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Darrell Petska
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From a Buick-Kind-Of-Place

 

Darrell Petska

 

 

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 pathetically.

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 car.

“He lets me use it. Mine’s in the shop.”

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 agreed.

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 think.

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 talk.”

“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 it?

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 drove away.

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.

I 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.



Darrell Petska is a writer from Madison, Wisconsin. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Frontier, Bird's Thumb, Right Hand Pointing, Boston Literary Magazine, Potato Soup Journal, and Loch Raven Review. See his published work at conservancies.wordpress.com.

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