no. 10 : 37' Ford, My Grandfather's Car

The car careers over ditches and jumps a ridge. The vehicle crashes down with a thud, for a moment wildly out of control as the back tires connect first. The front wheels hit the ground, pulling it right again. The driver guns the engine. An orange trail beckons, leading to the edge of a massive paisley, then through a curly-cue of quilted grape vines. Violent disaster is barely averted with a skidding halt beside a giant wall of striped polyester.

"I had a '37. I had a Ford like that."

This is what my grandfather says. He's pointing to the small car in my hand, poised for a moment by his thigh.

I look up at him. What he's saying is unbelievable. "You had this one? My Hot Wheel?"

I give it to him.

"Ha. Yes. This is it."

He turns the car over. He squints to see the details.

The west Texas sky stretches to all horizons, an inescapable dome of piercing blue. White cotton, fallen from the gin-bound bouncing harvesting wagons, outlines the road's edges with impossible summer snow drifts.

A heat mirage comes into focus with a holler and a roar. The engine guns and sputters, kicking to the next gear. The boys inside the rambling hulk of machinery are covered in the fine dust of the dirt road and a summer's afternoon sweat.

On their minds, the humming ice box at the store in town. Iced so cold the liquid in curved bottles makes the teeth hurt. Cane sugar and caffeine hit the tongue and explode in the brain. This is the only real response there is to the heat of the day, the foil of the Texas sun. Purchased for five cents a bottle.

The boys pour onto the porch. Standing in the shade they smile and chatter. They are long and lean. They are shirtless in their overalls. Their arms strong from heaving bailed hay. Picking cotton. Swinging hoes into sun-bitten earth. None of these things are hardship. They are what they know.

A boy with piercing blue eyes admires the car sitting at the curb. The flat black metal is smooth and without blemish. He smiles to himself. He's proud of it. Worked hard for it. Someone makes a joke, nudges him, pulling him from his moment. There are girls to see. Girls in clean white dresses. Girls who smile and yet confound.

The boys pile in, heavy doors slam. Pumping the gas, he turns the key. The cylinders fire. The engine is alive. On the road again, empty fields blur by, mile after mile after mile. This is the last summer. This is the last time they will be boys. Soon the thundering guns across the oceans will call their names. They have to will grow up too fast.

"Yes," he says, handing it back to his tiny grandson. Smiling. "Yes, this was my car."


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