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The Admired Car

by steve - 2001-03-26 ( culture / writing / stories / fiction )

by Steve, from 2001

"Beep, beep, blink, blink!" How the car, George wished she could honk her horn and flash her lights.

A car with a name? Yes, she knew her name was George because she heard one of her creators say it, "By George, she's a beauty."

It was a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1925. Cars had been around for more than a quarter century. They came in any color you wanted, as long as you wanted black. Yet, despite that quirk, there was a greater variety of companies then than there are now.

Behind a large glass window in a store in the middle of Main Street, was the showroom for one of those cars, Studebaker. On the floor of that showroom, with her headlights aimed to the street, George was the first example of the new coupe.

She had the best features for a car priced at $______ with a true hard top and four-wheel brakes. That wasn't surprising for a Studebaker. Studebakers had a long history, going back to the days of building wagons in the 1850s. It also had a reputation for being innovative, being one of the first to have ___________.

People walking down the sidewalk would look in to see her. She tried to bounce some sun rays off her chrome grill or bumper and loved it when it made people point at her and smile. Some people would even enter the showroom for a closer look, kick her tires, rub her mohair upholstery, and maybe even sit behind her steering wheel. Still, $____ was a lot for a car when a house could be bought for $___.

George appreciated having the salesman wipe her down and buff her chrome each day. She knew that, somewhere, there was the right person who would burst through the front doors, throw the required $___ at the salesman, and be in such a hurry to drive her that he'd want to drive right through the plate glass window.

The sun set on Sunday and rose on Monday. A family came in at noon, walked right past her to the long sedan, and fell in love. They were soon backing it out the rear door with seven smiles looking out seven windows. The sun set on that day, as well as Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

It was Saturday morning and another weekend. Was it already time to open the doors? The gray clouds outside, hiding the sun's rays made it seem early still. George felt depressed because it wasn't the kind of day for people to stroll by. The moisture in the air even made the mohair fabric on her seats tighten, squeezing the cotton stuffing beneath. Still, she kept her wire wheel spokes crossed, hoping for a miracle.

The salesman started her up and ran her engine for a few minutes to keep the battery charged, as usual. The motor's heat helped warm up the rest of her, needed because the showroom had no heater. As the motor oil slowly settled back down to the crankcase, the room's cold air gradually siphoned off the warmth, degree by degree.

"Bang!" There was a loud noise out on the street.

Peering out the sides of her headlights, George saw a coupe come to an abrupt stop. "Bang!" it backfired again.

Out of the two front doors hopped two young men. With smiles on their clean-haven faces, they raced to be the first one to the showroom door. One of them opened the door, pointed right at her, and said, "There she is, the new Studebaker car, just like I told you."

"Is it as good as they say it is?" the second fellow asked.

"Come on, Jim. Fred, the mechanic says they're so reliable that he's never had anyone bring one in to be fixed."

"All right, Randy. But is it fast? You know I want a fast car."

"Well, it's no Stutz, but it doesn't cost that much, either."

George was excited, wishing that her carburetor could suck up some gas and create a roar.

With a skeptical eye, Jim walked around George, rubbing his chin as he walked. He turned the chrome right-side hood lever, lifted that side of the hood, and gave the engine a look. It was a ___-cylinder ____.

"Crank her up," the salesman told him.

"Okay," Jim said. Moving to the front of the car, he grabbed the crank at the bottom of the radiator grill.

"You need to ...", the salesman started to say.

Jim gave the crank a big yank, causing George to leap forward at him and the glass window beyond.

"I really didn't want him to drive me through the glass," George thought.

"... put the transmission in neutral," the salesman finished saying.

George was worried. She had almost killed the one who might have bought her. Of course, she didn't mean to and it wasn't her fault. She felt as glum as if her chrome were caked with black grease.

"Forgot your brains?" Randy yelled at Jim, smiling.

Jim laughed, making George feel relieved. But if Jim were that inexperienced with cars, would he make a good owner? Would he know enough to keep the engine oil and other fluid levels up? Could he fix a flat tire? Did he have any knowledge about tuning an engine? Sure it would be nice to go home with an owner soon, but maybe it was better to wait for a more mature owner.

"I'll take it," Jim stated.

"You'll take it?" Randy asked.

"You'll take it?" the salesman asked.

"You'll take me?" George wondered.

"Yes," Jim replied. He pulled out a silver money clip, filled with greenbacks.

The salesman led the two fellows to the office and the deal was consummated. It was George's turn to exit through the large rear showroom doors, slowly driven by Jim with Randy as passenger. She came back around to Main Street and stopped. The road was clear of traffic, so Jim let out the clutch. It was a little too fast and caused George to jump forward.

Randy laughed. Jim laughed, too, and turned right, onto Main Street. He slowly stepped on the gas to make George accelerate. Past the wheelbarrows in front of the hardware store on the left and past the Rx sign at the pharmacy on the right, George's engine purred.

"Give her some gas and get in second gear," Randy said.

Jim pressed the accelerator closer to the floorboard with his right foot. George's speedometer needle raised to fifteen miles per hour. Jim pressed the clutch pedal with his left foot, let up on the gas pedal, and reached to the gearshift knob. The stick-shift was pushed into neutral gear position and then pushed further toward second-gear position.

"Clatter," the transmission went.

Oh, that grounding of gears hurt!

"You gotta push the clutch down farther," Randy told him.

Jim pushed the clutch farther and shoved the stick-shift knob to get into second gear. He let up on the clutch and pushed back on the gas pedal.

Down the street they continued. Past the granite Merchants Bank and past the red and white pole of the barber's shop, they left the business district. The branches of elm trees, sprouting with new light green leaves, draped over the street.

"Hey, Mrs. Willoughby," Randy shouted at a short, gray-haired woman, wearing a royal blue dress and matching hat.

She smiled and gave a little wave.

Jim put George in third gear, doing a better job with the clutch, and they continued on down Main Street. Past the little brick houses, Jim accelerated to fifty miles per hour. The wind whipped through George's wire spoke wheels, exciting George. Fifty was rather fast, though. She was new and her engine wasn't worn in yet. Her piston rings had some extra friction as they slid on the cylinder walls. Still, Jim was happy, honking George's horn at farmers, cows, or whatever else might react.

As George's fuel level had dropped with the consumption of about a gallon's worth of gas, Jim slowed to pull in front of the Studebaker dealership to drop off Randy.

"Time to head home to show my parents," Jim said.

Home? That sounded so nice. She wondered if her room might be as spacious as the showroom.

Jim pulled up to the curb of a little brick house. He hopped out, slammed the door shut, and bounded into the house.

Was that it? Was she to be left on the street? She wouldn't even have a small garage to spend nights in? Other cars parked on the street seemed to indicate that she would be doing just that, like the rest.

Jim soon came out of the house, leading a gray-haired old couple who was likely his parents. "Here she is, Dad, a Studebaker. Do you want to sit inside on the mohair seats, Mom? They're real soft."

"I hope you take better care of it than your friend, Randy, does," Mom told him.

"Don't be thinking you're a race car driver, like him, too," Dad warned.

Uh-oh. Those words worried George.

Jim seemed proud of his Studebaker. He drove it to the factory each weekday, to the pharmacy for an ice cream on Saturday, and to church on Sunday, honking the horn and waving to show it off to people. George enjoyed seeing the other cars look her way, in admiration, too.

One day, Jim met up with some other young men who also had cars and weren't impressed with his Studebaker. "How fast is it?" one of the fellows asked.

"Fast enough," Jim answered.

"Oh, yeah? Let's see how fast it is? Let's race!"

Jim stood silently, put his hand to his chin, rubbing it, and seemed to be pondering the question.

George looked at the other car, a sedan. His name was Lincoln. His engine probably had three times as much power as hers. His large, fat tires could absorb most any bump in the road.

"When and where?" Jim replied.

With the drop of a handkerchief, the two cars' engines roared. Well, Lincoln's roared. George tried to roar, but hiccuped as Jim mashed the gas pedal to the floor, almost drowning her cylinders with gas. She recovered and began the chase. While Lincoln laughed at the bumps, each one made George whimper. Lincoln won, looking all clean and shiny. George coughed and wheezed from breathing the dust that covered her.

Her feelings didn't hurt from the loss, but Jim didn't look pleased. If only he knew how much she hurt.

"Next time, let's race the river road," Jim challenged Lincoln's owner with a smile.

Not winning didn't seem to bother him. He just raced and raced, hooting and hollering all the time, every time.

George started to squeak. The squeaks turned to rattles. And the rattles turned to clunks. She felt old and was embarrassed about it.

When more jostling made her parts shift, her hood didn't close so well any more. After one race when the hood flew open, Jim yanked it off and threw it on a scrap pile behind his house. Though that didn't hurt physically, the fact that he cared less about her looks might be a sign that he was caring less about her, in general.

During the next race, a bump dislodged the branch. It hit the oil line going to the oil gauge. George could feel her oil pressure drop and the engine temperature rise. The lack of lubrication made her rods clatter. It must not have been loud enough for Jim to hear because he didn't stop to fix the problem.

She wasn't sure what hurt more, the engine wear or that Jim didn't stop it. Sure he gave her more oil and plugged the leak, but he didn't fix it, and he kept racing her in that condition. Losing races wasn't new, but George was embarrassed when she was so far behind that the dust from the other car had settled by the time she finished.

One day, Jim took George for a drive that seemed different. He was in no rush, driving much slower than usual. Then when he turned off on a road, it was one that only went into a field.

George's engine was turned off. When he got out, he didn't even bother to take out the keys. He just walked off. She didn't now what to make of it.

He didn't return that night. He didn't return the next day. The pain of racing was over and that was good, but she was seemingly left for dead. It was sad if that truly was the end of her short life.

Other cars, both older and newer, saw George in the pasture and laughed at her or ridiculed her. Even her tires went flat, making her feel like a cripple. She just wanted to hide. Dying fast, in an accident, would have been less painful.

Days passed, then years. As she sat in the field, more and more of her fellow cars disappeared from the roads. Now and then she saw them flattened and being hauled off on trucks to be recycled. Maybe they were better to have their engines crushed, their lights smashed, and they couldn't think about or see their predicament.

The years went by and a bird, eating a rose hip, dropped some of the seeds on George. The seeds sprouted and started to grow. The vine started growing up over her, sprouting branches in all directions. Creeping over her fenders, climbing atop her hood and roof, the vines turned her into a mound of flowers. She felt like she was to become a big flowerpot.

Many years later, when almost none of her fellow old cars were left, a young guy found her in the field. The guy was very excited at his find, judging by his wide-open eyes and dropped jaw. He rushed off and soon brought his parents out to see his find.

George was very excited, wishing she could bounce some sun rays off her chrome, but it had been overtaken by rust.

"What do you want with a pile of rust, Steve?" his mother asked.

"We don't want a worthless rusting pile of metal around our house," his father told him. As they left, Steve looked back at her, but George didn't have much hope.

It took a while, but Steve returned with a trailer. George was hauled home and put in a shed, but Steve stared at her with a puzzled look as if he wasn't sure what to do with her. George was quite pleased to be out of the elements, under the care of a human again.

Friends of Steve came by, saw George's deplorable condition, and laughed at both Steve and George. Such laughter at her wasn't new for George, but it still hurt her feelings. It reminded George of how she was laughed at so many years earlier, out in the field. Then she noticed that Steve seemed to have his feelings hurt, too.

Why? Sure she had feelings. She grew quite fond of Jim. But she was just a machine. People liked machines because they were useful. Machines were expected to give their lives for their owners. But Jim never seemed to really care about her.

George sat in the shed for a year. It was only rarely that she saw Steve. He would look at her, always saying, "Nobody's going to haul you off to be recycled." That was reassuring, but being outside in the sun with the birds able to visit her was a better life. Maybe he didn't care for her too much after all.

One day, Steve was wearing bib overalls like the ones that Fred, the mechanic, wore. At first, George thought Steve was going to fix her. Instead, day after day he left for work in clean overalls and returned with them filled with grease, likely from other cars.

"Another engine to rebuild finished today. A major ignition problem to solve tomorrow. It sure is nice to get so much experience," Steve said. He then walked out.

She sure could use a rebuild of her engine and her ignition system was totally rotten. Why did he work on other cars instead of her? She would rather not know what she was missing than to be reminded of it.

Then one day, George was put on a trailer. She recalled her fellow cars on trailers, squished and on their way to be recycled. She figured her time was up. Steve must have been too busy to fix her. She might come back to life as a toaster or something, but making bread turn brown didn't compare to traveling on one's own four wheels.

The trailer was pulled to a body shop and George was unloaded. Steve put penetrating oil on George's bolts. He then stood in front of her, hand to his chin, seemingly pondering something.

"I really should give you a name," he said.

A name? She had a name. Her creator gave it to her. She had it for over half a century. You don't change your name after that long. Who did he think he was?

The garage door was shut without him renaming her. As time passed George thought about herself being renamed. For the first few days, she was steadfast against the idea. Just as the penetrating oil seeped further into the cracks in a few days, she admitted that her situation was sort of like that of being adopted. Adopted children had their names changed to match their parents' name.

By the end of the week, George also admitted that "George" wasn't very feminine. But then again, she was more of a Tom-boy. She was a former racer and had the scars to prove how tough she was. After two weeks in the dark, contemplating having her name changed, she had softened her stance, much the way the penetrating oil had loosened her nuts and bolts.

The garage door was opened again. It was bright out and definitely the start of a new dawn.

"Daisy. That's what I'm going to call you," Steve announced.

Daisy?. That sure sounded feminine. But since she didn't have choice about accepting her first name, she guessed she would accept that new one, too. Daisies did come in many pretty colors. She hoped he would paint her a color to match her name. I never cared to for being painted black.

Steve started working on her and kept working all day, pulling parts off her and setting them to the side. Sometimes it hurt when stubborn bolts wouldn't budge and occasionally one of them would snap off, giving Daisy a sharp pain, but she knew it was for her benefit, so she endured it.

At the end of the day, her engine was pulled out. That made her feel light-headed. It was put in the back of a truck to be taken away.

The next day, a funny-looking machine was brought into the shop. Along with it were big bags that must have been heavy from the way Steve had a hard time moving them. Steve started the machine, creating a loud noise. Vibrations went through the shed floor and on through the rubber of her flat tires. That made Daisy feel like Steve was giving her a massage.

The bags were opened and sand was poured from them into the machine. Steve pulled a fender to the machine, aimed a long stick at it, and pulled the trigger. Sand came shooting out, blasting the fender. Though the fender wasn't connected to her any more, it still seemed to itch. And as itches go, it made her want to be scratched even more.

Little by little, the old rust was rubbed off, exposing shiny steel. When the fender was all cleaned, it was put to the side and the other parts were sandblasted, one at a time, until it was night. The machine was taken away. Daisy felt a bit naked, but also clean and invigorated.

The following day started with more bright sun, matching Daisy's high spirits. Steve brought a different machine into the shed. This one came with five-gallon buckets. Again, parts were brought over to it, one at a time. Steve sprayed the parts with brown primer paint and the parts were then set back to dry. Though the paint was cold, it was refreshing like having a facial cream put on.

One day later, Steve sprayed the parts with bright red paint. On the next day, the parts were put back together. Daisy was so pleased to be whole again. Red was a rather bold color, but then again, she was a rather bold and experienced woman. Still, she couldn't go anywhere. She had no engine. She tried to be an optimist, thinking the crankcase was half full instead of half empty.

Just being a car and not having a real brain, she didn't want to criticize Steve who had done so much for her, but Steve didn't put her seats and interior back in, either. They were taken away. Daisy began to wonder if she was just going to be turned into something like a giant flowerpot that looked pretty, but just sat there.

Day after day, Daisy sat in the dark garage until a week went by. When she heard a truck drive up outside, it made her excited. The garage door opened and the truck backed in.

Wow! In the back of the truck were some new seats. Well, they weren't really new seats. They were her old seats with new springs, new stuffing, and new mohair fabric. She was so pleased to have the seats put back inside her. She didn't have an engine, yet, but it had to be somewhere, being fixed. With that knowledge, she figured that she could wait contentedly in the garage for as long as it took.

And it did take awhile. But one day, a truck pulled up outside the garage and when the door opened. A shiny engine was in the back of it. Like a person opening her mouth for a dentist, she opened her hood wide for the engine. A pulley lowered it onto her frame and it was bolted there. It was then attached to the drive train that went to the rear axle. The wheels were taken away and brought back with shiny new tires to be bolted onto her brake drums.

The day was almost over, leaving just enough time for her to be started up. What? The garage was closed and she was left in the dark. That was okay. She had plenty of patience after half of a century rusting under the mound of rose vines.

Slowly the garage door opened the next morning. She could see the shoes of several people. On the left were black women's flats. Next to those were men's black wing-tip shoes. Further to the right were some black and white athletic shoes. Back a step were three more pairs of athletic shoes.

The door seemed to rise ever so slowly. With it all the way up, George could see it was Steve, his parents, and some other young people who were likely Steve's friends. They all had smiles on their faces. Steve had a small paint can and brush in his hand.

What was that for?"

"I have one more finishing touch to add," Steve told the others.

He walked to Daisy's rear, popped open the can of paint, and dipped the brush into it. When he pulled the brush out, Daisy could see that it was white paint.

But she was red. How puzzling.

Steve leaned down and reached toward the bottom of Daisy's trunk lid. Letter by letter, he painted, "M-y g-i-r-l, D-a-i-s-y".

Yes, she was his girl and he was her man. She finally had the owner that she deserved.

Steve climbed into Daisy, patted her seat as if patting a dog on the head, and made sure the transmission was in neutral position. He went back to the front of the car, took hold of the crank, and gave it a large yank. Nothing happened. The faces of those watching looked worried. Steve yanked the crank again.

"Pow!" the gas was ignited by the spark plugs. In a few seconds, the engine was humming.

Steve went back into the car. With a press on the clutch pedal and a shove on the stick shift lever, Daisy's transmission was put in gear. Steve's left foot was slowly raised to engage the clutch and his right foot slowly lowered on the gas pedal. The drive-line began to spin, turning the rear axle, and causing the wheels to roll forward to the outside. Everyone smiled.

"Let's go! Let's go! I'm ready to go!" Daisy thought.

Steve drove the car onto the driveway and put it in neutral.

Was that it? That couldn't be all. She was ready to go, bursting with energy. That was their special day and they really should have been celebrating it together.

Steve opened the door and the parents climbed in. The mother felt the soft mohair on the seat and smiled. Steve put the car in gear again and drove onto the street. The friends clapped as Daisy headed down the street.

She was so happy that her windshield began to fog up. Steve and his parents had to open the windows so they could see the road ahead. They were off on their maiden voyage.

Driving around town, people on the streets looked at them. Steve tapped the horn, "Honk!" The people smiled and waved. That took Daisy's memory back to her childhood.

As they continued around town, Daisy noticed lots of whispering around her. Listening closely, she discovered that it was the other cars whispering about her.

"Look at her!"

"She's old, but she's pretty."

"I've never seen one like her before."

It was hard to believe, but it was true. More than fifty years after she was put out in a field to die, Daisy was the talk of the town. She knew that she and Steve would have a long life together.

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