By: Steven Anderson
Dex paid a man 300 dollars for a ‘72 Dodge Dart.
He had worked all summer at Benner’s Sawmill shoving wood scraps into a chipper to save up the money. Dex figured he had a year to get it ready before he was legal to drive at sixteen. Nick, his older brother, had towed it home using a log chain wrapped around his car’s bumper to where it now sat under a shade tree in their backyard.
“Looks like it’s gonna fit,” Nick said as he stared down into the empty hole under the hood where the new engine would go. He took a swig of beer and swatted at a fly that buzzed his forehead. “It’s gonna need some bodywork,” he added, and leaned back to look at the rust that covered the back quarter panel.
“I picked up some Cragars from Skitter. Got ‘em for twenty-five dollars apiece,” Dex said, and grinned as he imagined how the chrome rims would look on his new ride.
“Yeah, well, first you gotta get it running,” Nick said then spat and tossed his empty next to the tree’s trunk where a log chain and tackle lay piled up, ready to be hoisted over a limb. Nick said he needed another beer and walked off, leaving Dex alone with his car.
Dex had dreamed of this day ever since he was six years old and had watched the Daytona 500 from the couch with his older brother. The brightly painted cars that raced around the track were exciting to his young-boy eyes and when Richard Petty’s red-and-blue Plymouth number 43 car won, Dex was hooked. He wanted a car.
The reasons changed over the years, but the dream remained. At first it was to go fast, but as Dex got older he began to notice how owning your own car could increase your mobility, and that meant freedom. And now the latest reason, and probably the most important, was to get girls. Dex imagined his car would be like a bedroom on wheels and he looked forward to the parade of girls who would soon be going through it.
“Hey, hey you got it,” came a twangy voice from over Dex’s shoulder. It was Smacker, the guy who lived down the alley and who’d once been locked up for fighting because he “didn’t take any shit.”
“Yeah, man, gettin’ an engine for it from Tipple’s Junkyard this weekend.”
“Oh boy… You gonna get some poon-tang now!”
“That’s the plan.”
Smacker knew the importance of having your own wheels. He was a long-distance truck driver and shared back alley stories about his encounters with the ladies who worked the truck stops. He also had these raunchy comic books that he kept in the cab of his semi. They showed Popeye and Olive Oyl in them, but they were naked, and when Popeye ate spinach his dick got as huge as his arm and Olive Oyl would say, “Ohhhh Popeye!”
“Is your brother around?” Smacker asked as he leaned on the car’s fender, looking down into the empty engine well.
“Went to get another beer. Should be back any minute.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t stay. Tell him to stop by when he gets a minute. I got a job for him.”
“Alright.” Dex looked over at the new tattoo of a snake wrapped around a pinup girl’s leg on Smacker’s arm. “Hey man, would you buy me some beer tonight?”
“Why don’t you git your brother to git it?”
“He got caught buying for Cindy Hanks. Carryout put him on a two-week probation and he don’t wanna drive over to New Straitsville tonight.”
“Su-pose I could,” said Smacker, and rubbed his chin as though he was thinking about something while he looked up the alley toward his trailer. “Tell you what…I gotta get this thing taken care of. You help me out and I’ll git yer beer for ya.”
“What is it?” Dex asked. The last time he helped Smacker with a “thing” he got covered in cow shit. Smacker’s rig had a cattle car buckled on with cows two days on pasture when the trailer had gotten a flat tire at the edge of town. Dex had slipped the J-bar in place to start raising the parking jack when the vibrations from the crank set the cows off. The trailer’s sidewall board slats did little to keep the flying cow feces from escaping the portable pen. It was literally a shit storm and all Smacker said when it was over was, “Yeah, they get like that when they first git on grass.”
The two walked down the alley toward Smacker’s trailer while the neighbor’s dogs barked and pulled at the end of their chains. Dex could see little heat waves rising off Smacker’s flat roof that made the hillside behind it move and look blurry. The sun was straight overhead and the hair on the top of Dex’s scalp was getting hot.
They plodded up the cinder block steps and Smacker pushed in the door.
Steve Anderson was raised in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio. After earning his degree in computer science from the Ohio State University, he later moved to Columbus, where he now resides. A musician and indie filmmaker in his part-time, he has written, directed and produced several short feature films that have shown in local movie theatres. He returns frequently to the hills and valleys surrounding his hometown in southern Ohio where he spends hours biking or sitting and listening to old man gossip in his father’s barbershop.