Last Thursday, I came into the house after plowing the garden. Lunch smoked and sizzled and simmered and my wife said accented things. With her soft little hands and insistent invitation, she coaxed me to sit and eat. I seldom knew what she said but I usually knew what she meant. Sated from an unusually satisfying meal, I headed out. To the couch. For a sit and a snore (this she will tell you). Leaving my worries in the pasture, I began counting sheep.
Later, I heard honking. Insistent. Not like the geese but like a birch trumpet poorly played. Sounds emanating from other than goose. The far front gate beckoned me. Ha. I recognized the iron. The trapezoidal grill. An old foreign relic. Scandinavian, maybe. Feeling hurried, slipping on my clogs, I trundled out to the rumpus. An old acquaintance stood stiff, adding oil to the gas tank. I lurched forward to stop his craziness. Then halted. Oh, yeah, it’s a three cylinder and requires oil in the gas.
The man turned and frightened me with a smile. His familiar face featured a fresh scar, cheek to chin and across his mouth. Speaking slurred, showing only a partial tongue, he either greeted me or cursed me. No, it sounded more like he’s selling me peaches. My well-developed translation skills served me well, despite his alternately pointing and poking a walking cane – at the road and then at my head. I didn’t know what he said but I knew what he meant: Let’s go for a ride.
Scooting in, I wrestled with the frayed shoulder seat belt, finally latching the rusted relic – just in time! As we sped off, I figured I’d feel sorry for this ride later, but I felt safe for now. Even with my window open, there was a foul small. Like swamp. Like a flood vehicle? Was this new car smell from wherever and whenever they manufactured this foreign object?
This fella’s reckless reputation filled my memory. Not for long. Something jolted my inquiring mind back into the present moment. Veering off road and off-roading in a farm pasture. Freewheeling downhill toward a farmer’s stock pond. Several feet from the pond, tires skidded. Wheels stopped. Engine off. Column shifter in gear (now days we have an emergency break). The car pointed down… heading toward the pond. My battle-scarred driver got out without comment. Wobbled across the cow pasture. Sat on a tree stump. What next?
I pushed down on the seat belt latch. I couldn’t figure out any of this mystery auto’s contraptions. My angry elbow hit the column shifter, popping the car into neutral. Tires started to roll. I pushed again at the belt latch. Jerked and yelled for help. My former friend sat agape. Tongue partially tied. In a moment of clarity, I looked down. I saw the decal on the glove box – SAAB. That’s it, I knew it!
I cried noisily, making loud, convulsive gasps. Suddenly, a soft hand reached through the moving open window. The little fingers lifted the latch, freeing me. The delicate hand shook my right shoulder. Then the other hand slapped my left cheek. I heard a far-off voice calling my name. I couldn’t understand the last word. But I knew what it meant: