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The Wimp

by Susan P. Blevins

 

 
Sarah looked at the pretentious little car parked in her front drive and felt disgust and disdain well up in her. She hated it instantly. She knew full well what a snazzy sports car was supposed to look like. She’d had two MGBs and an Alfa Romeo Duetto in the past. This, on the other hand,  was a wannabe car of small stature with big pretensions. But her brother had bought it for her so what could she say?

Sure, the MGBs had a really hard ride, but she didn’t care, and what a magnet for the guys they were! She’d had to keep a water pistol in the glove compartment when she was driving around Rome with the top down to discourage them from leaning in to proposition her.

The Duetto had a wonderful engine, and she did love to drive fast, but it was a pre-owned car and it was a nauseating pee yellow. It had that silly hood too, which came down low in the front rather like someone sticking their tongue out, with useless little bumpers on either side of it, doing nothing to protect the hood, and it was impossible to park without denting it. So she never really liked it though she loved putting it through its paces on the autostradas around Rome, where she was living.

Now she felt as though she’d come down in the world when she looked at the miserable specimen in front of her. In vain she tried to put the Fiat 850 Coupé through its paces, but it always just strained like an old lady with bad asthma, and never took off. It wasn’t a convertible either,  which was also a disappointment, and it was navy blue, as though it knew it needed to keep a low profile and just blend in with its surroundings.

That was the other thing about Sarah, she always anthropomorphized her cars, gave them names, personality quirks, spoke to them while she was driving. They all had masculine names during that period of her life, and I’m sure Dr. Freud would have had something to say about that.

She made do as best she could with it, and its smaller size made parking around Rome less of a hassle. She and her brother were building a summer house down in the south, in Calabria, and since she didn’t have a regular job, she was usually the one to drive down there with the architect to monitor the progress of the construction. And “The Wimp”, yes, I’m afraid that’s how she used to refer to her car, struggled valiantly during those six hours heading south on the Autostrada del Sole.

She continued to treat the car disparagingly and with great disrespect, and machine or not, that car knew, and its feelings were hurt. It knew it had to redeem itself in Sarah’s eyes, and the perfect opportunity presented itself one day, as Sarah and the architect were heading back north after a couple of days checking on the house in Calabria.

They were still driving through one of the stone villages of the area, prior to joining the motorway back to Rome, where medieval buildings line the narrow single street that leads through the town center. They had slowed to a crawl, because people were sharing the street with the cars and donkey-drawn carts, and besides which, no one does anything in a hurry in southern Italy. 

Then an unexpected smell assailed Sarah’s nostrils: burning. The car was behaving normally, but the smell grew stronger and stronger until there was a muffled explosion. Sarah looked in the rear-view mirror and to her horror she saw flames leaping out of her exhaust pipe. Her engine, in the rear, was on fire. There was no time to drive anywhere to deal with this emergency. She stopped the car right there and then, in the middle of traffic. They reached in the back for their overnight bags and made it to the side of the street, where quite a throng had gathered to watch this unexpected entertainment.  

She watched in fascinated horror as the flames developed and overwhelmed first the engine, and then the whole car. The gas tank exploded, and she watched as “The Wimp” immolated himself, showing  her that at heart he was made of sterner stuff than she had given him credit for. He finally earned her respect by going out of her life with an almighty bang, in a Wagnerian blaze of ascendant glory. The only thing missing was the trumpet blast.


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