The following is an excerpt from a story I’m working on called ‘Dear Sam’. I read a book in high school that had such a great premise, and screwed it up by turning it into a Twilight-esque love story. Ugh. It involved dragons living among humans in the modern-day who have been planning our downfall for centuries. They act as double agents, hiding out in human form having been trained to infiltrate our kind. I got so angry at how the book turned out, that I decided to write the story I would’ve rather read, out of pure spite. Being a car guy, I decided the protagonist (and dragoness in hiding) needed a cool set of wheels. This is how that plays out:
Charlotte looked at the faded sign, at Sam, and back at the sign.
“Are you serious? This is what we came to look at?”
The human smiled and nodded, gesturing to the open gate of Rusty Nuts Metal Salvage.
“Of course! Who knows what we’ll find here? I know the owner, he’s a great guy. Come on!”
She watched as Sam practically skipped into the junkyard with excitement and followed after him. To her left were rows and rows of cars resting on stacks of pitted old wheels, their hoods open, and their bodies being picked through by grimy men with equally filthy tools. Oddly, she felt a tinge of sadness at the sight, but who really cared what happened to a PT Cruiser anyway? As she walked, gravel crunched under her tennis shoes and the air carried the scent of old metal baking in the Texas sun. It was so strong, she was sure even Sam could smell it. She wanted to comment that it smelled like someone pissed in a bucket old pennies, but held her tongue.
They eventually reached a large warehouse, where she watched him dig a key from his pocket and unlock a door marked “Employee’s Only” and let her step through. Inside, dim fluorescent bulbs cast shadows on a sorry looking collection of cars that looked as if they hadn’t seen the light of day in decades.
Almost all of them looked too old to still be working, with car parts piled on and around them, covered in a thick layer of dust. Mixed in were a couple newer cars that seemed to have just been traded in. One was a tiny blue car with a badly applied coat of mismatched blue spray paint on the rear fender. Sam shook his head with a grim frown.
“Not that one… Trust me.”
Charlotte moved on to a gray Toyota Camry with a deep scratch in the bumper. Again, Sam voiced his disapproval and claimed she was “killing him”.
She told herself she really would if this went on much longer. Her secret Human Studies classes in New Mexico had been less boring, which she didn’t think was possible. However, as she trudged forward, eyes fixed on her phone, she caught her foot on something and nearly dropped her phone on the hood of a car she had been trying to step around. It was a massive white sedan and she had tripped on its chrome bumper which was laying detached in front of it. Sam came up behind her and said, voice full of awe,
“Ooo… Torino. Nice choice! It’s a late-model one too…”
She was about to pass it by when she saw the interior and opened the door.
It was SO red. There was one tiny rip in the seat, but other than that, it looked amazing. At the Academy, she and her fellow Kindled had been taught to drive in a Tesla before leaving to their respective assignments. She took a seat on the slick vinyl and looked over the gauge cluster before her. The gauges were simple and set into a plastic panel. The seat underneath her felt soft and bouncy with not one, but two huge armrests. Despite her initial sour attitude at the prospect of finding her first car at a dump like this, she was starting to come around to the idea.
“You’re gonna need these.”
Charlotte jumped in surprise and chided herself for letting anyone get the drop on her like that, especially an old man who leaned over her in the driver’s door opening. She noticed a pair of keys dangling from his left hand. She reached up to grab them, trying not to be embarrassed. Mumbling her thanks, she slid the key into the ignition and turned it. After a few moments of churning, it roared to life, coughing dust and white smoke from the tail pipe that quickly dissipated.
Sam walked over and greeted the man, calling him Jim. They began to discuss terms that flew over her head. Things like Windsor, dual exhaust, Cruise-O-Matic, and limited slip differentials… She let the fodder prattle on while she closed her eyes blocking them out. All around her was the smell of decades of cigarette smoke, but underneath all that… was something sweet. A vague scent of perfume. It was probably at least 30 years old, and she wondered where it was coming from. The sound of metal scrapping against the concrete floor snapped her out of her thoughts as she watched Sam move the bumper aside and climb into the passenger seat beside her. Jim, looking pained as he struggled to bend down got in the rear seat behind him, closing the door hard.
“This used to be my mother’s. Dad got it from a used car lot back in ’87 to use as our spare car.” Jim laughed and shook his head. “Mom never did like this thing. We stared calling it the USS Normandy just to bug her… Listen young lady, why don’t you go out through those doors up ahead and we’ll see what this old boat’s get left in it, hmm?” In the rear view mirror, she watched him dig a remote out of his pocket and the overhead door in front of them slowly opened. Using the long chrome handle on the steering column, she dropped it into drive and the Normandy lurched as it got into gear. It took her a few moments before she located the parking brake and disengaged it.
She carefully drove through the salvage yard, glancing at the men unloading worn out trucks, whose beds were weighed down with massive piles of scrap metal, tied down anything from ratchet straps to cheap fraying rope. As she pulled out of the yard’s gate and onto the dusty road, she found herself constantly having to make tiny motions of the wheel to go straight. There was absolutely no road feel. It felt as if she were sailing slowly down the road, instead of driving on it.
“So, why are you selling this?” Sam asked, a little bewildered.
Jim took off his glasses and sighed, while using his shirt to wipe the lenses. “My mom passed away a few years ago… This was just sitting in the garage. I didn’t even know my folks held on to it, you know? Dad called me a couple of days ago and asked if I wanted it. I told him I didn’t have a real use for it, but I’d see if anyone I knew could. I meant to call you.”
“That’s fine… I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thanks Sam…” He cleared his throat. “You know, it sure feels strange being here. Mom used to take my brother and I to school. Was the back seat always so tight?” He said, a small glimmer in his eye as the memory rolled over him.
Charlotte wondered to herself what made humans so sentimental for things that happened such a short time ago. She hatched in 1948, and could clearly remember listening to Elvis on the Academy radio. She never knew her brood mother. Most hatchlings were cared for collectively by the females of any given group, so when one passed away, there was hardly any ceremony. Yes, she had only been among human kind for a few months now, but it was strange to see such empathy about someone Sam had never met.
“Hey! Check out that old Monte Carlo. What do you think that is, Jim? Early 70’s?”
She glanced in the rear view mirror to see a car following them down the narrow two lane road. The rear of the car was absolutely loaded down with scrap metal and other junk. The man at the wheel looked haggard and old. A wiry gray beard, the hair twisted and matted from lack of proper care covered most of his face. The man’s cool blue eyes burned behind the wheel and seemed to bore a hole into Charlotte’s very soul. She took a series of turns and watched as the car followed, move for move, like a rusty shadow. She interrupted as the men were discussing the merits of the two speed PowerGlide transmission.
“Um… Hey Jim. I’m sorry to bother, but do you mind if I open this car up a little? Really see what it can do?”
He looked surprised. “Not at all! I remember when I was your age, my friends and I- Whoooa-!”
She stomped on the gas and the engine roared. The tires squealed in protest, but dug in and shot the Normandy forward, shoving everyone back in their seats. She took the right turn up ahead with a sharp turn of the wheel. The whole car leaned over and the back end drifted into the oncoming lane before righting itself, swaying side to side.
To her dismay, the Monte Carlo was keeping pace, tearing through the smoke screen of burning rubber she had left behind. She pressed the pedal to the floor, and the roar of the engine became defining, hinting that there must be a hole in the exhaust somewhere. Following the road around, she nearly caused them to spin out where the gravel road met sand, again slinging the heavy car around the bend. Her passengers began to voice their displeasure at being thrown around like rag dolls, but she ignored them, quickly coming to a stop and backing into some underbrush and off the road. They all waited in silence, as if everyone was aware of the danger they were in. The Monte Carlo slowly rumbled by them and was about to pass, when it stopped, and backed up, blocking their exit. Charlotte felt her blood run cold as the driver rolled down his window and stared right at her for a moment, before pulling away and disappearing in a cloud of dust.
As they pulled back into the yard, she began apologizing to her passenger’s saying she had been scared by the man following them. Jim vowed to keep an eye out for that car and to warn his employee’s to call the police if he came around again. She knew that wouldn’t do any good. The man at the wheel was Kin, just like her. She had never known one to look so old and beat down. No self respecting member of her kind would ever let himself live in such squalor! Unfortunately, this raised more questions than answers. Trying to set aside the events of the test drive, she bought the car from Jim who gave her a whole ten dollars off for “one hell of a ride.” Sam bolted the bumper back on in the warehouse and stripped the fabric from the roof and cleaned it for her, saying it was one of his favorite things to do. As she pulled away from the yard later that night… she couldn’t wait to see the look on “Aunt” Cass face when she pulled in next to the Bentley.