trek across country we recently returned
from, and the car. Covered in soot but surviving are a speaker stand and a microphone stand.
I'm usually the one calming Jenn down in stressful moments, but I feel
completely ashamed and brutalized and begin to cry.
She starts to laugh.
My car burns.
Orange, green and blue.
She asks if I can't see the humor in the situation and puts her soft hands on my soggy cheeks.
No. I'm afraid I can't.