By JENNY BARDWELL
The car was old. The car was cheap. He had pulled it out of the chasm of rusted gunk that inhabited the parking lot of the used car dealership. Dealership was a strange word. They sold wonky cars. Weren’t they just a used car store? But the car…the car was something even lower than the scummy dealership barterers. The car was trash. But it was cheap, and cheap was good. At least, that is what his bank account thought.
He could barely grasp his happiness when he managed to maneuver the crumpled metal lump to his house without it grating against the road, or outright collapsing. He almost felt proud of the pathetic car as he yanked himself out from behind the steering wheel. It all seemed to fit: the misshapen car, the buckling street and the rotting house. It just worked. Beaten and broken things had always seemed to fit into his life, though he was not a bad person. It was just that sometimes – a lot of the time when he was little—he got angry. But it was not always his fault. Often times it was the other kids who provoked him. They would mock him. They would laugh, and he would not understand the joke, which just frustrated him more. His control would snap like the bumper on this car had, and he would be in trouble. But he wasn’t a bad person. Then there were the adults. They never seemed to understand him or his feelings. They called him uncontrollable and violent. But he wasn’t a bad person. He always found a fragment of pride in that statement, which had been chanted to him more than any other expression in his life. He was not a bad person.
He got out of the car, and tried to open the trunk. The handle was stiff with powdered metal, and the hinges grinded against each other as he pried the beast’s maw open. The sight below sent pulses of dread through his body and plunged his mind into the haze. He kneaded the flesh on his forehead with his fingers as he closed his eyes in pain. He hated the fuzz. Blood. Looked like blood, dried blood. It was crusting against the rough surface of the car. Maybe it was paint. The thick scent of the spoiled liquid shriveled in his nose, the heavy metallic notes bruising his flesh. It was blood. He had bought an evil man’s car. The man had left his wretched signature on the dying vehicle in thick oozing red. His head was buzzing, his brain flipping. It hurt. He began fluttering his hands over his splintering head. He was not a bad man; he did not want the car to make him one. He was not a bad man, but the previous owner had been. Could it have been the car? Did its previous owner lose himself in the maze of dents? Was he made of the same material? Would he become lost as easily as the last driver? Whose blood was it? It didn’t matter. He was a good person. It didn’t matter if the man hadn’t spilled it. Maybe the man had been trying to help someone. He himself often caused trouble when he tried to help. There was once when he found a mouse stuck in a snap trap. The bar hadn’t hit its neck, and it was jumping around trying to get out. He had wedged sticks under the bar to help. His neighbor hobbled out of her house and started yelling. She accused him of animal abuse and prolonging suffering, calling him psychotic and disturbing. Maybe the man had just found an injured dog and tried to take it to the vet. But there was stain was very large. But he was a good man, so it didn’t matter.