“Look at the little car, dad,” Chris said
pointing out the window.
We were driving from Syracuse back to
Oswego on Route 481, not far from the old Great Northern
Mall. I followed his pointing finger and saw a small — a
very small — car parked off in the grass to our right, a few
feet from the road. It appeared to be about four or five
feet long, larger than a child’s toy but much smaller than a
We were past it quickly, but it did,
indeed, look like an ordinary four-door sedan at first
glance. “What is it?” Chris said.
“I don’t know, a car, I guess,” I told
him. He was craning around looking back, straining against
his seat belt. When he could see it no longer he
straightened around and looked out the windshield again.
He was quiet while the motor hummed for a
few minutes of silence, then he said, “Who could drive a car
Glancing at him, I shrugged. “I have no
“Can we go back and look at it again?”
“Sorry, pal,” I said. “I can’t do a
U-turn on the highway.”
“Maybe it’ll still be there when we come
“Maybe,” I said, “But I wouldn’t count on
But it was. I was alone the second time,
but for some reason I was looking for it, and I saw the car
sitting in the same spot maybe a week or ten days later. I
got into the right lane as I approached it, slowed down and
gave it a good look-over on the way by.
It was green, a darker shade than the
grass it was sitting in. The window glass was slightly
tinted, so I couldn’t look inside, and I didn’t see any sign
that it had been driven to where it was parked — there were
no tracks from the road. I thought about stopping and taking
a look, but what reason did I have? There were no signs of
distress, there was no note on the windshield, nor a ticket,
either. I kept on driving.
It was a beautiful afternoon in the
middle of June, and when I got home Chris was out in front
of the house on his skateboard. He and his friend Jeff from
up the street had rigged up a ramp with a piece of half-inch
plywood they’d found in our cellar and a short length of
yard rail. Chris waved as I pulled into the driveway. I went
in and put the stuff I’d bought on the dining room table.
Jean said, “You’re home.”
“Duh,” I said.
“Did you get everything?”
I nodded, and she went to the table to
begin taking things out of the shopping bags. I went back
out onto the front porch to watch the boys jumping and doing
tricks with their skateboards. Chris was tall for his age, a
bit taller than Jeff who had been his playmate since they
were toddlers. I remembered Chris at every age, and I often
said to Jean that I wished I could keep one of him from
every year of his life.
He had been a neighborhood pet from the
beginning. Everyone liked him, and no one had ever
complained about the noise he made early in the morning when
he walked up the sidewalk pushing his toy lawnmower that
made a helluva racket. He was smart, too, inventing words if
he had to to describe something like a motorcycle: when he
was quite small he heard one once out in the street and ran
to the window to see what was making the noise. He’d never
heard the word “motorcycle,” but he recognized the sound,
like his lawnmower, which he called a “mawnlow,” and he
shouted, pointing, “Mawnlow bicycle!” From that point on the
family called motorcycles mawnlow bicycles.
When he had grown beyond the toy
lawnmower, we bought him a Green Machine. It was no time at
all before he was whipping around the neighborhood on it,
doing skidding direction reversals and barreling along at a
great rate from corner to corner of the block. Now his
vehicle of choice was the skateboard and he’d moved from the
sidewalk out into the street.
When Chris and Jeff took a break I said,
“I saw your green car again today out on 481. It was in the
“Really?” he asked. “Did you stop?”
“Not really, but I slowed down and looked
it over pretty well. It doesn’t look as though anybody’d
driven it to where it sits, and it’s shiny and clean.
Somebody smaller than an adult would fit into it, but not
most grownups. The cops haven’t ticketed it yet.”
“Maybe it’s just a lawn ornament,” Jean
said. She’d come out onto the porch too.
“No,” Chris said. “It’s not on a lawn.
There’s no houses. It’s just beside the road.”
I nodded. “That’s right,” I said.
Jeff looked puzzled. “What are you guys
“Oh,” Chris said, “a little car out by
the highway,” and he told his friend about it.
A few days later I was back on the road
again, on my way to Syracuse, and I kept an eye out for the
car on the way down. It was still there, and I decided this
time I’d stop on the way back and take a closer look.
That’s what I did. I pulled off onto the
shoulder, turned off my engine, and got out. I walked slowly
up to the small green sedan and stood beside it. That’s when
I realized that its motor was running, purring softly. I
stopped and listened for a few seconds, then I leaned down,
put my forehead against the glass on the driver’s side, and
tried to see inside.
The window slid down a few inches.
Startled, I pulled back and saw a pair of eyes looking out
at me. There was an instant of recognition then, suddenly,
the car peeled out onto the highway and was gone before I
could even think of getting back to my car and pursuing —
but I was too paralyzed to do so even when I had finally
thought of it. Those eyes were Chris’s eyes.