Sunday, September 23, 2007

Did I ever tell you about the time I blew up a car? Yeah, true story.

Picture it: January 1993. Aladdin is playing at the cineplex at Memorial City Mall. I've already seen it twice, and I'm going to see it again with my friend, Heather Marie. I'm bringing my little sister, Tiffanerd. She's bringing her little sister, Crystal.

I am 18. And when I was 18, I drove a truck. Not just any truck. A 1989 Dodge Dakota with custom paint. It was turquoise, with a stripe that started off bright blue, then faded into purple and finally, was hot pink at the truck bed. Yeah, I would drive the hell out of that truck now. But at 18? Man, it didn't even have a radio. I so didn't love it. It was ostentatious in a way that didn't appeal to me at all.

I asked my mom if I could use her truck. She denied me. My then-boyfriend, Paul, was going to the car show with John Carrigan. He told me I could use his grocery getter. In my mind, it was better than my truck.

Tiffanerd and I set off. So, if you're heading east on I-10 out of Katy, you go past Peak Road, Mason Road, and then Fry Road. After that it's Highway 6, and you're out of Katy and into Houston.

So, we merged onto I-10. We hit Peak Road. As we do, the car starts slowing down. Suddenly, it's going 35, 30, 25. My foot is all the way to the floor. I flip on the hazards, and pull over. The car makes it just beyond the overpass at Mason Road, and I pull over as the car completely gives out. I try to turn the engine over twice. I look at Tiffanerd, and tell her we have to walk over to that Chevron on the corner, and call mom. She wants to stay in the car. She doesn't want to cross the freeway. I totally understand. I tell her I will hold her hand, and we will go together. She doesn't really want to do it. But she's only 10, so she's in no real position to argue.

We cross the freeway during a break in traffic. We walk up to the pay phone at the gas station. I call my mom.

"I need you to come get us and drive us to the theatre. Paul's car died."

"What? What do you mean it died? Did you try restarting it?"

"Mom, it's dead. It won't turn over. Can you just come get us? *exasperated sigh*"

"Heather, I don't understand. Why is it dead? What did you do to it?"

I was just about to let out another exasperated sigh, when a car pulled up. "Is that you car on fire over there?", he asked.


As I turned to face the freeway, I saw Paul's grocery getter, front end completely ablaze. Shit. I turn my attention momentarily back to my mom.

"Mom, I've gotta go now."

"Heather! What the hell are you talking about?"

"Really gotta go, Mom."

I hang up and dial 911. I explain that my car is on fire. They say they'll send help.

Simultaneously, my mom has dispatched Paul' best friend, D.

I don't remember how long it took, but the moment the two fire trucks, ambulance, and some armored vehicle that looked like a more sturdy ambulance pulled up was about the same time that Big D rolled into the Chevron.

"Is that the car?", he asked me.

"Yes, D.", I said.

"Are you two all right?"

"Yes, D."

The rescue personnel extinguished the fire. We made arrangements for the charred wreckage to be towed back to my house, for some unknown reason. Dennis drove us home, and the tow truck followed. We placed my mom's truck in front of the smoldering hunk of metal, and parked my truck sideways, attempting to block the getter.

It was a full moon.

Hey, ever been near burned car? All that oil and plastic and really hot metal? Well, it smells. Distinctly and profoundly smells. And, you could smell that thing all the way to Fifth Street.

I thought for sure Paul would be mad. He thought for sure that Tiffanerd and I had been incinerated. We were both wrong.

For years afterward, there was a charred spot where that car met its end.