An old man, looking slightly confused.

Short Story Challenge Week 37: I Remember

I remember that I need to get on with my short story challenge, mostly!

So, folks… this one is late. Not super late, just by a day, but it’s been a bit of a hectic time.

Still, late it is, but I don’t want to give up on my challenge just yet.

So I’m going to double down. I already missed a week (due to surgery) so I’m already one behind. I’m going to try — try being the operative word here — to catch up with three stories this week.

This is the first, and in a responsible writer’s manner, I should warn that it’s a somewhat dark story that some may find confronting. Or not. Also, it includes real places that I have never been to. They might be very nice places, I just don’t know, I needed place names.

If you’re coming in late, I’m doing a year-long set of short stories. You can read the prior ones here. And the future ones, if you’re reading this in the future. That’s how time works, you see.

Want even more short stories, and to support a freelance writer with bills to pay? Buy an eBook!

(Real slick…)

Buy Fifty Two through Amazon for your Kindle e-reader here.

Buy Fifty Two through Apple for your iPad or iOS devices/Macs here.

Buy Fifty Two through Smashwords for any other e-reader format here.

Or if short stories about all sorts of concepts — and folks called Dave (and bees, and the future, and many other topics) aren’t your style, how about a good old fashioned B-movie thriller, featuring way more exploding sharks than any other novel*?

Buy Sharksplosion for Amazon Kindle

Buy Sharksplosion for iBooks (iPhone, iPad, etc)

Buy Sharksplosion for all other e-readers through Smashwords

*I’m pretty sure I’m on solid ground with this claim. Claim possibly not valid where legally prohibited.

And now, it’s time to remember.

I Remember

An old man, looking slightly confused.
I Remember

I’m old now, and I’ve lived a full life. It’s funny what you remember, though, isn’t it?

I remember my dad bringing home the very first car the family ever owned.

It was a Buick, must have been ’56, or maybe ’57 that we got it, though it was second-hand and old even back then. Wasn’t like we could have afforded a fancy car like that if it were new.

It had a huge back seat, and I remember climbing into it as a kid, thinking that you could fit the whole wide world in that back seat with room to spare.

I was an only kid, and on those long road trips, that back seat was my whole world. I didn’t have too many toys, and I didn’t like reading – and still don’t – but I got to know every bit of stitching, every crack in the leather and the way my dad’s hair was slowly thinning over a lot of years in that car.

Eventually, after Dad died, Ma said I could have the car, because she couldn’t drive it anyhow.

Instantly I became the coolest guy in town, because it was the 60s, man. A car was freedom, and excitement, and there wasn’t too much excitement to be had in Elk Horn, Iowa in the 60s.

Probably isn’t that much even now. I haven’t been back in decades. Why would I go back there anyway?

But that car, it was my world. I had no money for repairs, so I had to learn how every nut, bolt, piston and screw worked, so that when they stopped working, I could fix them back up again.

Sure, sometimes that meant going out and finding a similar car to “borrow” a few parts from, but hey, they could afford it, and I figured it was my part of the counter-cultural revolution, or…

OK, you got me.

I didn’t give a crap about all that hippie stuff that was happening out west, but it sounded good to you, didn’t it?

That whole scene was a city folk problem; I just liked being able to fix my car for cheap.

Fixing my car meant I could go out on a Friday night with my girl.

Suzie, Maria, Katie, oh, what was that redhead’s name…. Carla, I think? We’d head out of town, and then I’d “run out of gas”, and we’d fool around for a bit, and then I’d head back into town. Good times man.

Good times.

That car also got me out of Elk Horn right when I needed to, heading west to find my fortune, as they say.

Didn’t happen, of course. Damned car got as far as Kearney before everything went haywire. And I really do mean everything.

Ever see one of those cartoons where the car just falls apart, panel, wheels, struts, engine, and the poor dupe is left sitting just holding a steering wheel?

There I was, making my way through roads that were more snow drift than road, when something went ping, something else went thump, several things went spring and a whole lot of smoke started billowing from the front end.

Before you know it I was flying off the road and into a ditch in only about half a Buick, with the rest spread out all over the road.

So that was me, on the outskirts of Kearney, three wheels gone and a snowstorm blowing in during the winter of ’71.

Lots of people froze to death that year, and I figured that if I sheltered in what was left of that Buick, I’d be one of them too.

Lucky for me, a farmer’s wife… Sandra, I think her name was… was driving down the same lonely stretch of road saw me go bouncing off the road and into bits, so she stopped to pick me up.

I remember… she had a huge basket of bread in the back seat of her car, said she’d been to visit her sister and they’d baked the bread. It was fresh and hot, especially against the cold snowy landscape, so the car kept on fogging up as we drove into town.

Once I got into town, I found a place to shelter for the night – no money for a hotel room, you see – and in the morning tried to find a mechanic, see what I could do for the Buick.

Old Jed ran the garage in town at that time, and we went out there with his tow truck to see what could be found in the snow. Wasn’t much left salvageable of that car, because it turned out another truck later that night went skidding off the same patch of road and right into it. Not even the tyres were worth saving, said Jed.

But we got to chatting, and I talked about what I’d fixed on that old Buick and how, and Jed was impressed. Turns out he’d been trying to find an apprentice to take over the garage, on account of how his bad shoulder was getting worse and he couldn’t fix the new cars as fast as people wanted any more.

So that’s how I ended up in Kearney as a mechanic, fixing cars for a living. Jed taught me everything he knew, and when he passed, no family to speak of, I just started living out of the garage and working there. Most folks assumed I’d bought the place from Jed, but there was never no contract or purchase or nothing.

Nearly went broke during the oil crisis, on account of near nobody wanting to drive anywhere or spend any money on their cars. That, and I’d not been keeping accounts at all, and city hall came calling for their tax dollars. The government man always wants his dollar promptly, don’t he?

So I had to get a bit more official, get in someone to run the books. Laura was the first of them, whip smart that girl, got everything in order nice and quick, though she did have an awful laugh to her.

Later on there was Rebecca, she weren’t no good and tried stealing from me, so she had to go.

By then, while I don’t like the numbers or the reading, I’d picked up enough to get by for as long as I needed to.

All that’s behind me now. Too old to work on the cars, and all them modern plastic buckets need computers and fancy stuff anyway. I miss the days when all I needed was a box of tools and a few spare or borrowed parts to get my car up and running.

All behind me now. But that’s the things I remember.

Look, Padre, I’m sorry.

Real sorry.

In about 10 minutes, they’re going to come and take me to that room, tie me to that chair, and it will all be over.

No more remembering.

And I’m sorry.

I really am. I’m an old man, and I just don’t remember.

I just don’t remember where all the bodies are.

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