Short Story

Smart Car 13

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I was on the couch when Sheila got the call. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard her say “Listen I’m not wasting any more of my time, you’re not THE Eugene Springfield.” After a bit, she said “OK, I’ll put it on projector.”

Because Eugene Springfield is probably the richest man in the world and the inventor of the MindphoneTM, on which Sheila was speaking, my attention perked up.

Sheila’s MindphoneTM then showed what appeared to be Eugene Springfield, based on all pictures, moving and still, which had been in the media. A woman who appeared to be in her fifties, the same age as Springfield, and what could be a twenty–something man were with him. Again, based on all of the publicity that he had received, they looked like his wife Linn and son Medford.

Sheila probably also recognized the family, but wondered if the projection was digitally faked. The real Eugene Springfield is a genius, so when he spoke we were both more convinced that he was the real thing. “Sheila, you probably wonder if this image is a fake. Watch my lips. Do you think that even a good fake could make my lips move like my speech? Pretty hard to fake, don’t you think?”

“Let’s say for now, I believe you. Why would Eugene Springfield want to talk to me?”

“First, let me ask you if I may call you Sheila, Ms. Vasquez?”

“Sure, and I should call you Eugene?”

“Make it Gene, and this is my wife Linn and son Medford. Do you mind opening up the projector on your end, so we can all see each other?”

“OK. The man you see is my friend Duke.” Sometimes it bothered me that I was just described as a ‘friend’.

“Now that the introductions are over, down to business. I like to put on car shows for myself and a few close friends at my ranch in BC north of Vancouver. One of the things that I’ve always missed is having a Dodge Charger as in the Dukes of Hazzard at my show.”

Sheila and I involuntarily looked at each other, and she asked unconvincingly, “What has that got to do with me?”

“Let’s not be coy. With my resources, it wasn’t that hard to find out who the Rogue is.”

Sheila mumbled something under the breath which was not at all complimentary about Roy, the only other person that we thought knew about Rogue.

I don’t know if Mr. Springfield heard her or not, but he said “Don’t worry about Roy Baker. It is all taken care of.” We believed him.

“Let’s say hypothetically, that I have 1969 Dodge Charger. What would he, I mean it, do in your show?” There is no way that slip got past Springfield, if he didn’t already know that Deuce had a brain.

“To start, I just want to see it in the metal, so to speak. After that, we can discuss what you and Deuce are willing to consider. You will be very well compensated, and will receive the best accommodations for you and your plus one.”

I wondered what ‘very well compensated’ meant in Springfield’s world.

“May we put our heads together Gene?”

“Sure, and if you want privacy, just turn off your MindphoneTM.”

“Not necessary. I think that this won’t take long.”

Sheila asked me “What do you think?”

“He looks like the real deal, and he has a reputation for being an honest guy. I think that it could be exciting, and that we should go for it, if I’m your number 2.”

“Yes, let’s do it, and please try not to be so insecure.”

She has a point, but corny as it seems, I can hardly believe my luck to be her guy.

We agreed to Springfield’s proposal, and then negotiated the itinerary. We would start off the next day and spend the night in Seattle, and then go to Springfield’s ranch named Newberry.
We spent the next day talking to the cars. Because my car Carl and Sheila’s car Josie were in the early stages of love, they were happy to be left alone without any humans to interfere with their fun.

We set a course to the Bezos Hotel in downtown Seattle. Deuce was cloaked and on his best behavior. From the outside, we looked like any other smart car and its passengers. Because almost all the traffic was on mass transit between cities, it was a smooth eventless trip. The mountains and trees changed a little between Lake Oswego and Seattle, but that was about it.

We had never stayed at the Bezos before. Not only was it the premier hotel on the West Coast, Springfield had booked us into the penthouse suite on the102nd floor, and how sweet it was. We ordered room service without restraint. Hard though it may be to believe, before this trip, I had not drunk twenty year old champagne out of crystal while in a Jacuzzi set at our perfect temperature. Sheila and I must have a small puritan streak, because after we had surfeited our sybaritic sides culminating in a luxurious spa, we spent time at the sparkling gym. I didn’t have any interest in anyone but Sheila, but Oh My God, the masseuses.

After a leisurely day at the Bezos, we took off early for the Newberry Ranch. Things looked very different across the border in Canada. It had never had a mandatory buyback program for pre-smart cars as the US had, so there were a small number of brainless cars on the highway. The Newberry is a mostly flat area, which is unusual for British Columbia, of 976 hectares. There were the usual magnificent mountain views.

Springfield staffers Jean and Kelly met us at the gate and led us to the Klamath guesthouse. Jean said “Make yourselves at home. You will meet Gene, Linn and Medford tomorrow, so just relax until then.”

We took her at her word and poked all around the guesthouse, which was about the size of an ordinary residential house. It was an interesting mix of the rustic and the high tech. The interior and exterior were largely rough wood and stone. I could not tell you all of the gadgets that were inside, but we couldn’t miss that one whole wall was a video screen. A note left on control panel said “Choose item 1245732.” After we discovered how to choose a program by number fifteen minutes later, we did as instructed. I was surprised, but Sheila wasn’t. It was the first “Dukes Of Hazzard” show from the last century. I suppose that if we had continued to watch, we would have seen the whole series, but we wanted to see what else was available. Almost everything imaginable was. I suggested that we watch Lair Of The White Worm, a bizarre, funny, horror movie that my grandfather had described to me years ago. We were not disappointed.

As we were told, after a perfect night’s sleep, we met the Springfield clan. Gene and Linn looked like they could have been my uncle and aunt. They both wore casual and comfortable clothes, which showed no signs of fashion. They were each a little chubby and their haircuts looked like they may have barbered each other. Medford looked a little slicker and athletic, but not much.

After the ordinary “Good to meet you”, “How was your trip”, Gene got down to business.

“Before I ask you this question, you should know that your answer will not affect any other negotiations that we may have. Would you sell me Deuce?”

“Let me talk to Deuce first.”

Sheila went out to deal with Deuce and the rest of us traded stories about our favorite hikes after Gene mentioned hiking on the ranch.

“Deuce said he didn’t want to give up being a part of Rogue.”

“Fair enough, I had to ask. Now let me compensate you for your trouble so far. Here’s a check for you.”

Both Sheila and I tried to be ever so cool by not looking at the check, but we would definitely look later.

Gene continued “I’d like Deuce to perform at the end of our show. If you agree, it will be something special. All the other cars in our show will have human drivers, but I’d like Deuce to go solo, since he is that rare creature that is a smart antique. Will you consider it?”

Sheila opened her mouth, but before she could speak Deuce spoke for the first time since we headed north “It sounds exciting. I definitely want to try.”

Sheila said to Deuce “It could be dangerous.”

“That may be, but we can repair any damage here at the ranch.”

“I’d like Deuce to reenact some scenes from twentieth century movies like BullittThe French Connection and Live And Let Die. I’ve got the sets and other cars lined up. Of course we’d do some Dukes Of Hazzard stunts and twenty-first century gags as in the Fast and Furious films. Then there are the pure stunts like the driving on two side wheels, car jumping and the back flip. I’ve got all of the details for Deuce to check and he can veto anything he wants.”

“Sounds good to me, I’ve got enough knowledge to calculate all of the approach speeds and angles.

Sheila whispered to me “Just what a parent always wanted – a child that knows advanced science but nothing about sex.”

Sheila and I giggled, but Deuce said “Watch it, I can hear that.”

Over the next day the titans of sports, industry and entertainment arrived. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised, but the actor that played the villain Boris Malvo in the latest James Bond show Evil Lives is the nicest guy ever. The fact that he didn’t want to talk about some of the show good guys indicates that they are just the opposite of their image. Some of the CEOs portrayed as workaholics left it all behind to have a good time. I can’t believe some of the stories portraying them as tyrants. We didn’t talk to the football people too much, but we did get a chance to see some demonstration matches. It still seems weird that the world’s biggest sport disallows use of the hands.

After all of the antique cars with human drivers finished their show, it was time for Deuce to star, and he was great. He nailed the drifts, the 360s, the back flip, and did a great replay of car scenes from old movies. What drove the audience nuts was that he was the only smart antique; all of the others had drivers.

For the finale, he jumped ten Hyundai Tiburons.

Because Deuce had only been aware for a little while, we were thrilled to see that he was a natural showman. He got a standing ovation for about fifteen minutes when he finished closing the show.

Oh yeah, we looked at the check. Oh, yeah.

We stayed around for another couple of days and mingled with the stars and the drivers. Deuce was fawned over by both people and cars. Because Deuce was always in male mode, the cars that could be female made all kinds of gross proposals. He was polite, but always told them that he wasn’t that kind of car.
As we said our goodbyes, we couldn’t help but gush over how well Gene and his family had treated us. Before anybody else could suggest it, Deuce said “Gene, if you don’t mind, even though you couldn’t buy me, I’d like to visit from time to time.”

Gene said “Sure, anytime, and if no one objects, bring your people and their cars if you would like.”

Thinking back, you never know what a new day will bring. Crazier yet, Sheila might have hung up on Gene, and we never would have this great new friend.

Only one thing bothered us. Tiburon is Spanish for shark.

If jumping the shark is not clear to you, look it up.