My Truck

by William Schroeder

Today, a nice man down at the tire shop told me I wouldn't need to replace the front tires on my truck for a few thousand more miles. He didn't have to do that. I had scratched up enough money to buy two used ones, and when he told me I could get by awhile longer, I nearly wept.

My truck is a four door with four wheel drive. I don't use the four wheel drive much, but I like having it anyway, just in case. My mother might need to go to a doctor's appointment on a really snowy day, and there's no way I'd let her drive on treacherous streets like that. I suppose if someone else really needed a ride in bad weather, I'd take them too. But only if it was important, and not just to go to the mall for a winter sale on socks.

I carry a twenty foot, yellow tow rope in the back of my truck. I've used it a few times to drag stranded cars out ditches. Recently, though, I used it to pull a neighbor kid up and down the street on his skateboard. Most of the time, the tow rope just lies in the back of my truck, finding new ways to get tangled up with the jumper cables.

The side mirror on the passengers side of my truck is a little wobbly. My father knocked it off as he was backing my mother's car out of their garage.

We glued it back on with black caulking, but it's beginning to crack again. The guys at the auto shop said a new one would cost over two hundred dollars. Another tube of black caulk would only cost me a few bucks, so, that's a no-brainer there.

My truck leaks oil sometimes, and by the sound it makes when I turn the steering wheel, I'm probably low on steering fluid too. I'll take it to the lube shop as soon as I can someday, and have the mechanics tell me all about the worn seals and gaskets that need repairing. I'll just tell them to top me off with the bare necessities again, but I'll make sure to let them know I'm as concerned as they are about the other stuff, and that I'll keep a close eye on things. They'll put one of those sticky date reminders up in the upper left hand corner of my windshield, and I'll feel a little better about driving it around.

The cd player in my truck doesn't work properly. I don't think it ever did, actually. It's very picky about what cds it'll play and spits out the ones it doesn't like. Lately, I haven't found a cd it cares for at all, so, I started to listen to the radio instead. The radio comes and goes too. It's like a poltergeist, mischievously making an appearance and then quickly disappearing again. Often, it fades in just long enough for me to catch the beginning of a tornado warning, and then fades out when the weatherman is about to give the location of areas to avoid.

It's also stuck on the volume I last had it turned up to. Occasionally, it begins to blare when I'm trying to order something at the drive-thru, or at a bank window. That's always a hoot.

I don't really mind it not working though. It's summertime now, and it gives me a chance to hear the birds singing or the wind rushing past my open windows. I like to use that time to think without all the constant blah blah blah some people surround themselves with. I've been thinking a lot lately, about where I fit into this world and if I'll fit into the next. I never was in a big hurry to reach the next life. But sometimes, I have to admit, I'm interested.

I keep the windows in my truck down most of the time. The air conditioner hasn't worked for the past two summers, which makes for quite a challenge when I'm going to a job interview. I've learned it's best to change into my dress clothes in the parking lot before my appointments. Otherwise, I show up looking like I fell into a rain gutter. Maybe I just need some Freon, that magic liquid of coolness. Freon isn't free though.

I had to put a new radiator in my truck last spring. That was expensive, and since I'm between jobs right now, I had to put the bill on a credit card. Boy, my Dad wouldn't have been happy about that, but I was leaving big, brown patches of muddy gook on the ground everywhere I parked, and I was getting really tired of carrying around gallon jugs of water, never knowing when I'd have to fill the radiator up again.

The brakes are beginning to squeak a bit, and I probably wouldn't have noticed that if I didn't have my windows down all the time. I like to prioritize all the repairs my truck needs in order of threats to my safety, and brakes are first on the list, whenever I can afford it. My truck gets a little squirrelly whenever I go over sixty mph, so, getting my tires balanced might be second on the list.

Every time I start my truck up, which usually takes a few times, I say a little prayer and caress the steering wheel, and even whisper a few encouraging words to it. The pep talks seem to work, and, so far, its never let me down, however, I'm still cautious anyway, and haven't taken it out of town for over a year, just in case my praise and compliments don't always get through. I've thought about driving with my fingers crossed, but I don't want to insult it's loyalty and dedication to me.

I have my lucky clown pinned to the rearview mirror of my truck. That clown is twenty years old and has been in every vehicle I ever owned. It has short strands of yarn for hair, which used to be yellow, until the sun washed it out white over the years. One leg is shorter than the other too, but it has a gentle smile, and I always keep it facing me. I guess I'm just superstitious.

I have a crack in my windshield that splits a little bit more every month. I know somebody who knows somebody whose husband is a mechanic and he let me pass my inspection this year, despite the crack in my windshield. It's not in my point of view, anyway. A felt strap from the broken vanity mirror does hang down in front of my eyes though. The one on the passenger side is broke too.

The leather on the passenger seat is so worn that the stuffing is beginning to poke through. My dad let his dog ride in that seat and his claws rubbed all the leather off. I covered it with a cheap seat cover with blue tropical print, and no ones the wiser. It almost looks like I meant to be trendy.

The other day at the grocery store, someone gave me a silver dollar with my change. I don't know what it is about those things, but every time I get one, it's hard to part with. I kept this one stuck in a crease of my steering wheel, and I must have fiddled around with it too much, because it fell further down into that crease and got stuck somewhere near where the horn button is connected. Now the horn goes off unexpectedly. Usually when I'm in heavy traffic. That's also a hoot.

I have to say though, the time and temperature gauge works perfectly. It was really hot today and around noon that gauge read 103 degrees. But inside my truck it was probably only 101. While I was peeling off the gum that had melted in the coin tray, I found a crispy cigar tucked between the seats. My father must have bought some the last time he took the truck to the lake to go fishing. He told me once that he liked to celebrate a good day of fishing by lighting up a dollar stogie and fake puffing on it as he swapped stories with fellow old codgers down at the docks.

This afternoon, when I was leaving the library, I walked by a rusty, old Civic that was parked next to my truck. All the windows were rolled down, and I guessed that the air conditioner in it was busted too. One window was taped shut with gray duct tape and whoever owned it must have been delivering phone books, because he had about a hundred of them stacked up in his backseat. The glove compartment was held together by some black wire and the knob of the transmission lever was missing. I'm pretty sure I saw the pavement underneath the car through a gaping hole somewhere near the clutch area. The owner of that Civic came out right after me, and I watched him open up a creaky door and hunch himself over the steering wheel. I thought I saw his lips moving, as if he was whispering a prayer or something, and after about four attempts, his old mule started up. That guy has it pretty bad, I said to myself.

My mother sold me this truck for a dollar after my father died. It used to be his, and it still smells like every place he'd ever been in it. It smells like all the dead leaves and bits of grass that he took to the recycling center. It smells like the Old Spice cologne that he only wore when going to church on early Sunday mornings. It smells like the fur of their pet Schnauzer, Jake, who rode with my father everywhere, and occasionally rolled the window up on himself with his antsy paws. It smells like gun oil, and peanut brittle, and Rolaids, and ripe minnows, and I know I'll have to give it up eventually, but right now, all I want to do is drive it another day.

And that's why I nearly wept today.

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