Dealership with the Devil

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Theme of Absence, January 2016

“Go as fast as you like, and you’ll never hit anything, never get pulled over.”

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.”

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