Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dorothy, The Cadillac, and the Lake by Brandon Petty

Arthur Anderson sits in his old Cadillac reminiscing about the times he and his wife Dorothy had with the car; by Brandon Petty.

The old door burst open. It clattered and shook on its hinges as Arthur shuffled into the garage. Tucked under his arm was a simple wooden box with beveled edges, stained in a dark cherry finish. In his hand he clenched a set of keys, a faded blue rabbits foot dangling from them by a chain. He paused for a moment, considering what he was about to do. But when his eyes fell upon the midnight blue Cadillac, he was filled with determination.

He had lost his license some years ago, a byproduct of age. But, he had never stopped coming out to the garage. At least once a week he would come out and wipe the dust off with a rag. On occasion he would sit behind the wheel, listening to the oldies station on the a.m. radio. Sometimes Dorothy would even join him, but she hadn't in quite a while.

He slipped behind the wheel with some effort, placing the wooden box on the bench seat next to him. He shut the door behind him and with a turn of a key the car shook and sputtered to life. He had forgotten how good it felt to wrap his fingers around the steering wheel. As a smile began to stretch across his face, he reached down and put the car into reverse.

There was a loud crash as Arthur tore through the garage door before coming to a stop in the driveway.

"Oh dear," he said staring at the crumpled garage door.

"Mr. Anderson!" His neighbor Ed caught Arthur's attention as he came running up to the car.

Arthur slowly lowered the window by hand. "Good morning Ed."

"Mr. Anderson are you ok?"

"Of course I am."

Ed retrieved his cell phone from the pocket of his shorts and placed a hand on the Cadillac's door. Arthur looked down at the wooden box.

"Who you calling?" Arthur asked.

"I'm calling your daughter, she needs to know."

Before Ed could finish the car lurched backwards with a terrible screech; tearing out of the drive and out onto the street.

"Mr. Anderson!" Ed said, but it was already too late. Arthur had the car in drive and was speeding down the road with one hand on the wheel, the other on the wooden box.

To Arthur the Cadillac had ceased being a machine ages ago. Becoming instead a beast of burden, carrying on its back one memory after another. Before there was the job and the kids, before life happened, there was Arthur, Dorothy, and the Cadillac.

Arthur would pull up in front of Dorothy's house and she would jump in before the car had even rolled to a stop. She would sit next to him on the bench seat, holding his hand and resting her head on his shoulder. More often than not the car would spirit them away to the lake, to that one spot where they shared everything with each other. Arthur was sure that they had driven to the lake so many times, the car could practically drive itself there, like a horse returning to its stable. It was there that they shared their fist kiss. Made love for the first time. And it was there that he had asked her to marry him as she leaned up against the Cadillac's fender.

As Arthur allowed himself to get lost in his memories, his rear view mirror came to life with the bright cardinal and sapphire colors of a siren. What? Fucking Ed, he thought. He strummed his nervous fingers across the top of the wooden box. He closed his eyes for moment, remembering that spot down by the lake and thinking of Dorothy.

In a moment of anger he forced his eyes open and hammered on the accelerator causing the beast to roar to life. The world became a blur of colors outside the Cadillac as he tore away from the police cruiser. He was afraid to take his eyes off the road, but couldn't help but steal a glance downward. The speedometer read 35 mph, the fastest had driven in decades.

The cruiser had no trouble catching up to him.

"Mr. Anderson, this is the police," an officer said through a loud speaker. "Please pull over, your daughter is very worried about you."

Arthur stuck his arm through the window and, fighting against the wind, managed to give them the middle finger. With one hand on the wheel he whipped into on coming traffic. Swerving in and out. The police refused to leave the right side of the road, but kept up alongside.

Without warning he left the road and plowed through a cornfield. Ears of corn came crashing down upon the Cadillac's hood. Their stalks snapped beneath the car's undercarriage. He finally emerged on the far side of the field, smashing through a wooden guardrail. He jerked the wheel and followed a dirt road, clouds of dust rose from his tires. As he began to break away he looked back just in time to see the cruiser emerging from the corn. He topped a hill and there laid out before him was the lake.

The car fishtailed as it came to stop, spitting dirt and gravel into the air. Arthur leapt from the car clenching the wooden box. He sprinted towards the lakeshore, one small step at a time. The cruiser slid to a stop behind the Cadillac. Two officers stepped out on either side and shouted something down to Arthur. He could only look back over his shoulder and move even faster through the tall grass.

The officers gave chase and began to close in. But, just before they overtook him he knelt down by the water's edge, and removed the lid from the wooden box. Ashes swirled up out of the box, carried out over the lake by a gentle wind. He didn't say goodbye. He just smiled, thinking of Dorothy, the Cadillac, and the lake.

7 comments:

  1. A lovely, well crafted tale of colliding realities; and the unique personal drivers governing grief and its expression. Thank you,
    Ceinwen

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  2. an excellent Story, evocative and with a restrained writing style. Arthur´s last stand before accepting the inevitable?
    well done

    Michael McCarthy

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  3. Hi Brandon, I liked how you captured the shifting emotions of Arthur and created deep concern for him. A sad but well written story that gives an insight into our own human frailty.
    Nice read, James McEwan

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  4. An evocative and sweet story that has the reader firmly on the side of Arthur! Old age may have hampered his lifestyle but it certainly hadn't dampened his spirit. Viva Arthur!
    Beryl

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  5. Love the ending, and it has a nice balance of humor and sweet sentiment throughout. Thanks for the story!

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  6. An exciting and tense little story with lots to think about. I agree with the other comments and I'd like to read more of your writing.

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  7. This story flowed well. It had me on the edge until the end. I had different endings building in my mind and I am glad the author chose the ending he did. Excellent story. Slice of Americana.

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