Lewis Turco


 

THE CAR

 

“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 normal sedan.

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 like that?”

Glancing at him, I shrugged. “I have no idea.”

“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 back again.”

“Maybe,” I said, “But I wouldn’t count on it.”

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 same place.”

“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 talking about?”

“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.



Copyright © 2010 Lewis Turco


 
Lewis Turco's latest book of poems, by his anagram "altar (sic) ego Wesli Court," is THE GATHERING OF THE ELDERS AND OTHER POEMS, published this fall by Star Cloud Press of Scottsdale, Arizona. The fourth edition of his THE BOOK OF FORMS: A HANDBOOK OF POETICS will be published by University Press of New England next fall. It will include "Odd and Invented Forms."

 

 


Photo by Jim Russel