We did all sorts of writing: poetic forms, free verse, one syllable stories, one sentence stories, prompt-driven short stories and free topic short stories. "Samsara", the first fantasy story I ever wrote seriously, came from this class.
So did the following story, "The Blur, Pinky, and Me". It was inspired by a prompt of "Write a story about a car", so I wrote about the junker cars my college roomie and I owned. It ended up being accepted for the ARC's award-winning literary journal, the American River Literary Review. I got to read it out loud at the publication party. It remains my only published story (so far). Enjoy!
The Blur, Pinky and Me
by Jeff Soesbe
I bought The Blur from Nick for fifty bucks.
Given that Nick himself had bought The Blur for fifty bucks two years before that, you might think I was ripped off.
But Nick had made improvements in those two years. The green paint, once peeling off in magazine-sized flakes, was either gone or securely attached to the car with clear masking tape. The splits in the back seat were now covered by a thin Mexican blanket he'd bought in Tijuana and tossed in for free. Nick had also added a radio, purchased at a garage sale, and speakers which he'd taken out of an old boombox. The cassette player didn't work any more and the radio only received AM, but it was still music. Also, as Nick said, when he purchased The Blur he got a good deal.
I was going to be living off campus and I needed a car, so I bought The Blur, giving Nick two twenties, a five, a couple ones, and enough change to make fifty dollars. That evening, I drove it back to my new apartment and parked it in my assigned spot, beginning my relationship with The Blur.
The Blur and I developed an agreement - I wouldn't abuse it with poor ownership and it wouldn't break down on me. I drove the Blur to and from school on city streets, always in the right hand lane, always less than thirty miles per hour. I changed the oil, kept the fluids up and parked in the shade of trees.
In return, The Blur ran faithfully, starting up for me in the morning, ready to head back in the evenings. The Blur and I were settled and content. Until Pinky came to town.
Pinky was a car Bert, my roommate, bought. He was getting tired of riding his bicycle back and forth to school and with winter coming, wasn't looking forward to the cold and rain. He went looking for a cheap car and found Pinky.
Pinky was a red Toyota on which the paint had faded to a pinkish shade, thus the name. Bert bought her from a graduate student who was moving back to a foreign country, a fact that perhaps should have made Bert suspicious. Bert paid five hundred dollars for Pinky, ten times what I paid for The Blur, but Pinky had an FM radio and a heater so perhaps she was indeed worth more.
A rivalry quickly developed between Bert and me over our cars. At parties, we would boast to our friends: "The Blur can kick Pinky's ass!" or "Pinky would leave The Blur in her dust." Eventually, the time came when the boasts had to be backed up.
One winter night, after drinking margaritas at Compadres, we raced back to the apartment. On El Camino Avenue we reached speeds unheard of for Pinky or The Blur, speeds approaching forty-five miles an hour. We gunned the accelerators at stop lights, honked the horns on the straightaways, and squealed the tires around corners. The cars tilted and our bodies twisted as the g-forces of fifteen mile-per-hour turns shoved us into the doors. The race ended up too close to call, so we had to do it again.
Week after week, we would race back from a weekend party site, tearing through town, taking up two lanes so any other cars on the road had to pass us on the far left.
We'd get back to the apartment complex and ease Pinky and The Blur into their adjoining parking spots along our building. Their windows would be fogged from the heat of the race, their hoods would be sweating from the speed, their automotive joints would be clicking and groaning as they tried to relax from the stress.
The following mornings, The Blur would whine and bang as he tried to turn his tired, worn-out engine. He would squeal and creak as I nudged him through traffic towards campus, even at his slowest speeds.
It was one of the mornings after a race that we began to suspect that Pinky and The Blur were in love.
During the night The Blur's parking brake had loosened and he was able to nudge forward, approaching Pinky. We thought it just a chance occurrence, due to the slope of the parking lot, and vowed to set the parking brake tighter the next time. But mornings after races, The Blur's brake would have released again and he would have moved agonizingly close to Pinky.
At last, one morning, we found them touching. Both The Blur and Pinky had moved in the night and now their bumpers rested against one another. The windows were still fogged and we wondered what secret words of passion had passed in the night, bumper to bumper, chrome on chrome.
The races started taking on a different feel as well. The Blur and Pinky would loudly voice their affections to one another in the heat of the race. Pinky's high-pitched eeeeeee squeal of her fan belt would join with The Blur's bang-bang-bang of his mis-firing piston and rise into the night air above El Camino Avenue.
They also each began to try to lose the weekly race. Where the cars had once sped forward to take the lead without a second glance, now each seemed to want the other to win. The Blur would move ahead then slow down as he fell into a lower gear. Pinky would burst in front only to suddenly die when rounding a quick turn. Sometimes, the race would end early due to one car stopping completely. We would gently coax the cars home where they would just make to their parking spaces before slumping down on their springs, worn and exhausted.
Eventually, the races took their toll, and it was Pinky who gave out first. One morning, Bert found that Pinky's U-joint had broken during the night. She sat there, listing to one side, wheel tilted at an improbable angle towards the sky. On that morning, The Blur had moved away, startled at the sudden collapse of Pinky, not knowing what he could do.
Bert spent the next few days working on Pinky, her wheels up on blocks, her parts everywhere. It must have been horrifying for The Blur to have to watch as Pinky was taken apart, piece by piece, in an attempt to save her life.
Bert was able to get Pinky running again but she was never the same. The races stopped, and many mornings Pinky wasn't able to leave her parking space at all. The Blur would move with regret, slowly rolling out of the lot, lingering in the driveway and the street. He was hoping for a glance of Pinky in the rearview mirror, following close behind, revving for another mad dash down El Camino. But Pinky never came.
Finally, Pinky would run no more. Bert and I pushed Pinky out into the street, called the car donation company, and waited. When the tow truck came and Pinky was attached to the hoist, pulled up, and hauled away, The Blur sagged visibly on his shocks, his life dripping away into a giant green pool under the engine.
After that day, The Blur faded quickly. I tried to lift his spirits. I put fresh oil in the car but The Blur spat it out all over the engine block. New radiator fluid ended up spilt in tears overnight.
I even tried having sex in The Blur, stopping in a golf course parking lot at midnight with a woman I had met at a party. The windows briefly steamed over but quickly cleared up and both The Blur and I were left unfulfilled by the rendezvous.
The Blur became less and less reliable. I would have to catch a ride to school or stay late in the coffee house until someone could come and rescue me, due to The Blur's unwillingness to start or run.
I acquired a motorcycle and began riding it to school while the Blur slumped more and more onto his tires. As a final insult, someone stole the tape deck, the garage sale tape deck, destroying The Blur's dashboard wiring in the process.
Finally, I decided to get a pickup truck. Now I no longer needed The Blur, only his parking space. I pushed him out into the street, into the same spot where Pinky had spent her last days, and forgot about him. Two parking tickets later, I decided it was time to get rid of The Blur.
I called the car donation company and the next day stood by The Blur, waiting for the tow truck. I though of the great races we had had, of the fun the Blur and I had experienced, of how joyful The Blur must have been when his great rivalry turned into love.
The tow truck came, The Blur was lifted into the air and I gave the driver the papers. I watched as The Blur was pulled away into the distance and into my memories.
Occasionally, I wonder what happened to The Blur. I'll catch myself hoping that he was somehow resurrected. A new engine, new tires, and now he serves a family that had never owned a car before. Children bounce and laugh in the back seat as a brand new radio plays FM music with a salsa beat. But I know that this is a feeble wish.
More likely, The Blur was stripped for whatever parts might have been serviceable, then taken to a junkyard and left to rot. Now The Blur spends his days in dreams, in the world of the Old Car Afterlife.
In this world, cars are clean and polished and they gleam like rockets as they race in the sun, engines screaming with power, car sweat flying off in rivers.
In this world, at night, cars cluster close together in crowded parking spaces. Windows fog under star-studded skies as whispered secrets pass, bumper to bumper, chrome on chrome.
In this world, Pinky and The Blur are reunited, and their love resounds in the pings and groans of leaf springs and bench seats forever.
# # # END # # #