By on January 26, 2014

1994-volkswagen-jetta-gl-iii_19430373

“I don’t think that I have to tell you that speeding is f**king stupid, do I?” The old man had never been one to mince words, and certainly not when he spoke to me.

“No, sir.” From my front passenger seat in his meticulously clean Mercedes E klasse, I could see the needle of his speedometer ticking past seventy. The speed limit on this particularly serpentine road near the river was fifty. It didn’t come as any surprise at all to me that the old man was failing to heed his own advice on a subject. He was often a walking contradiction. He spoke of the importance of honesty, yet he lied every night to us regarding his whereabouts. He spoke of discipline, yet couldn’t discipline himself enough to avoid the temptation of women other than my mother.

And as such, it was during one of the court-mandated, twice weekly, two-hour visitations that never started a minute early or ended a minute late that my father laid out his conditions for buying me a car. No speeding. No girls in the car. No driving after dark. No listening to loud music that could distract me from the road. Keep your fucking hands at ten and two.

It was the summer of 1994, and I was three months shy of my sixteenth birthday. I spent the majority of my free time trying to decide what car I wanted. Since my birthday fell relatively early in the school year, I would be one of the first of my peers to get my license. I clung desperately to the very outer circle of popularity at my school, and was well aware that the right (or wrong) car would do a lot for my image with the in crowd.

That fucking school. My mom had thought that she was doing the right thing by moving into a townhouse on the edge of the wealthiest school district in the state, but all she had really done was give me an early lesson on Social Darwinism. Her secretary’s salary qualified me for free lunch, for Christ’s sake, and here I was trying to be friends with the kids of Fortune 50 executives. Thank God that I had a modicum of athletic ability and a not entirely unattractive look about me, or else I would have been relegated to social irrelevance.

So, yeah, the car mattered. My dad had made it plain that he didn’t have the time or inclination to waste time on a used car that might not work absolutely perfectly, so for once, his total lack of desire to be involved in my life was going to work in my favor.

“We are going to go look at cars this weekend, Wes,” he said to me as we sped toward my mom’s townhouse, nearing the end of his required Wednesday night time with me. “I assume you have an idea of what you want?”

“Yes, sir. I was thinking of a Jeep or maybe a Geo Tracker…”

“So you can fuck around with your friends hanging out of the back?” His steely glare fixed me directly in his sights. “I don’t think so.”

Deep breath. Okay. Try again.

“Well,” I said, looking directly at my hands folded in my lap. “I looked at a Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX a couple of weeks ago. That was pretty cool.”

“Jesus Christ All Fucking Mighty. Do you think I’m buying you a race car? That’s exactly what I need. A phone call from some doctor telling me you’ve driven yourself into a goddamned wall.” I owed whatever masculinity I possessed to him. He had made a life out of intimidating lesser men in sales situations. He was still so physically handsome at the age of 47 that my female classmates joked around about wanting to be my stepmom. And I was terrified of him. His temper. His predictable unpredictability. Just tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say that, okay, Dad?

“Um…how about a Volkswagen Golf? It’s a brand new model, and I saw a good lease deal on one. Only $189 a month and, like, a thousand down.”

“Of course you think it’s only $189 a month,” he snarled. “You’re not fucking paying for it.”

But somehow, that Saturday, we ended up going to a VW dealer to look at the Golf. I dared not get my hopes up that I would actually leave with one. I had nearly sixteen years of experience that supported my hypothesis that Dad was just as likely to buy me a Golf as he was to curse out the salesman and make a scene.

Car and Driver had a review of the Golf III that month that featured the headline, “The Lights Are Back On at Volkswagen Dealerships.” Unfortunately, nobody had told the sales staff at this particular store, which was buried in the back of an Auto Mall near one of the more industrial parts of town—in fact, half of the lights were literally out. The spacious sales floor had exactly two cars in it; a white Golf III and a white Jetta III. The salesmen looked like they were one Sylvia Plath reading away from sticking their heads in an oven.

My father stood there like an unpleasant scent was trying to invade his nose, and I felt the sense of inevitable failure come upon me.

“Let’s just go, Dad.” I shuffled my feet and stared at the dusty, linoleum showroom floor.

“Are you kidding? I didn’t drive all the way to this part of town just to waste my time. Do you want this car or not?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Then come on.” He walked with great purpose to the sales tower, where a mealy looking man in khakis and a disheveled mustache sat with his feet up on the desk. His name tag said “Sales Manager,” but he could just as easily been there to clean the bathrooms..

“Excuse me?” Dad was clearly disgusted with the state of the man’s attire, his posture…everything. “We want to lease one of those Golfs.”

The man looked up at my father, smartly attired in a leather Ralph Lauren jacket and Ray Bans, and must have suspected an easy mark. “Yeah, it’s $189 a month, no money down. That deal is for TODAY ONLY.” No Money Down! My heart leapt into my throat. Surely this was going to go well—all we’d have to do was…

“Well then, let’s get the fuck out of here.” The old man might as well have hissed the words like a python. He quickly spun on his heels and took a tactical path to the exit, delivering a well placed shoulder to an innocent salesman along the way. I stood, paralyzed in shock. There it was again. The anger.

“I…I’m sorry,” was all I could summon from my lips as I chased him out of the showroom back to the Mercedes, where he was already behind the wheel, the engine already running. I cautiously opened the passenger door and silently took my seat. The black leather of the interior had never seemed so dreadfully hot as it did at that moment.

“I’ll buy you that fucking car,” he said quietly. “But not here. I refuse to deal with salesmen like that piece of shit. Today only.” He smirked. “Iron your fucking pants, asshole.”

Rather than risk any more rage, I sat quietly, staring out the window as he drove me to another VW dealership on the opposite end of town. The sounds of talk radio were barely audible—my father didn’t care much for music, and his ears were incredibly sensitive. He had said he would buy me the car, right? I thought to myself. That had to be good.

We arrived at the next dealership, this one in a much more suburban area. As we exited the E class, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a older salesman approach us in a gray flannel suit and tie.

“We’d like to look at a Golf, sir,” I said, hoping to cut my father off before he could speak.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “We don’t have any in stock.” My stomach sank again. “However, we do have two Jettas. Would you be interested in those?”

“YES!” I nearly screamed, surprising everyone, including myself. “I mean, yeah, we would.”

The dealership’s two Jettas were both GL trim, one white with a sunroof, and one teal with air conditioning.

“So which one do you like?” asked our salesman after we looked at both.

“The white one,” I answered, while my dad simultaneously answered, “The teal one.”

Although he was just an inch taller than I was, he glared forcefully down at me and said, “Don’t be stupid. You need air conditioning.”

And so it was that they delivered a teal Jetta to my mom’s rental townhouse the next day—I didn’t have my license yet so I couldn’t drive it. It sat there for three months, only driven when I could beg my mom to let me drive it with my learner’s permit in the rare hour or so between the time she got off work and the time the sun went down. But when I got my license, I drove it everywhere. And even though it wasn’t the BMW or Lexus that some of my friends had been presented with, it was cool enough for the rich kids to accept it. It was European (despite the Hecho en Mexico stickers that I quickly removed), it had enough seats to take my friends to the arcade, and it was a brand new car. I broke virtually every rule my father set for me in it. I loved it.

Only as I grew older, and as I began to become an adult, did I realize some other things about that day. My father, ever the social climber, was trying just as hard to impress his friends as I was mine. He knew I’d be parking that car in the same parking lot as his neighbors’ kids. That $189 a month payment, considering the significant amount of child support and alimony he was already paying my mother, was a stretch for him to be able to afford. Having worked his way up the sales ladder his entire life, he was deeply offended by the lack of professionalism shown by the first dealer.

Most importantly, I learned that this son of the son of an immigrant, this man who grew up as the oldest of four brothers in a two-bedroom house on Long Island, this man who had volunteered to fight overseas for his country in an unpopular war…the only way he knew how to show me love was to give me something he never had growing up.

So…thanks, Dad. I promise to be nothing like you with my son, and to be just like you with my son.

(A note: as with all but one of the “Sunday Stories” so far, this is a work of fiction — JB)

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54 Comments on “Sunday Stories: “The Teal One” By Bark M....”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Beautiful story, once again you have captured my full attention.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Awesome story. Made me feel a burp of a suppressed longing for a real father.

    I honestly can’t retrieve a single respectable memory about mine. The few things he ever did that an outsider might have considered “nice” were still done to benefit himself in some way.

    No love, no respect, nothing but contempt in my heart. When the day comes that I hear he has died in prison, I’ll probably just smile and get back to doing whatever I was doing at the time.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Being a Father can be a b*tch .

    At least yours cared Jack .

    I hope my Son doesn’t feel this way about me .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Ahem, this was written by Bark. :)

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Oh crap ~ sorry Jack .

        I hope all here make a point of never forgetting an cast iron asshole Father , it simply isn’t necessary as anyone who’s ever met my Son can attest .

        I was very firm raising him up but I never hassled him just because like so many insecure jerkoff Fathers do .

        I didn’t want my Son to grow up like I did and he didn’t .

        As I said , being a Father can be a b*tch at times , moreso if you actually care .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    ajla

    “He was often a walking contradiction. He spoke of the importance of honesty, yet he lied every night to us regarding his whereabouts. He spoke of discipline, yet couldn’t discipline himself enough to avoid the temptation of women other than my mother.”

    That sounds about right. Although I prefer “hypocrite” to “contradiction”.

    Close to home for me Bark.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    A really good one.

  • avatar
    imag

    Beautiful story indeed. Makes me again appreciate my dad, even though that new Jetta was a few notches above the car my brother and I got to drive.

    Which was 10 year old (at the time) gold/brown Ford Taurus, one of the slowest manual transmission cars of the era. The intent was to keep us alive by reducing our velocity, and the threat was that or a 240D. When I worked at Ford dealership in high school, my fellow salespeople didn’t believe Ford even made a manual Taurus until I showed it to them. But we whipped the 90 ponies under that car’s hood to such an extent that I have to admit it was the right move.

    Thanks Dad :)

  • avatar

    What I think your story describes is the growing up process. Through it, one comes to realize, and gradually accept, the contradictions of those close to oneself. Those the closest, mom and dad are often the hardest to come to grips with.

    Great story, one everybody can relate to even if their dad or mom were nothing of the sort.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Enjoyed the read. Unfortunate your dad’s attitude but despite all he did buy you a treasured possession when he could have done nothing.
    My first car 1951 was a 1938 Desoto sedan, a POS when it rolled out the factory door and not improved since. $65 earned on my uncle’s farm at $1 per day room and board, 6 days per week and Sunday for free as required.
    My father’s demand was not to exceed the WWII victory speed. At that point not far from the Desoto’s top end anyway. Home life was good and certainly not worth trading for a new car.

  • avatar
    GST

    Thank you for that piece. Terrific! Thanks for sharing it.
    My father was different in every way. No drama, no new car for me. My first ones were $50 cars that that I paid for and usually lasted a couple of years before the major repair needed.

    When I was in high school, Dad did buy a new 1960 Pontiac with a big V8 as a family car and amazingly enough let me put on glasspacks and fender skirts. Those were hot cars in their day.
    Thanks again. Miss him.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This was a true gem; the second fantastic short story (this being non-fiction) in a week on TTAC.

    Kudos, Bark.

  • avatar
    act

    Great story and great writing. Especially liked the last sentence.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Both my parents were depression kids, so you had to learn the value of a dollar. The good news: I could have any car I wanted. The bad news: I had to be able to pay for everything. The car, the insurance, gas, repairs, maintenance, etc. Plus, my grades could not suffer or the car would get parked. I had been bothering them since I was 12 to go to every car show, stop at dealerships and just talk about cars in general. They subscribed to C/D, MT and R/T for me (Hey, at least he`s reading something). Finally, they let me get a car. I was 14. My argument was that while I could not get my license for two years, I could learn to work on one during that time. Be careful what you ask for. My Dad took me to Fleurys auto wrecking after calling around several of his friends to see who had the best candidate.
    And there it was- a 1966 Mustang – red with a black top, 289, 3 speed stick. And the entire right side torn up where the previous owner had slid into a truck while racing. The rear tires were down to the cords.
    So for the next two years I POURED money into it. After about a year I figured out the method to my fathers` madness. But, I did get it on the road and learned my first of many expensive automobile lessons.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    This column can be summed up in one word: unsuccessful.

    I can appreciate that you tried to redeem your father with your final few paragraphs. I sympathize with your journalistic goal and I do not seek to flame you. However, you paint your dad as an absolute foul-mouthed villain in every prior word of your story. I find that inexcusable.

    How do you know he was always lying about his whereabouts? How do you know he often cheated on his wife? I think it very likely your mother poisoned your thoughts against the guy, as ex-wives are prone to do. At the very least, she exaggerated his shortcomings.

    As to your father’s “….court-mandated, twice weekly, two-hour visitations that never started a minute early or ended a minute late….”, I respectfully suggest that perhaps you should have had the acuity, even at 16, to read between the lines. A divorced woman can make the ex-husband’s life very difficult and often goes out of her way to do so. Who knows? Maybe your mother demanded such meticulous timekeeping. Guys don’t like being dragged back to court for minor things and women will not hesitate to do so because the guy is paying the legal bills. (My divorced friend’s ex-wife dragged him to court because he showed his kids a PG-rated movie. The movie? Superman from 1977.) Did any of this ever occur to you?

    The guy is taking you to buy you a new (or nearly new) car, but you paint the trip like some treacherous journey where you’re constantly flinching, waiting for the inevitable backhand to your face. Plus, I imagine he’d be paying for the insurance on that thing. For a young guy like you, that’s be 3 grand, easy. A new car at 16?? We all should be so lucky. (It’d be great if my dad could’ve done the same for me, but he was dead three years by the time I hit 16.) You didn’t care about the financial hit this guy was gonna take buying you some wheels; all you cared about was your image.

    And his arduous conditions? “No speeding. No girls in the car. No driving after dark. No listening to loud music that could distract me from the road. Keep your fucking hands at ten and two.” Yeah, the guy’s a real dictator. Except that any cop would tell you the same thing. In fact, it’s now settled law in most states that new drivers cannot drive after dark, nor have more than one peer in the vehicle, girl or otherwise. So in fact, your father was being prescient.

    Again, Bark, I do not wish to flame you. But you clearly lack the compassion and journalistic skill to pull off what you were attempting: to describe a new bridge between you and your father that you gained thru adult introspection, using a car as the metaphoric “vehicle” to reach that new common ground.

    You accomplished no such glorious denouement. You don’t deserve such a thing. Only someone who “ponders” can reach that. You don’t ponder, Bark…..you brood. And nothing good ever put on paper ever came from brooding.

    If there’s a villain in this story, I’d say it’s you. And if you realize that, Bark, then you have touched the beginning of the compassion that eludes you……..

    • 0 avatar

      It’s fiction. Perhaps we need to start making this more clear. My name isn’t “Wes,” just for a start.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The malicious havoc an ex-wife can wreak on a man’s life is limited only by her creativity and cruelty. For some reason, her man is wonderful and fantastic up until she has a child, then she automatically loathes him and is hell-bent on destroying him. There must be some Darwinian reason for this insanity.
      Still a bit off-topic, but there is nothing good in a marraige for a man that he can’t get without being married. There’s plenty of motivation for a woman to get married.
      That said, it was a fictional story, and a pretty darn good one, at that.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Although you may not agree with the characterization in this story, I would respectfully suggest that some fathers are bad people.

      Of course my father is free to defend himself and give his side of the story, but he would have to break a decade of noncontact with me for that to happen.

      Then again, he never bought me a car.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      The story is written from the point of view of a 16-year-old. He had some fears, real fears at least to him, of his father either physically or causing a scene.

      We’re not seeing the point of view of the older and wiser adult the teenager becomes until the last three paragraphs.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    Fiction or not, I’m not sure what your goals were in this story. You deceived your readers. Why would you write such a thing? Hmm.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Most writers would consider that a not so small achievement in the positive sense…blurring the lines to the point that it matters not and becomes irrelevant to the reader.

      I think.

    • 0 avatar

      No such deception was intended. If you’ve been reading us for any length of time, you know that we typically publish a fictional story on Sundays. I have written a couple of other ones with subjects that perhaps you would find more palatable.

      My goals? To write a story about how a 16 year old boy experienced his first car purchase. It appears have appealed to some here. Apparently not to you. Such is the risk one runs when writing a piece of fiction. I apologize that you didn’t enjoy it.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I would not have wanted to be Sketch447`s parents when he found out about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Bark, don’t apologize for someone not liking it, apologize only for not improving in response to fair and accurate criticism. it was pretty damn good writing, a pretty damn good character study and pretty damn good story. That a car-blog is even doing this is a step up and I say keep it going.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      JERRY: No, he just doesn’t like me.
      HELEN: Doesn’t like you? How can anyone not like you?
      JERRY: You know, it seems impossible.
      HELEN: Doesn’t like you? How can that be?
      JERRY: Ma, I know this may be hard for you to understand but I am sure there are many people who do not like me.
      HELEN: Huh, Jerry, don’t say that.
      JERRY: It’s true.
      HELEN: No, it’s not true. You’re a wonderful, wonderful boy. Everybody likes you. It’s impossible not to like you. Impossible. Morty?
      MORTY: Maybe some people don’t like him. I could see that.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Hello everyone,

    We’ve had a bit of a misunderstanding. While I was in the hospital, we published a “Sunday Story” that happened to be NONfiction. This is perfectly fine, but in general Sunday Stories are fiction. I’ve added a note to the text to clarify that.

    Bark used certain elements of his youth — he had a Jetta as a kid, the old man didn’t have a lot of patience with sloppy people — but that’s about it.

    Anybody who is curious as to what our father was like, for whatever reason, is encouraged to read a post I recently made on the topic:

    http://jackbaruth.com/?p=1098

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    You know suddenly I miss my Dad.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Thankfully I can’t quite relate to this story, but at the same time I appreciated it. Well written Bark.

    My dad was a good man; stubborn, somewhat quick to anger, but a good man nonetheless. He made me earn my allowance, $5 a week to clean up his work truck weekly. Whatever he had, it was indeed used as a construction work truck, usually a C/K 3500 or similar. He provided me with everything I needed, clothes, a computer, school supplies…. without complaint. Anything I wanted; either save up your allowance, wait for your birthday/Christmas or work out a deal where I could earn it. He never just handed me stuff for the sake of it, unless it was something that I needed.

    When I became of age, I had my heart set on a Mustang. In my teen mind, RWD was cool. FWD sucked. Believe me when I say he KNEW what I wanted. I even think he was happy that I liked Mustangs as he grew up during the muscle car era. He knew better though. He gave me a hand me down ’88 Maxima that was demoted to spare car status. I was glad I had something, but I hated the car and to be blunt, I was a little bitch about it. Looking back, I feel bad about being a punk about it, but I’m glad he stuck to his guns; if he relented, I probably would have ended up as a Darwin Award winner and he knew it.

    He eventually did help me get something RWD, a Ford Ranger that he helped put money down on. His only stipulation was that he could borrow it whenever I didn’t need it. That was it. Even if I was just going to get something down the road he wouldn’t bother me, he never had me change my plans for him and he believed that days off are earned and were yours to keep.

    In short, I’m thankful for him raising me the way he did. Sometimes the love was tough, but it was still love nonetheless.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Great Sunday reading here, Bark. My dad was a Chrysler salesman on Long Island, so it was my destiny that my first car would be a ChryCo product, just like my brothers before me.

    It was 1984 and I was 17, having gotten my license the year before. Dad found me a clean, ’68 Belvidere, white with blue interior, slant 6 with under 70k on the clock. If I recall, it was a trade. It had a nice, big bench seat which was perfect for parking in the woods with my girl. It didn’t have AC but I didn’t drive it much at night as he would always toss me the keys to his demo when he got home. I kept it for about a year and had dad find me something a little more interesting, this time a ’73 Beetle.

    I came close over the years but one regret I have is having never purchased a new car from the old man. RIP.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m glad this was a work of fiction, as I winced with every sharp description of the father.

    My dad was just the opposite. He had strong character, but was the gentlest of souls. He was careful not to discuss his mis-spent youth with his sons, lest we try to emulate him – which I did to some degree, anyway. After a mid-life born-again experience, he strived to have us focus on More Important Things than just the present stuff, and his character formed a trajectory that I hope to continue with my family.

    He worked side by side with me on my jalopies – and his.

    He had an open hand with the car keys. And after our numerous mishaps in the cars, he really lived by this rule: “the car can be replaced, but you can’t” – even when I totaled his car.

    He was a good man, and after 10+ years, I still miss him every day.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    Fiction or not, I enjoyed the story. Thanks guys!

  • avatar
    mikey

    A great read, Bark. Yes I know its fiction. My Dad was military, a lifer. He had no time for sloppy people,and when he got mad,he gave new meaning to profanity. That much he had in common with your character.

    I bought a 1962 Pontiac Strato Chief, with money I earned washing cars at a small dealer. 1.00 and hour, paid in cash, once or twice a week. I was only fifteen.

    I got my licence in February 1970, and I was on the road. I had lied to my Dad, and told him I had insurance. He found out I didn’t , and freaked! He unscrewed the plates.. I don’t know what would have happened, had he caught me driving it. I didn’t want to find out. I landed a full time summer job at a tobacco farm, and no way to get to work.

    I come home one evening, and the old man wanted to chat. We went out to his car. He said ” Don’t you tell your mother” as he handed me one of his “Export A’s , we lit them off of his Zippo. Open the trunk. So I put the key in his 69 Impala,and there was a brand new set of 1970 plates., and more important, an insurance slip. He said to me ” I know your not going back to school , and you won’t join the Army. You take that car and drive it to work everyday. When that job runs out, you go look for a better one. Keep looking until you get a good job. But don’t let me hear you quit, or got fired. Unless you decide to go to back school, that’s the last money you will ever see out of me.

    Dad’s been gone 20 years now, I miss him everyday.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    Sweet,

    Yep, my Dad cut a deal for a friends ’60 Biscayne with a 350 horse 327 & 4 speed and it showed up one morning summer after my 16th birthday…minus the engine & tyranny. First we were going to dump a 283 & power glide in but he got a little nervous over me and a V-8 so he said, “well if you want power maybe you should pull the engine out of the 58 Chev wagon”. So that was my first car…a red 4 door Biscayne with a 292 straight six TRUCK ENGINE and a 3 speed floor shift. My friends thought it was awesome because the relatively high gear’d rear end (3:00 something), the 3 speed and the big six, meant it was just loping along at 70. I hit a power pole with it summer of my 18th year…sniff sniff.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    In 1985 my father bought a 1982 Chevy Celebrity CL sedan with Iron Duke and 3 speed auto. AC, rear defrost, manual locks, windows, and seats. Two tone brown with copper color interior. He purchased it with 45,000 miles on it.

    Much older, rusty, faded, headliner starting fall down and with a 100,000 miles on it, the car was still the family sled in 1993 when I turned 16. My Dad had told my Mom that it would be my car and started his search for a replacement.

    He works as a John Deere salesman and one of his customers turned up a skilled body man who specialized in taking older cars that insurance companies wrote off and rebuilding them. He had a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan with 307V8, quadrajet, and every available option minus power rear vent windows.

    The thing that killed me was when the old cheapskate was haggling over the price of the Oldsmobile he asked the guy about selling him the Chevy! The man looked it over and said: “$600 is the most I could give you, I don’t know what I’d have to do to it to be able to resell it.”

    My Dad said: “That’s not enough. I’ll just buy the Olds.”

    A few days later he told me: “If that guy had said $800, you wouldn’t have a car.”

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The old man and I had a different sort of relationship . For one thing he literally was an older man , well into his forties when I was born . He never was a car guy , at least as far as working on his own cars.And he was pretty clueless about cars . A brother-in-law was a Pontiac/GMC/ Buick dealer so we always bought Pontiacs and Daddy always had a theory about buying a new car at the end of the model year , preferably right before a major restyle . I always read the car magazines and tried to steer him towards something a bit more interesting – a 1967 Sprint Pontiac Tempest coupe with the O.H.C.6 and racing stripes , another time a 1969 Firebird 400- but he ignored me . Early on I figured out we were buying the dealership leftovers and it was hit or miss what we bought .He always was good about letting me drive his own cars and the same guy who would go postal about my scalping the devil’s strip when I mowed the yard was pretty cool when I totalled Mom’s ’66 Tempest. Knowing little about cars , he let me pick out my first car I bought with money from a summer job combined with a $500 loan and was supportive of the economy car I bought . At the time I knew Daddy was having his on financial problems and was appreciative- later I realized that at the time his money issues were much worse than any of us knew .Later , in 1980 , again he loaned me $3000 to buy a new car , a Rabbit. The loan was very helpful as interest rates for car loans were 15% or more back then . Both times I paid it all back , something my siblings never bothered to do .Always envied you guys with the fathers working on cars together . With Daddy the memories are more of playing catch ( and that very rarely) with Daddy still in his coat and tie . Still miss him though even tho he’s been dead 12 years, and admire him more than ever .Was he the ideal father ? Of course not , but who is ?

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Great Sunday Story Mark, thanks for sharing it. I’d say that it must stir a lot of emotions in some of the people who don’t like it as well as in those of us that do… How is it that you and your brother both have such an incredible knack for the quick character studies and can capture a life’s pivotal moment with such ease? Is there an exemplary creative writing teacher or someone else we should be thanking?

    • 0 avatar

      Ahem, I think you mean “Bark.”

      You flatter me, sir. I did have a very good English teacher in HS my Junior and Senior years, but I’m not sure if that affects how I write today. I find I do best if I sit down and write something in one setting—for example, I wrote this on a 2 1/2 hour flight. If I come back to it, I invariably make it worse.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      If you take it as a premise that Bark and I are both okay writers, a premise with which half of Jalopnik would take issue, I’d say it’s because we both read a ton of books when we were young. And if we sound alike sometimes, it’s because we read the SAME books.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    Great story Bark. Definitely brings back a lot of memories of my Dad. The rage that was constantly bubbling under the surface and could erupt at any moment is a familiar trait that I had to deal with at all times. Our first car purchase however was a bit more stress free. I went with my mom to a local auto auction and picked up a worn out Saab 900 for $1200 and I cut my teeth driving it around the back roads of Vermont. Eventually getting t-boned by another teenager and selling it off for not much less than what I purchased it for.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Good story. I noticed a bit of similarity to my cousin’s first car that brought back a few memories. He got a brand new teal Civic CX hatchback when he turned 16, despite originally wanting a Jeep YJ. He was only a year younger than me so I was impressed with his situation. Not jealous at all, as his relative wealth and freedom provided benefits for me when I was in town. His father was absolutely nothing like this one though. A geological engineer, he was the type of guy that would invite in Jehovah’s Witnesses to politely explain to them why he believes agnosticism is the more logical choice. It’s as hard to imagine him being angry or unreasonable as it is to imagine my own father not being angry or unreasonable.

    I didn’t need to own a car back then as I had almost absolute freedom to use the various beaters we had at any time. I eventually claimed the nicest one as my own when I had to leave the province for an engineering internship. It was an Iron Duke-equipped ’87 Grand Am with a few rust holes where cladding used to live. I almost died in the thing when I was hit head-on at highway speed a few years later and I had to give my father the $900 insurance payout I received for it. Technically, it was still his, after all.


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