The Car that Died in Glory

When I met my husband, he owned a red Ford Escort that he’d bought used at an auction, and that he’d nearly totaled a couple of years later. The severe rebuild meant that parts of this car were brand new and parts of it were fading, and the electrical system did sketchy things. One weird electrical issue was with the ignition. I “fixed” that by yanking on the key so hard that we could take one key out and put the other in without turning off the engine, which was useful when one of us was dropping off the other somewhere.

Fast-forward 10 years. The transmission was shot– you could get it up to about 20 mph, but that was it. The estimate to get it fixed was thousands. I said, “Well, I’ll call the junkyard, and see if they’ll take it.” My husband said he’d handle it. I cleaned out the car and found the title.

More than a year passed. Our uptight neighbor complained to me a few times about our having an untitled car sitting on our driveway. I agreed with him that it was trashy and that there was no point to its being there, and then I told him to talk to my husband about it. (The neighbor wouldn’t.) I arranged to get the car towed to a junkyard, but my husband said he wanted to save the money and drive it there himself, as soon as he had the time to make the 50 mile drive at 20 mph.

Come late July, I was out front mowing our lawn. A guy drove past our house, immediately slammed on the brakes, and backed up. He pointed to the red heap of a car, and said, “Does it run?” I yelled back, “Yes, but it only goes 20 because of the transmission.” He yelled, “Want to sell it?”

I shut down the mower and yelled, “YES!!! But my husband is emotionally attached to it. If you can offer him anything, I think I can get him to take it.” I told him when my husband would be home, and begged him to come ready to take it away right then.

The guy showed up at the right time, and I sent my husband out there to negotiate. They immediately settled on $100. The man’s son drove our junker away as my husband wiped the mist from his eyes.

A few days later, the local news was running a story on the county fair’s demolition derby. There was my husband’s escort, tricked out in spray-painted racing stripes, winning round after round. It made it to the finals, when its transmission finally quit for good. They showed the scene of them hauling the dead, battered carcass off the mud track.

My husband and I looked at each other. I didn’t know what to say. Then, with reverence in his voice, he said, “He went out in a blaze of glory.”

I nodded, then gave him a hug.