by Mary E. Lowd
Originally published in Theme of Absence, January 2016
The salesman, Devin, shows me another junker — dented fender, bald tires, and a crack in the windshield.
“These cars look like death traps,” I say. “You don’t seriously expect anyone to buy them?”
Devin laughs, a hollow, plastic sound. “They’re all bargains!” He looks over his shoulder, back at the dealership building with a half-burned out neon sign, Bob Reaper’s Autos, over a window with venetian blinds. A gaunt man, probably Bob himself at a place this small, stares at us through the blinds.
Devin says, “Look, Mr. Reaper has a quota to meet, so he wants me to push these… uh… well-loved classics.”
I frown at the gray Honda Civic in front of us. I wouldn’t call it classic.
“We do have a car that you might like better.”
Devin takes me to the end of the line of junkers. The car he shows me is white, plain, but not obviously beat-up. “What’s the catch?” I ask.
“No catch. This is the best car you’ll ever buy, a dream to drive. Go as fast as you like, and you’ll never hit anything, never get pulled over.”
I roll my eyes, wondering why I even bothered to ask. But this one does look more promising. “I guess I could give it a test drive.”
Devin gets the keys for me, and I settle into the driver’s seat. He sits down beside me. I turn the key in the ignition, and the engine roars to life. It feels surprisingly powerful, like the car wants me to drive fast.
I drive us out to the freeway, pulled along by the car’s hunger to fly. Damn, it feels good. Without realizing it, I’m already over the speed limit. I try to slow down, but I don’t want to.
Sirens blare at the side of the highway. I glare at Devin. “I thought you said I’d never get pulled over?” Out of the corner of my eye, I see a car shift into the fast lane in front of me — it must be going the speed limit, because compared to me it’s crawling along like an inchworm. I swerve, suddenly, to avoid rear-ending it. The car behind me isn’t so lucky. In my rearview, I see the two cars collide, spin out. The cop is blocked and pulls off to deal with them.
“Damn,” I say. “That was my fault.”
“Does it matter?” Devin asks. “You didn’t get pulled over. You didn’t hit anyone. Sounds to me like the other drivers should have been more careful.”
I press my foot into the accelerator and the engine roars again. I zoom along, thinking hard. If I drive carefully, then I’m not doing anything wrong. Is it my fault if other drivers have trouble staying out of my way? Hell, if I wasn’t in such a maneuverable car, those careless drivers back there might have slammed into me.
I need this car. “Devin, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
He grins. “I’ll have Bob draw up the contract.”