Short Story

Smart Car 16


When I went out to the garage to visit Carl/a, he (“he” was in buddy mode, rather than gal pal), he intuited what was in the back of my mind. “Beach trip?”

“You bet. Stop at Camp 18. Check out Seaside and Cannon Beach?”

Carl said “Let It Rock” followed by singing the Chuck Berry classic leading into a medley of Chuck’s greatest, something like Bob Seger’s. God, I wish that I could sing like Carl/a. When he’s Carla, she does a great Aretha. There was a time; long past, that I was the best entertainer in the world. The Viking Rappers, Country Psychos and all of the top groups in the country opened for me. Then an alien worm named Mick dropped out of my nose and told the world that he had been doing the singing.

The trip of over two hundred miles was no problem. Carl and I are both old enough to remember when electric cars were somewhat limited, making trips of two hundred miles difficult. We are fortunate that Libertarian president Spenser was flexible enough to bend his stand against subsidies, which is why all major highways are electrified. His gamble turned out successfully, because all of the loans to the contractors were paid back. Producing adequate electricity has come from a number of sources, tidal, geothermal and hydro. Carl and I laugh every time cold fusion is said to be five years away. It has been five years away for the last fifty years.

Along the way we saw sites that go back fifty years of so – old houses and a few logging trucks. As always, we enjoyed our stop at Camp 18, a restaurant and logging museum, so named for being 18 miles from the Coast. Carl got a chance to hang out with the parked cars, while I went in to eat. Usually I went with Sheila and split a meal, but I made the mistake of eating a meal by myself. I had to recline the seat in Carl for the rest of the trip. Carl told me that most of the cars that he talked to were from out of state and had the same old complaints about being unable to move here. Ever since the Oregon party gained ascendancy in the state, it was very difficult for anyone from out of state to move in because of zoning. Even before that happened, the Republican Party had been reduced to a few cranks, and the Democratic – Union Party had been repudiated for its corruptions, scandals and general incompetence that follow from absolute power. Carl also had a little time for flirting with a car that was from Lake Oswego like us.

In contrast to the Coast Range, the beach was rearranged before either of us was, born in my case, built in Carla’s case. The tsunami of 2020 changed the beach and destroyed much of the housing. The location and specifications for the new houses was much less interesting, but necessary. The painting on Soviet style architecture was like putting lipstick on a pig, it didn’t hide the strictly utilitarian houses.

Carl dropped me off in Seaside and I did the usual tourist things – aquarium, Promenade, buying some knickknacks, a ride on the Carousel (even though I’m a bit old), some life shortening cotton candy and getting some rides at the amusement park. The local thrift store has some real finds- some antique music from the most popular Oregon group, Slash featuring Eagle Grant, and an old book about the legendary Mike and Rebecca. Grant rivaled the iconic Elvis Presley and outlasted him by forty years through clean living. An old folktale has it that Rebecca had the secret of eternal youth, but gave it up for the love of Mike.

On the way back, Carl became Carla and sang some of the best songs of the twentieth century by her idols, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar and Sheryl Crow. I had the good sense to listen with my eyes shut. Carl/a thoughtfully suggested that we rap a bit, trading verses so I could participate:

Across the stream
Like a dream
Wanted to leave home
It was time to roam
Better than a show
We go with the flow
Lunch was the best
You hair’s a rat’s nest

I’ll spare you the whole half hour this continued. Carl/a was better at rapping as well as singing because of his greater vocabulary.

Back home we had a double date, me with Sheila and Carl with her ride Josie. Carl/a was always Carl when he was with Josie because she was a totally straight female car. After some reticence on her part, they had become quite the couple. They had been together long enough to know that they needed to stay a mile away from humans other than Sheila and myself while they were involved with intimate acts. Cars in the act make the loudest, scariest noises.

Sheila and I had had enough problems of our own, mostly due to my insecurity. As a short mathematician, I’m totally in awe of her talents and accomplishments. She never trades on her relation to a president of the last century, possibly because of her shame at his foolish invasion of the Middle East. Sheila is bright, beautiful and is a part of the popular musical group Whimsy. She has a hobby, which is to my knowledge, unique. She owns a 1969 Charger like General Lee in the twentieth century program “The Dukes Of Hazzard”. I don’t think that there are any other twentieth century cars outside of museums. She found a way to cloak it so that it appeared like all the other smart cars. Sheila is not to blame for my feelings of inferiority; my feeling is based on reality. Sheila has always treated me well. I attempted to increase my self esteem by joining Short Hombres Owed Respect Today – SHORT – but that organization fell apart.

We are getting along well despite my neuroses. We are definitely doing better than hologram star Chris Mapother and all of his taller ex-wives picked out for him by the cult Brainology. Beau D. Holley’s therapy book “Here” was also a lot of help, but I really don’t want to be shrunk, I’m short enough as it is.

Carl and I made an exception to my aversion to therapy with Dr. Box. He helped us after Carl made and attempt on my life due to my neglect in our relationship.

My date with Sheila did not go as well as Carl’s with Josie. Sheila had to leave early before things got to the fun stage and fun with Sheila is a lot of fun. She said that she had some important arranging to do that couldn’t wait. She seemed completely distracted. Carl came home humming and singing to himself, totally self-involved. It appears that my formerly innocent buddy is doing a lot better than I am at romance.

The next day at the mall where I had gone for broccoli nuggets at McVegetable, I saw Sheila with a guy. When she saw me, she said “Oh, hi Duke, this is my, uh, brother Dewey.”

Despite my suspicions, I introduced myself, and said “I’d like to stay and chat, but I’ve got a math project I’ve got to work on.”

Why suspicious? Her body language and introduction indicated that she was covering up some secret. The clincher may have been that her “brother” looked nothing like her. He could be her brother, but she had never mentioned one before. They had different hair color and eyes. She has a model’s body; he is short and a bit dumpy.

After seeing them, I dropped into a deep funk, thinking of all of my failed romances before Sheila. Despite my insecurity with her, I had thought that she was really the one. I was amazed that she seemed to love me despite all of my imperfections. Now I expected that I would be dumped again.

Or would I? I thought of all of the fictional treatments of “he’s my brother / cousin / boss or whatever”. Had it ever turned out well? Not that I could remember. The next day Sheila called up and said “Hey, I wasn’t too friendly the last time we went out. Let me treat tonight.” She couldn’t see me smile with joy and relief. I must have let my insecurity give me the jitters. She still likes me.

Sheila picked me up and sprung her surprise. We went to the antique drive-in and saw the inspirational “Loves of a Mathematician”. We were inspired to retreat to the backseat and relive our youthful night moves. I felt like a smitten kid again.

The next day I was down in the dumps again. The advice column on my Mindphone™ started with “How do you know he/she is cheating – rule 1 he/she alternates distraction and passion.” That was a perfect description of Sheila the last few days. I couldn’t avoid the evidence that Sheila had another guy.

Shortly thereafter Sheila invited me to lunch. She bubbled happily “I’ve got big news and I’m taking you to lunch. I’m sorry that I deceived you about Dewey, but I’ll tell you the truth at lunch.” At that point I wondered if the Sheila that I knew could be so cruel as to be so happy about hurting me.

At lunch she cut to the chase “Meet YOUR brother Dewey. He wanted to hold off telling you until he had checked with me on how you would take it. I told him that you would be overjoyed to find a long lost brother.” After saying that she gave me a look which I am certain was saying “Don’t make a liar out of me.”

Dewey took over. “I’m going to have to set the stage for this thing. If I sound like I’m reading a speech, it is because telling you about this took a lot of preparation. Back in the neo-puritan period, childbirth before marriage was viewed as a horrible sin. Our parents had me before they were married and were unprepared financially and mentally for a kid. They gave me up for adoption. My adoptive parents were great, but I wanted to know about my biological parents. When I met them, they told me about my younger brother, you, that arrived after they were married and ready for parenthood. While looking for you, I found Sheila house-sitting at your place while you were at the coast with Carl. I decided to find out how you would receive me from her.”

During that short speech, I think that I may have set the record for a slack jawed gawp. Once my brain re-engaged, it hit me: He doesn’t resemble her, he resembles a slightly older me.

Because I had not reacted for a long time, Sheila spoke up “I don’t know if you are conscious Duke, but if you can hear me, think about this – wouldn’t Dewey be your perfect best man at our wedding?”

I love a happy ending, don’t you?

As well as being an episode in the “smart car” series, this story references the Vernonia Trilogy” (Spenser, Here and Eagle), “Old”, “Nose”, and “Californication”.