Category Archives: Automobiles

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Devil # 3

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

Okay, I was going to give this prompt a “miss” and went to the new prompt generator I’ve been using for the past few days.  I hit the button and was served up the two-word prompt: “Ill Devil”.  At first I read this as #3 Devil, and I must admit, I got a chill, because what I immediately thought about when I read the prompt was the third time I was in a near-death situation where I felt totally helpless.  What are the chances, I thought, that these two prompts would line up?  This must be something I’m meant to write about.  But then reason stepped in and I realized this prompt always gave an adjective and a noun.  What they probably meant by the prompt was ill Devil. (Changing the capital to a small “i” clarified the prompt.) But then I realized that ill devil described the occurrence I am trying not to talk about as much as #3 devil did, so I guess, prodded on twice by fate or coincidence or synchronicity, I will try.

I have written to a similar prompt twice in 2015, so probably most of you who read my blog have chanced upon one of those posts, but when I wrote to a similar prompt in June of 2014, I wrote a different piece and since I had few of my present-day readers then, I’ll mention that THIS is what I wrote.  It may not be obvious that the topic given in today’s prompt was what I was really talking about then, however, because it was a poem where I actually stood to one side of what I was really remembering and wrote about the subject as an onlooker rather than a participant.  I only alluded to the real subject, which is what I’m going to attempt to write about today. That real subject is Ted Bundy and how otherwise respectable women sometimes fall prey to such predators.  Okay, deep breath. I’m going to tell to the world something I have actually told to very few people. Yes, this is a true story.

Devil # 3

Nineteen seventy-something. In the bar with friends.
When you are in your twenties, the partying never ends.
It was rodeo season  and the big one was in town.
As one by one they ordered drinks, I couldn’t turn them down.
We were a rather rowdy bunch of teachers in our prime
Devoted in the classroom, but wild on our own time.

The bar was crowded hip to hip, the music barely heard
over the loud cacophony of laugh and shouted word.
It was my turn to buy a round. I struggled towards the bar.
My polite “Excuse me’s!” really hadn’t gotten me too far
when a guy appeared in front of me and moved the crowd aside
as though he had appointed himself to be my guide.

As I returned with eight full drinks, again he stemmed the tide
by walking close in front of  me and spreading elbows wide.
He smiled and then departed, back to the teeming mass.
Impressive that he had not even tried to make a pass!
My friends all wondered who he was. I said I had no clue.
Tall and dark and ivy-league, he vanished from our view.

This story happened long ago. Some details I’ve forgotten,
and any memories he retains, you’ll learn were ill-begotten.
I think we danced a dance or two. I know we talked awhile.
I liked his fine intelligence, his low-key polite style.
At three o’clock the barman’s bell commenced it’s clanging chime
and I made off to find my friends, for it was closing time.

Two lines of men had split the bar, lined up back to back.
Their hands locked and their arms spread wide–they moved into the pack.
One line moved east, the other west, forcing one and all
Either out the front door or towards the back door hall.
I was forced out the back way–out into the alley.
My friends and I had made no plans of where we were to rally

and so I walked around the block, sure that was where they waited,
but there was no one there at all–the crowd had soon abated.
I went back to the alleyway to see if they were there.
but all was dark and still, and soon I began to fear
that both carloads of friends had thought I was with the other.
I had no recourse but to walk, though I prayed for another.

I combed my mind to try to think of anyone at all
living in this part of town where I could go to call
a friend to come and get me and furnish me a ride
for 3 a.m. was not a time to be alone outside.
There were no outside phone booths and I lived so far away
I simply had to rouse someone, but what was I to say?

But since I had no other choice I thought I’d check once more
if any single soul was waiting at the bar’s front door.
And as I left the alley to be off to see,
I saw a new familiar face looking back at me.
It was my dancing partner, his face split in a grin.
It seems that he was going to save me once again.

He had asked me earlier if needed a ride,
but I had told him wisely that I had friends inside
and so I thought he’d left, but I could see he was still there.
Yet, ride home with a stranger?  Did I really dare?
And yet I had no other choice, abandoned as I was.
And so I said I guess that yes, I would, simply because

I knew there was just one of him and I was young and strong.
And he seemed kind, polite and gentle.  What could go so wrong?
His car was just a block away. Our walk was short and brief.
And when he pointed out his car, I felt a great relief.
For it was a convertible–and easy to escape
If I detected the first signs of robbery or rape!

He opened up the door for me. I got in the front seat.
But as he started up the car, my heart skipped a beat.
For from the bushes, two more men emerged and jumped inside–
one man in the backseat, the other at my side!
He pulled out into the street, though I protested so.
I didn’t really want a ride, so please, just let me go!

(And here I have to beg off and say I’ll finish this story tomorrow.  Right now my heart is pumping and my head throbbing as though I’m re-enacting this whole tale physically as well as mentally.  I’m totally exhausted.  Why I decided to write this in rhyme I don’t know. Perhaps I thought it would be easier, or more fun or more lighthearted, but there is simply no way to write this from any other frame of mind but the terror I felt that night. So, sorry, but I will resume tomorrow. You all know that I’m here telling the story, so be assured that the worst didn’t happen…but the story is by no means over, so join me tomorrow for the rest.  I, for one, could really use a drink, but it is only 1:40 in the afternoon so I’ll find some other means of escape.)

To see the conclusion of this poem, go HERE.

If you’d like to try out Jennifer’s new prompt generator, go HERE.

Luddite Confession

The Prompt: Soulful Machines—Machines, appliances, and gadgets sometimes feel like they have their own personalities — from quirky cars to dignified food processors. What’s the most “human” machine you own?

Luddite Confession

Machines are made to serve us, so
life’s easier on us as we go.
They’re with us from our starts to ends,
so some consider them our friends.

Blenders, fryers,
washers, dryers,
curling irons and waffle irons,
fans that cool our environs,
smoke alarms and heating pads,
foot massagers and other fads
are handy, sure, without a doubt,
but really, I could go without.

There’s only one that’s necessary—
only one that I’d be wary
of giving up. For my success,
I must admit and must confess
I don’t think I’d go very far
in life without some sort of car.

It’s not that I hate walking so;
but rather that where’er I go,
I need to take a lot of stuff,
and a mere bag is not enough
for wallet, makeup, brushes, keys,
Kleenex (just in case I sneeze),
a case of CD’s, books and jacket,
sunscreen and badminton racket,

bug repellant, snacks and gum,
a bottle of Bacardi rum,
a first aid kit, my books to sell
(a box in case they sell real well)
bags for shopping because I’m green,
an ice chest, water and sunscreen,
a phone in case somebody calls me.
(I’m ready for whate’er befalls me.)

So now that we are near the end,
I’ll say my car is not my friend.
And I’ll admit to even worse:
my car is just my largest purse!

Hail, Hail

                                                                        Hail, Hail 

My farmer/rancher father’s boots grew older with him, their wrinkles—like the back of his neck—born of weathering: rain, snow, mud and hot Dakota sun. They were so much a part of him that when he died, they were all my pre-teen nephew asked for, and he wore them out the rest of the way, until the soles peeled back and the leather with patina already long worn off, began to crack along the wrinkles and peel off.

Those boots reflected my father’s life, where things wore out. His clothes, his favorite chair—none were replaced for aesthetics or style alone—this practicality motivated neither by penury nor cheapness, but by growing up in a house where “making do” was a necessity.

But as in most things, there was one defining vain compulsion in my father’s life that broke him free from his mold. He loved new cars, as much for the pleasure of making the deal as for the smell of new leather and metal. The car dealers learned to call him when they got a car fully loaded, the way he liked it: automatic windows, power steering, power brakes, seats that tilted and slid back and forth and up and down by the touch of a switch. Whatever automatic feature was new that year, my father was up for it—big cars with fins, when they were in style, of every color.

The car salesmen would wait until the wheat crop had been harvested and then make the call, driving the car for sixty miles over the prairie to bring it to him for his perusal, like a new bride brought to a shah. They knew him well, and so when the bargaining began, they would accept his peccadillos. It was not the price he quibbled over, but rather the trade-in. “Well, I’ve got a combine that I need to trade in.” Once, three horses. And they learned this joy of trading was often what sealed the deal.

Later, when my sister married, her husband claimed my dad traded in his cars whenever they needed washing, but this was not true. Three years was a car’s usual shelf life, before he’d hand it down to whichever daughter of driving age needed a car the most. Packards and Cadillacs and Pontiacs were his choices of brands. For some reason, he reviled Fords. So that July of my thirteenth year, when the salesman brought the bright green Oldsmobile for my dad to view, we were sure this was the car he would turn down. My mother was not sure about the color and my dad was not sure about buying an Oldsmobile. He had no real reason. It was just a brand he’d never considered before, but it had all the bells and whistles. I think it was the first year that cruise control was offered, so it possessed that allure of new technology. And so it was that the car made it past any first inhibitions on both my mother’s and father’s parts and when the salesman drove away, it was in our “old” Cadillac and the shining green Oldsmobile became the new resident of our garage.

My oldest sister was married and gone, my middle sister seventeen—a year past legal driving age. Summer camp in the Black Hills was nearly 200 miles away, but over easily-navigated straight roads through bare prairie, the wheat having been cut early that year. So it was that my mom, worn pliable from 20 years of driving daughters hundreds of miles to doctor appointments and eye appointments and ball games and church rallies and singing contests and summer camps, decided my sister could drive me to camp that year.

My sister Patti and her best friend Patty Peck piled into the bench front seat. My best friend and I piled into the back. The trunk was full of two weeks worth of camping clothes. The pleasures of riding in a brand new car, just one week removed from its purchase, equaled the thrill of being off on our own. We rolled down the windows, stuck out our arms and let the hot July air stream through our fingers, stopped at Wall Drug for milkshakes, sang at the top of our lungs, and when our bare legs started sticking to the vinyl seats, closed the windows and enjoyed the air conditioning.

Three hours later, the black outlines of the hills that were our destination grew close enough to define the ponderosa pines that gave them their name. We cruised past Rockerville Ghost Town—a tourist trap where my oldest sister had worked a few years before—and turned off into Coon Hollow. My sister steered the car carefully over the dirt roads, fearing chipped paint or a chipped window from the occasional rock in our path. “Take Me Back to the Black Hills” we crooned, as we always did when we approached our favorite vacation spot. We rolled down windows once again to enjoy the scent of ponderosas and to hear the gurgling of the water as it rushed down the small river that paralleled the course of the dirt road that led back to the campsite.

“Black Hills Methodist Camp” read the sign. We stopped to take a picture before veering off onto the divided dirt road, and we had just caught site of the large log cabin that served as the mess hall when the first loud “Whump!” occurred. Then another and another and another. Terrified, my sister steered the car off into the trees as the hail grew larger and larger. We were facing the creek, which had grown wild with the churning of the hailstones hitting the water. They grew rapidly from quarter-sized to golf ball-sized to baseball-sized. The front window began to shatter. When one large hailstone seemed to pierce the roof of the car and land in my lap, I was out of my seat and over the back of the front seat onto the seat between the two Pattys before I could even think about it. As I remember it, I somehow managed this shift in position without ever removing my seat belt, but this, perhaps, is an exaggeration that occurred more in memory than in actuality. My friend, still in the back seat, held up the white ceiling light cover that had popped off when a huge hailstone had hit directly on top of it—showing that the rooftop was still unbreached

The entire hailstorm probably occurred over no more than a ten-minute period, but at the end of it, the stream in front of us was completely white with floating hailstones and the ground was covered. We climbed from the car, pushing through the hailstones in a shuffling motion to avoid slipping and falling on the huge balls of ice. The front windshield was completed marbled, every inch of our shining new car dimpled with deep depressions that equaled our own depression over what was going to happen when our mom and dad saw their brand new car! We were teenagers all and accustomed to that guilt that arose from a whole string of iniquities: dropping our mom’s favorite crystal bowl, staying out an hour past curfew, eating the last piece of pie. My sister backed the car out of the little turnoff she’d turned into hoping for some scant shelter from the hail and drove me and my friend the rest of the way to the registration in the mess hall, then she and her friend drove away. On the way home, they encountered a plague of grasshoppers that coated the windshield and they had to use bottles of Squirt to dissolve them from where they had become embedded into the marbled windshield; so this stickiness, dried in puddles on the hood of the car, added to the total devastation that greeted my dad’s eyes when his new “baby” was returned to him.

The feared recriminations never occurred. “Accidents happen. It wasn’t your fault,” said my dad. “I never really liked that color of green anyway,” said my mom. When my folks came to pick me up at camp, it was in a brand new rose-colored Pontiac Bonneville with a cream-colored top—the most beautiful car we ever owned. We met with no disasters on the way home, and four years later, it was the car I drove off to college six hundred miles away. My parents’ newest brand new car was a beige Buick that possessed none of the charm of the car now relegated to me, but did possess several new electronic features that I’m sure, for my dad, compensated completely.

The Prompt: You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hail starts descending form the sky. Write a post about what happens next.

Poetry by Prescription: Goodbye Old Paint

Old friend, new friend.

Goodbye Old Paint

What have you eaten that we have forgotten?
What lost earring resides
in the deepest recesses of your front seat?
What coins shaken and pushed into your crevasses?
And do you remember the song made up on the spot
and sung just once, then left forgotten in Nevada?
Do you still carry the dust of Tonopah
or that yearning to actually see something extraterrestrial
on the Extraterrestrial Highway?
Do you carry shards of his boredom while driving
mile after mile of Utah beauty?
Do you still carry my expectations of sharing
the giant faces of Rushmore
and echoes of the fact that he expected more?

What of molecules of the Mississippi crossing
or dreams of the memories of Hannibal?
What sweat from those Mississippi hours
waiting outside the B.B. King Museum?

Salt grains and chocolate crumbs
and DNA of those few souls who rode along in you—
all parked in a parking lot waiting to be bought
by someone who will never know the hidden you.
Just like the rest of the world,
frequented by interlopers.
Only we, leaving you, will murmur “Goodbye Old Paint”
and know that although you neither hear nor answer,
somehow our past is locked up inside of you
and there a part of us will stay
while we depart without it.

The prompt today was by Forgottenman, who wanted me to memorialize his faithful automobile companion, Old Paint (pictured here to his right). To his left is his new love, Soul Red.  To see his prompt, go to his blog here.

NaPoWriMo Day 12: Love on the Fast Track

Love on the Fast Track

Love is a vehicle
powered by internal combustion
and able to carry only
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Today’s prompt was to pick both a common concrete noun and a noun for something intangible, then to Google the tangible noun to find some sentences using it and to replace that tangible noun in those sentences with the intangible noun, then to use those sentences to create (or inspire) a poem. My least favorite prompt ever. This was the result. Now, check out this video: