Short Story

Smart Car 12

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Three months after Sheila’s formerly totally unconscious car, Deuce, became aware and then went back to sleep, we heard a lot of honking in its garage. We assumed there was a short in its archaic wiring harness. I say we, because I was staying with Sheila at the time. We were committed, but not married. When we went out to the garage Deuce said “a little input from me.”

Sheila and I (Duke) did a joint “Huh?”

“What’s unclear about I want to continue as a part of Rogue, but I want to have a little say about what we do?”

Sheila said “I’m sure we can discuss that, but you should know that you started that sentence three months ago.”

“Ok, I didn’t expect that. I thought that you had rudely left while I was talking. Really, I’ve been unconscious for three months?”

I tried to help. “That’s right. At first we had no idea what was going on because we thought of you as an antique car that was dumb, I mean unaware. I don’t want to be unkind; you are very good looking, powerful and fast. It was Sheila that solved the mystery of your sudden consciousness.”

Sheila explained “The clues all led to a guy named Roy that I work with at Auto Safety. He must have sneaked in and added an unpredictable form of intelligence to you. We couldn’t work on it because he booby trapped the system. We didn’t know what he might have programmed you to do in the future, so we emptied your gas tank to keep you from causing trouble to yourself, and other cars or people.”

“Let me check on that. I think that I can do a systems check to find out if the warning to not open my hood is valid.”

After a minute and a half Deuce said “No, that’s bogus. You can open the hood and just take out the canister by the air filter. That is where the warning voice is coming from. First thing that I need to do is to see if I can find a way to stay conscious. I’ll get back to you after I’ve poked around in my programming. Now that I know that there is a cut off in my brain, I can probably undo it.”

After a pause he continued “Wait a minute; are you two ‘like that’? I thought that you were close, but how close?”

Sheila said “Were not married.”

That sounded a little negative so I added “But we are an item.”

Deuce said “I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but first I need to sort out the glitches in my programming. I’ll do three quick honks when I know something or need you.”

Back at Sheila’s house, she ate some crackers then played her clarinet. She’s one of the stars of the mega group Whimsy. I went back to writing.

A couple of hours later there were three short, quick honks from the garage. Deuce said, “OK, I know where the problem is, but I need hands to fix it. See that orange box by the interior of my right fender? There is a red wire leading from it to my purple spherical brain. Just disconnect the wire.”

Now that we started looking under the hood, we could see lots of added parts. We wouldn’t have had any idea what to do without Deuce’s help. We did as we were told.

Sheila asked “Now are you a normal antique / smart car, whatever that means?”

“I’d like to say yes, but I’m not sure myself, as much as I’d like to be able to tell you that I’ll never screw up.”

The three of us were silent for awhile. I finally came up with a contribution.

“If Deuce is willing to live with it I suggest we add a tracker and a remote controlled gas cutoff that are independent of his operating system. What do you think?”

Sheila and Deuce both agreed that it would allow Deuce maximum freedom while adding a failsafe and Sheila assumed from his earlier romp that he could still perform like General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard

After we did the re-plumbing and rewiring on Deuce, we invited Sheila’s smart car Josie to meet the newly intelligent car. She was weirded out over a car that looked like an antique from the 20th century, but at least had some of the attributes of a normal smart car. After she got used to his added brain, she agreed to fill in whatever his memory was missing. That gave Sheila and I a chance to talk about the vacation to Newberry Crater that we had missed during the earlier crisis with Deuce.

Sheila started with “You may think this is a crazy idea, but how about I drive down with Deuce to see how that works, you can take Carl and Josie can go by herself.”

She looked like I would criticize the idea, but I thought it eminently reasonable and told her so.

We loaded appropriate clothes for the short Central Oregon high desert summer – hot days and cold nights – after getting a reservation at the East Lake cabins where my family used to vacation when I was young. The next day we took off in good weather out US 26 east. Please bear with me while I do a travelogue. After clearing the Portland area, we start to get fantastic views of Mt. Hood, mostly bare of snow this time of year. As we head east past Hood, the trees get smaller and fewer. By the time we passed through the Warm Springs reservation, we got into the old west of movie legend – ranches, sage brush, juniper, and smaller mountains. At Madras, we shift to US 97 and eventually head through Bend, a relatively small city, but the biggest one in the vast part of Oregon east of the Cascade Mountains. A little farther south we get into Newberry Crater, which technically is no more a crater than a ‘reality star’ is a star or even human. Newberry is a caldera, the remains of a 1200 square mile / 3500 square kilometer volcano which is still active and now is responsible for a huge amount of non-polluting electricity. As evidence one can observe the steaming springs in the otherwise cold snow fed lake.

All the way down, Carl jabbered about how much he liked Josie and wanted to get next to her. Now he not only fretted about her virginal ways, but he had to contend with the newly intelligent bad boy Deuce as well. You might think that the romantic problems of your car are a minor concern, but we are very close, and I take his moods seriously, particularly after the time that I irritated him so much that he put me in the hospital.

I encouraged Carl by telling him that he shouldn’t give up and that there was a good chance that he could get lucky with Josie.”

“But I don’t want to ‘get lucky’; I want to have a long term relationship with her.”

“OK Carl, I hope that you get whatever you want. Maybe this trip will put her in the mood.”

After we got to our cabin, we heard Carl and Josie purring at each other. We couldn’t tell what they were saying, but I hoped that their conversation was headed in the right direction.

Later that evening after Sheila and I were settled into our cabin all three of the cars drove away.

The next day Deuce asked us “What the bloody hell were Carl and Josie up to? I followed them to a deserted section of road and then all kinds of appendages came out of Carl’s bonnet and boot and ran all over Josie’s body.”

Sheila told Deuce “Some cars are just programmed differently.”

Later when Sheila and I were alone she said “Deuce’s choice of terminology makes sense because Roy is originally British, but I don’t know why he didn’t teach Deuce the facts of life. Clearly, Deuce will be no competition for Josie’s affection, and if he were to write, he would be putting extraneous u’s into his words.”

I should have caught on earlier when Deuce asked about the ‘car park’ which is British for parking lot.

The next day Sheila and I hiked and marveled at the obsidian and pumice which are the stars of the volcanic landscape. Pumice is the white frothy volcanic product filled with pores that can float on water. Obsidian is the glassy black rock with sharp edges. It was used for arrowheads and cutting tools by the aboriginals.

Humans and cars were all entertained by the volcanic caves in the area. I’ve always been amazed by the ice caves. There can be a river of ice just within the mouth of a cave even though summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees f. In earlier times, the ice caves were mined for ice for Bend.

I’m afraid that there isn’t much excitement for the remainder of our trip, but after we got home Sheila gave me the scoop on Carl and Josie. “Josie told me that she had misjudged Carl and is so happy about her first time. My Josie is now a full-fledged adult.”

Author’s note – the geographical information given is generally true today, and there has been talk of generating thermal electricity in the area. Check out Newberry Crater online.