Garrett’s boozy eyes seemed to
bleed down his cheeks when I admitted I’d wrecked his ‘vette. He cocked his
arm, snarling—then froze, before bolting to the bathroom to spew and groan
We weren’t friends. The tech
school had stuck us randomly in the same dorm room. We barely tolerated each
other. I drove a classless Buick. He had the ‘vette. I tried to study. He lived
to party. Girls seldom looked my way but chased after him. The ‘vette was his
pickup line. He was smooth “city” in sunglasses and expensive clothes. I was
rough “country” trying to escape the heartland.
I’d never have taken his ‘vette
for a drive if it hadn’t been for Sara Parker, a cosmetology student. For a
couple weeks I’d watched her from a distance in the cafeteria. She looked so
fresh and friendly, I just had to risk it: she said yes, she’d go out! After
I’d asked her, I realized that meant driving my classless old Buick.
The night we were to go out,
friends of Garrett picked him up. He never drove his ‘vette when drinking was
in the works.
There on his desk lay his keys,
and just beyond the front door gleamed his cherry red convertible with white
leather seats and 4-on-the-floor.
Sara Parker would never have to
see my shame! If we made it to a second date, I’d be out shopping for a nicer
“He lets me use it. Mine’s in
I’d been in it once during
orientation week, while we tried to decipher who we’d been saddled with. “You
can take it for a spin sometime.” His insincerity showed, even before our rocky
relationship began playing out.
As I jerked through the gears, I
worried she could tell I’d never driven it before. “It’s a little temperamental.”
Handling a car like that, I wanted Sara to feel like my queen, her hair flaring
in the wind as the mile posts flew by.
Out on the open road, I took
that ‘vette up to 80—she raised her arms to the wind. Then 90, 95—her growing
look of alarm slowed me down and we stopped for shakes at Dairy Queen.
Sara Parker actually liked me.
I’m sure she did. When we finally said goodnight, we didn’t kiss, but the touch
of her hand took my breath away.
“Let’s do this again.” Her
words! In that moment, gravity released me.
Garrett wouldn’t return till
well past midnight. I took the ‘vette out again, thinking I’d better add a
little gas. Three blocks from campus, I got rear-ended by a drunken cowboy.
Hat. Boots. Pickup. I’d merely stopped at a light. Not my fault. The cop
Of course, change had to follow:
a different roommate for sure, maybe insurance complications or getting a job
if I got stuck paying for the ‘vette. And I wondered what Sara Parker might
A couple minutes after Garrett’s
bout of puking, he lurched out of the bathroom: “Fucking car thief!” He came at
me with his fists, but he was so drunk, I avoided his blows merely by ducking
and backing away. The scene was almost laughable.
“Garrett, calm down! Let’s just
“Go to hell!” Next, he lunged at
me. I shoved him aside, again not very difficult. Unfortunately, his face
smacked the corner of my desk. He came up oozing blood and wiggling a tooth.
He should’ve quit right there. I
had a good 25 pounds and two inches on him.
“Sit down, alright? I’m sorry,
but it’s just a damned car!”
It was even drivable, though
barely. I’d secreted it in a corner of the dorm lot. What else could I do with
I’d never seen a face turn as
livid as his. The fool pulled out a pocket knife and fumbled with the blade.
I’d seen him drunk before, which usually meant flopping into his bed and
remaining there till noon next day. But a knife?
“C’mon, man, you’re being
ridiculous. Just sit the fuck down...”
Garrett pointed the knife at me,
etching circles in the air as he inched closer. I suppose my face looked worried.
Had his usual bluster hidden a maniac? I glanced nervously about our room,
looking for a means of defense.
Abruptly, he tossed aside his
knife and began laughing insanely, pointing at my face. “You should see...how
you look...oh my god...what a chickenshit!” He almost doubled over, laughing at
me, or maybe he felt like puking again. Whatever the case, I stepped forward
and socked him squarely in the face. Cupping his nose, which also began
trickling blood, he sagged to the floor, just a moaning, ineffectual drunk.
Then I thought of my parents,
who were paying my tuition. I thought of Sara Parker and her blonde hair
whipping in the wind. And I thought of Garrett’s mangled ‘vette, his messed-up
face, and the school’s discipline code. The truth of my situation became clear.
I stepped over Garrett to reach
my closet, jammed full my suitcase and backpack, grabbed the Buick keys, and
Our local feed mill gave me a
job keeping their books. Had I ever really gone off to school? Aside from the
registrar officially kissing me off, I heard nothing from anyone. Insurance,
cops, Garrett, Sara—no one. But the warmth of Sara’s touch never escaped my
hand. Was she still there? Was he?
Almost a year later I drove back
there to find out. Their names were in the student directory. Same dorms, same
rooms! Pity the poor guy who ended up sharing a room with Garrett.
His red ‘vette sat in front of
the dorm, looking good as new.
I had no intention to show
myself. I’d just hang around campus for the weekend, hoping to get a glimpse of
Sara, because...I don’t know, maybe I still had a chance...?
I kept to my car, parked a ways
off in the lot. Finally, late Saturday afternoon, I got lucky. Garrett strode
out his door, got in his ‘vette, drove one dorm down, and honked three times.
Out the door came—holy Hell!—Sara Parker, who hopped with a broad smile into
his ‘vette. She had purple hair.
He backed out of his parking
stall and turned the car in my direction. Sara tossed her purple hair in the
breeze. In his shades, Garrett looked as arrogant as ever. I remembered then
what I hated most about him: his simpering lips.
As he drove nearer, I pulled
forward in my Buick. Seeing who it was, he stopped. I didn’t. Sara glanced
nervously at Garrett, then back at me.
Neither speeding up nor slowing
down, I just steadily approached the shiny grill of his precious ‘vette—like a
knife waved in his face! He shifted abruptly into reverse, tires squealing.
They squealed again as he sped toward another exit and disappeared.
backed around and slowly
headed home, sorry I hadn’t gone on and smashed his ‘vette again, and with it the
nothing-ever-goes-wrong car of mine. Surely that would’ve been the kick in the
ass I need to bust free of this Buick-kind-of-place I’m stuck in.