This Baby

He gunned the motor and glanced over at me thinking he looked more like James Dean than he did Burt Reynolds. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. “Let’s see what this baby will do,” he said. There was still some grease on his knuckles, from under the hood where he spent most of his time.

“What baby?” I said, looking around the car. I didn’t see a baby. He scoffed and lit a Camel with his Zippo and clicked it shut like a Shaolin pebble snatch. He dropped it in gear and floored it. As the second stop sign came racing past I raised my finger in point of fact. “We’re not so bad that we can’t die young,” I observed. “What?” he shouted and checked the rear view mirror for cop lights. He was too busy driving for this sort of chit-chat.

Past the city limits the road ahead drew to a point on the horizon. A metallic shudder shimmied through the car’s body as we slipped past the nineties and well into hundreds. The windows down, it was all furious air but with a stubborn silence at the heart of the roaring. The self calming effect of speed as it settles in and grows accustomed to itself. It was like a zone where the urge to cheat death feels as comfortable as a slice of pie.

Death may be hunting you but a fast car and a certain amount of attitude can make the chase a worthwhile distraction from the mundane routine of an hour hand stalking a circle of digits. A young buck’s got better things to do. We spotted a couple of skirts in a convertible at the Dairy Queen and pulled in. Sometimes you have to roll out your own welcome mat. He smiled at them and said, “hello girls.” You don’t have to look like James Dean, so long as you feel like him.

Respectable people call it a misspent youth, but we did our best to keep misspending it well into adulthood. We intended to give retrospect something worth pondering. You could see what was coming and the youthful resistance was naturally slow to come to heel. The first one to get married and wear a tie’s a rotten egg. But you can’t argue with the tides. Better to see your doctor in church than your priest in a hospital.

Seventy years later he disconnected the charger from the self-driving electric transport and said, “let’s see what this baby’s got.” I stowed my walker in the rear hatch and said, “what baby?” I didn’t see a baby. He took a deep breath through the oxygen tube at his nostrils and commanded, “take us to the pharmacy.” An electronic whirring shimmied through the robotic vehicle as it slowed to a halt at the stop sign. We were getting tired by now of cheating death. It was starting to feel the other way around.

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