At 18 my first car set afire so I purchased a replacement for $300. The new ride arrived as an ’89 Chevy Celebrity, a car that sucked shit the second it rolled off the line. I fed it a fresh jug of 5w-30 then turned it into an art project. An exercise in obliteration.
Friends helped with custom paint and graphics. We drove it to a dark dead end then splashed a drizzle of expired condiments across the hood. Shook cans then spray-painted its surface. We hucked mud and pissed on fenders. Beat its doors with bats, mallets, and copper plumbing pipes. We tried to saw the fender but faltered. Once done we christened it The Sweetmobile. She was ready for public consumption.
We had a history of acts like this. With another’s decrepit car we set off fireworks inside it. Bolted an old chair’s footrest to the trunk as a spoiler. With The Sweetmobile we kept bat and hammers on hand so as to beat it when needed. Someone knocked a hole in the rear window so I taped in an empty can of Dew to spackle the gap.
Even though the car’s title was in my name it acted as a communal vehicle. These friends and I drove it from country to town. There we parked at the 24-hour Walmart and kicked it to shit in front of others. A woman rolled up in a panic asking why we’d do that to someone’s ride. She found us as I stood on the hood belting mustard to the windshield. As if vandals deploy such flare.
In the store we purchased accessories. Stuck a ribbon to the front and stacked bagels on the antenna. Glued fudge cookies to the hood. Applied Ninja Turtles in sex positions to the top. Kowabunga cum. The cart collector came by and we convinced him to take a bat to the beauty.
We’d think of new dumb things to glue to the car or ways to abuse it. How to take it to town and attract attention. The Sweetmobile’s aesthetic was ever-growing, never complete. We glued a plunger to the hood. Pizza boxes to the rims. Smashed the hood so bad I couldn’t open it. The warning light for oil flashed but I couldn’t get in there to fill it back up. I barely cared. We were nowhere kids just out of high school, now with nothing to do. Had to engineer our own fun. No need to embark on a life path just yet. Just coast into oblivion. Beat up a junker then take it for a spin.
Driving The Sweetmobile around the city became our go-to form of teenage entertainment. With me at the wheel we’d pull up at stoplights, throw it in neutral, then rev the engine to indicate a race. My car often died from this errant act of aggression. Choked and sputtered on restart. The times it didn’t kill we’d goose the gas ’til the person next to us did too. We waved green and checkered flags to further egg them on. Then they’d launch, squealing tires, and I’d putt off the line like a turtle. We’d see that person at the next stoplight and do the same all over. Dumb fun on a budget.
One day I drove The Sweetmobile to work in the morning. My mom pedaled her bike up the same road. The car was in rough condition at this point. The back windshield completely caved so I taped a Land Before Time poster in its stead. The backseat was unusable as it filled with glass and dry cement. The concrete came from a sack strapped to the trunk to keep it closed. The horn only worked if I touched two wires together. The ol’ gal clung to life with a sputter.
For weeks I’d known the Sweetmobile needed oil but the hood wouldn’t release from its beatings. I just figured it’d be okay. As I drove by my mom the engine roared. Exhaled a hot shot of smoke out the exhaust. It killed but in time restarted. Lived a little more but finally one day I spun the key and she wouldn’t go. Mimicked metal in a blender then departed this earthly plane.
I sold my baby for $20. The junk man proffered no premium despite its status as an art object. Still, he said he’d seen a lot of piles in his time but that The Sweetmobile took the cake. I received these words in a state of pride. The car was dead but in its short life it lived hard. Now I let it cruise into immortality. An extension of myself that chugged and sputtered on, if only in the memories of all who came across it.
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