The last person inside had strapped a set of balls under his rear. At one time, they flashed in the sun as he tore up the macadam. Now he sat on the hill, and they faded over time — along with his paint job.
Once a precision machine. Once a showpiece. Once a workhorse with a gun rack and a shotgun in his rear window.
Now grass grew around him, tall and green, and his rubber grew dry and cracked. Under tires long flat, he could feel crawling things taking up residence. Though the radials were deflated and old and worn, the movement tickled a bit.
Two little girls played on him for a time, climbing inside, making vroom vroom sounds, giggling as they bounced on the bench seats. Little vinyl covered them now — fabric torn away but frame still firm. Ford built those thick seat-springs to last. The girls made it cozy — brought some bedding from somewhere and laid it over the bench. They placed stickers on his dash and hung drawings they had made.
Things changed. From time to time they came to see him as they grew older. They would smoke and talk about music and cars. Sometimes they brought friends and they talked about parents and boys and girls and classes. They loved and laughed and cried. They took care of him, though he still sat on the hill. He felt loved.
The visits slowed more, fewer and farther between, until they stopped altogether.
Now rodents pulled stuffing from his seats for their nests and stored food in his narrow places. He didn’t mind so much. At least he was a use to someone.
He recently began feeling rust eat away the metal underneath his, once cherry-red, now neglected paint. It bubbled up in spots, and it itched something awful. There was no relief. This was his life now. Perhaps his death.
He use to count the days since he last ran. Now they flowed into one another.
This day women came. They ran their hands along his body, crawled under his frame. His hinges creaked as they lifted his hood. It had been a long time since anyone had looked inside. It felt nice to be seen.
They poked and prodded, knocked and pushed for some time. Then they leaned on his tail and talked as they passed something smoking between them. The smell was familiar.
“She’ll do fine,” said the one.
“But first, these have to go,” said the other, detaching his balls from his hitch.
She felt a bit of her dignity return.
Before long, they had her hooked to a wrecker. As they pulled her up onto its flatbed, the worms beneath her wheels writhed in the sunlight and fled into their holes. Oh l what a relief, she thought. Her old tires, though flat and useless, felt right on the solid surface of the wrecker.
They hit the open road and the wind beat against her glass. Old memories returned.
Her speedometer ticking away each traveled mile. Sunrises and sunsets. Early days and long nights. The smell of oil and of gasoline, of singed rubber, of water on hot asphalt, and of freshly cut grass. The feel of petrol flowing through her lines and the fire in the heart of her.
Neon signs flickered their messages to passersby. Eat here. Sleep here. Drink here. Refuel here. Car wash. Girls, girls, girls and too expensive gasoline.
This was where she was meant to be. She was meant to run.
She was grateful for this final ride before they stripped her or wrecked her or parted her out. A donor to save so many.
That was the dream wasn’t it? Not to rot or be crushed but to drive on — live on — in so many others. Not to rust away.
Would the old feelings stay the same? How much of her would they strip away until she was no longer her?
The ride ended at a house with a white fence. A tall tree with a tire-swing stood next to it, and on the other side, a garage. This is where the women will do their work. Not long now, she thought.
It was long. The lights went out and she was alone again. This time she could not feel the grass or hear the wind or see the stars. The crawling things were gone — not so much of a relief anymore. There she sat.
More time passed. One night, one of the women came and laid a blanket across the old bench and climbed inside.
“Hey old girl,” said the woman. “Do you remember me?” She pulled an aged, water-stained drawing from the floor and ran her hands across the faded artwork. Then she placed it on the seat. She grabbed the wheel and caressed it with work-stiffened hands.
The truck remembered the little girl then. Remembered her love. The hands were older and callused, but it was her. She had come back for her. Somehow it seemed a comfort that those gentle loving hands would be the ones to strip her down. And they did.
Night after night the lights would come on and the women would go to work. Together they took piece after piece from the old truck. Stripped her to nothing but that frame.
This is it, she thought. Just a frame … but I am still me. I think I am still me.
Then the lights went out for what she thought was the last time, but the women returned the next day and the next day and the next. They sanded her frame and ran their hands along it. They patched and bonded and primed.
They dripped sweat onto the bare metal and bled from barked knuckles.
Part by part, they put her back together — painted and shined and oiled.
They placed a new bench in her cab. There was no torn vinyl. No exposed springs.
One day, the garage door opened, and the women climbed inside. They sat on fresh seats. They did not bounce, but they talked. Not about boys and parents and classes. No. They talked about her and how good it felt to be with her.
Then her engine roared to life, and the women drove her through the open door.
It had rained. The smell of wet, hot pavement flooded back along with fresh rubber and gasoline and oil. Some of the sights were different now. Neon signs had become large glowing screens, but the messages were the same. There were so many cars on the road. Different cars. They were new and sleek, but the people looked at her. They looked at her as they had looked at her so many years ago. She was new again. She was home.