American Made


I was in one of those multi-level parking structures trying to remember where I’d left my car. I got off the elevator with a mother from my kid’s school. She and I had co-chaired a fundraiser one year but weren’t what you would call marriage material. We waved goodbye, went our separate ways. I headed to the area I always parked in. I say always even though I don’t think I had ever been in this lot before. My car wasn’t there. I stopped. What a scatterbrain. My memory had been so bad lately. I blamed the barbecue sauce. The barbecue sauce and my husband. Or rather ex-husband. The latest one. Not the Emmy winner. Although there were a lot of things I might blame the Emmy winner for. For not remembering where the car was however, I should probably just blame genetics.

Anyway. There were so many cars, so much noise from other people parking or leaving or irritated with one another, so much movement and distraction, I couldn’t think. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t make my catamaran catch the wind. Then I remembered that trick, with the electronic key. I began to press the lock and unlock buttons. Not too far off came a faint beep-beep. I went past a mid-century Ford and the beeping got closer. It was closer and yet the sound was a wounded one.

Something told me I was on the right aisle. I sensed, was even certain maybe, that my car was up ahead on the right wedged between 2 child abduction vans. As I approached, a man to my left was moving things into his trunk. He wore a khaki shirt and Khaki pants. A look you don’t see much since Montegomery Ward’s went belly up. He was screwing a silencer onto the end of a pistol. Something else you don’t often see, at least not in public parking structures.

My poor car had been vandalized. Shattered glass lay along the passenger side and when I glanced back at the khaki man, he was nodding and saying, “I saw who did this.” His silencer-capped pistol was no longer in plain sight. I decided I had imagined it. My mind was trying to make sense of what else I was seeing. The Target bags in my hands no longer seemed relevant. So I dropped them where I stood. My legs started buzzing all the way to my flanks. The kneecaps jiggled and quaked. I noticed my car was red and American made and I regretted getting it in that color. I should have gotten Raisenettes. That’s what I had really wanted.

I began to tick off all the things I might have left inside that would lure a criminal to want to bash the windows. My computer hadn’t been in there, no visible cash, no shoes or clothing. I could forgive someone needing shoes or clothing. I stood looking through the gaping worm, trying to make sense. Wait. What? Not gaping worm. Gaping wound. Ugh. My memory. The middle console was open. All the trash I’d thrown in there to make my car look neat when I was carrying Lyft passengers, was everywhere. Mascara, lipsticks, earbuds, pens and the eucalyptus hand wipes I get at Whole Foods were everywhere. All of it was bejeweled by broken window glass. A ridiculous length of CVS receipt snaked onto the floor. A lone chiclet of Mentos gum lay at the base of my gear shift. I turned to where khaki man lurked near his trunk and asked, “What did he look like?”

“Oh no,” he’d said, moving further away. “I don’t wanna say.” That seemed odd to me. I wondered if he was afraid to be racist. Then I wondered why I had wondered that. I turned back to my lightning strike. Suddenly Khaki man was beside me. He leaned into the gaping wound too. He smelled like parakeets and motor oil. His pistol was back out and he used it as a pointer, gesturing as he spoke. “The vandal was quick and violent,” khaki man said. I backed myself toward my trunk. I moved in a casual manner as if I wasn’t the least bit bothered by a parakeet smelling man with a silencer capped weapon. He waved the gun at 3 security cameras overhead. “Those probably caught him in the act,” he said. “Bet some security asshole could help you.” He smiled. I noticed a gold star in his front tooth. I made a point not to judge him for it.

As if on cue, a lovely tootsie roll was strutting toward us past other parked cars. She walked with purpose. I could tell she was security. Not sure what gave it away, the badge, the gunbelt or the stick. The billy-club as it was ca. When the word billy-club came to me, I thought “what a dumb name” and “someone should change it”. I wanted to warn the tootsie roll about the khaki man and his silencer but he was gone. I felt afraid for both of us. I ran to her for protection. The instant I started to move, a siren rang out. A warning siren exploded through the entire space. My chest jolted from the sound and my heart came up and lodged in my Barbie Doll throat. At once, I burst through sleep into the Confederate gray of dawn.

I stared at nothing. My chest banged. The crisp images in my mind took their sweet time fading. For a moment, I was conflicted over which reality to choose. Close my eyes, go back, follow it through. Or stay here, blinking, pulsing, afraid. I let the outboard motor inside, settle into neutral. I let the images shake out while I blinked in the gray. Then it hit me. Wait a minute. I don’t have a red American made car. I don’t have a red car at all. I like blue.

#WritersLife #shortstory

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