“Don’t be ridiculous, young lady. You need something SENSIBLE.” Jamie sat at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. Week 5 of the search for her first car had just dawned, and she was about ready to give in.
Mother scowled as she scoured pans in the sink. This was all the fault of that wretched brother-in-law, Dan. Filling up her delicate baby girl’s head with GARBAGE, from the moment she could walk! The nerve of that grease-stained clown, spoiling her with all kinds of wretched mechanical excess! His help with Jamie was appreciated after Father’s untimely passing, but Uncle Dan’s idea of a good time made Mother pull her hair out. First it was the rides through the mud hole in that sky-high, cobbled-together death trap he casually referred to as “the Bronco.” Jamie would return home covered in dirt and giggling madly, throwing a royal tantrum when she was forced into the bath. Then, when Jamie was a little older, Uncle Dan seriously upped the ante. Dropping Jamie back off after another months-long summer vacation, he slyly hinted that her precious daughter was quite the talented racer. Mother demanded to know the context; go-carts were the answer. This, while horrifically dangerous and an enormity on many levels, was almost forgivable. She had known of other parents, devil-may-care types that would surely come to grief someday, who let their children pilot such contraptions at Magic Mountain. Then it emerged later that these go-carts were not of the rubber-covered, speed-limited variety, and that her daughter had been permitted to zip along at speeds nearing fifty miles an hour on an open track. THWUMP, went mother, as she fainted into the plush embrace of the carpet.
This emotional wallop wasn’t the last, though. Two summers ago, slimy Uncle Dan dropped Jamie off in his evil black Buick. He grinned sheepishly at Mother as Jamie bounded up the driveway, beaming. Then he drove off, the twin turbochargers hissing like snakes and the fat rear tires leaving ugly marks at the bottom of the driveway. With teenage boldness, Jamie proclaimed that she had piloted said machine down Uncle Dan’s nearby drag strip. A Youtube video was quickly produced as proof. There was Jamie, strapped into the five point harness, her helmet right-sized but fire suit comically overlarge. Mother watched that devil’s chariot vanish down the quarter mile. The signboard at the end flashed: one hundred and twenty-one miles per hour. Just a hair over eleven seconds. And the unmistakable cackle of Uncle Dan in the background. “Good girl,” he said. Mother wept her bitter tears, and vowed to reassert control.
Now was the time to lay down the hammer. Jamie had her own money, a cool forty-five hundred dollars. Those summer sessions as a helper in Uncle Dan’s hot dog truck had certainly been lucrative. It was enough cash for a gloriously ratty rolling wreck and the barest of minimum coverage. Uncle Dan could be counted on as a steady source of mechanical advice and assistance. But Mother did have the upper hand in one regard; all parking space privileges were her preserve. With no room on the street, Jamie was forced to comply. The first two of Mother’s ground rules were reasonable: disc brakes and seatbelts. Those could be found easily enough. Mother compromised on airbags, after Jamie showed her some suitably hysterical evening-news pieces on accidental deployments. But the last two rules were immovable, and hopelessly cruel: an automatic transmission, and a curb weight of at least two tons. Jamie threw an absolute fit, because she knew the aim of Mother’s game now: nip the enjoyment of driving, right in the bud. “Young lady, cars are appliances. They exist only to get you from point A to point B. I am not going to let you break your neck because you got some fool idea about driving over the speed limit in some tiny little car! You know that Uncle Dan went to jail for street racing once…” SLAM, went Jamie’s door, as she cut off the stream of unwanted advice from her parental unit. Tears wouldn’t help; what was to be done?
Flash forward, and Jamie was still struggling to eke any amount of fun out of the Sunday classifieds. Nothing but page after page of abused pickup trucks and underpowered CUVs in her price range. Jamie might have been satisfied with some used luxury, but nothing matched the price/weight combo. It was hopeless. Mother smiled; she could see the rebellious urges gradually disappearing in her daughter. Jamie lost focus, and daydreamed about trying to steer a whale onto a crowded freeway…
A ring on her phone snapped her out of it. Uncle Dan, to the rescue! He’d be by in a couple minutes. He had a lead on something Jamie would like, he said. Great! Mother was quite displeased, but she saw no way that Jamie could find something fun without breaking the rules. And if she broke the rules, there’d be no place to put her new toy. Mother let her run out the door to the waiting Buick, confident she still had the upper hand.
Within an hour, they were at the site of Uncle Dan’s promised killer deal. Jamie’s jaw dropped when the wizened old farmer pulled the tarp off the hulking shape. She and Uncle Dan busily inspected it. There was rust in the fenders, and a crack in the windshield. The paint was rather faded, and the interior smelled musty. Even so, the doors and trunk felt more solid than cars thirty years younger. The required equipment was there, thankfully: disc brakes, seatbelts, and an automatic. And the curb weight? It wasn’t even necessary to ask. Jamie opened the hood, and breathed a sigh of relief. The unobtanium power plant had long ago been ditched for a trusty Chevrolet small block. They gave it a jump, and it fired right up. She knew this car would handle like a boat, but the smile factor was well worth it. Even so, Jamie was afraid to hope. Surely, there was no way she could afford this thing! But the price was clear: four thousand dollars, and it was hers. Depreciation can be a good thing sometimes. “What do you say?” the toothless agrarian chortled, waving a crumpled title in her face. “I’ll take it,” she grinned from behind the massive steering wheel.
Another hour later, and Jamie was back in the kitchen. She slapped her keys and the title of her new car grandly on the table. Mother strutted over primly. Her eyes boggled; this must be a joke. That title must be another one of Uncle Dan’s dastardly tricks! Jamie invited her disbelieving Mother to look out the window at the driveway. There, in all its faded glory, sat a 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II.