Sorry, I’d Help If I Could
Night. Speeding east on the 101. Right blinker. Topanga exit. Left under the freeway, past Ventura Blvd. Driving, driving, faster, up the hill, past Mulholland, tight turns, screeching tires, quick left, sudden stop at overlook next to black car. Engine off, doors open, slam, open, slam, black car speeds away.
It would be peaceful except for my water — almost boiling, trying to burst through the radiator cap. And my tires — oh, my tires! Torn and raw. I think one is leaking.
At least it’s night. The cold air is soothing my ticking, overheated engine. My hoses almost burst from the pressure. Before me the lights of the San Fernando Valley shimmer below. I’ve been here before, but under better circumstances. In the early sixties my driver — just a kid, really — brought his girl to neck under the stars. Years later, a woman from a nail salon down the hill came up here on her lunch break to eat a sandwich and carrot sticks.
There have been many drivers at my wheel. The experienced, and those just learning. They were the worst: grinding gears, popping the clutch, lugging the engine, not paying attention. Many close calls, but never a head-on, knock on wood. One guy changed my oil every month. Sweet times. Then there were those who didn’t bother for 10,000 miles. Running gelatinous black crude through my veins. I still shudder at the thought.
Yeah, been surviving since ’57. That was a great year. I was proud to strut with all the late models off the assembly line at GM. Designed by a guy named MacKichan, called me a Bel Air. Powered by an inline Blue Flame Six. Everywhere, people stared in wonder and awe at my wide grill and distinctive chrome headlights. And my fins — oh my God, the fins! I was the envy of all high school kids. My backseat saw lots of action. But that was then. Since, every year saw new models with new bells and whistles, more horsepower, sleeker lines, better mileage, and… computers! Nowadays, you need an IT degree to work under the hood. Yet, I remained a classic. At least until my paint oxidized, I threw a rod, sat for years on blocks in someone’s backyard, and ended up in a junkyard.
But not for long. My classic 1957 lines attracted a retiree who resurrected me, rebuilt my engine, gave me new paint and upholstery. Proudly displayed me in his driveway. Then an hour ago I was hot-wired, driven to a warehouse, stuffed with a heavy sack, raced westward on the 101.
So, here I am, abandoned, yet again, on the top of the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooking the Valley, wondering, “Now what?”
As if my thoughts were heard, something stirred in my trunk. My engine had quieted, the steam a mere whisper. I listened.
A thump. Another thump. Then kicking. Something or someone was in my trunk, trying to get out. I heard a muffled cry. Unintelligible. More thumps.
Well, this was a first. I’ve survived rust, fender benders, the smog in 1978 — hey, a car’s gotta breathe, too — flat tires, being shot at, broken windshield, bad mechanics, drivers who don’t know how to shift, dead batteries, boiling asphalt in the Mojave. I’ve been sanded, painted, waxed, and lathered. Abandoned, repossessed, stolen, resold, and traded in. Pooped on by seagulls, wires eaten by rats, dented by shopping carts, tires slashed by vandals. I was even carjacked and raced toward San Pedro, chased by a horde of sirens and two copters overhead. Didn’t end well for the loser at the wheel.
And now this. Thump — kick — muffled yell. What am I supposed to do? I can’t do anything — I’m a car. I’m an old car, not like one of them AI cars that drive themselves. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Take off without the boss, pop up to Big Sur with the ocean breeze in my grill. No, I’m just an old-school, analog 3300-lb. hunk of Detroit, post-war metal.
Thump-thump. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Will someone hear him in time? It’s late, so most likely not until morning, and even then….
Sorry, buddy, I’d help if I could, but… you know….