Fiction: The Car Girls

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
fiction the car girls

His mother was the first of them, leadfooting her big Buick coupe across intersections with a big-block push that pressed him into the velour and blurred the terrain around him. He tossed around in the flat seat, clinging to the sky-blue safety belt. “I was a rally driver,” she would say. Later, he would find out that she’d been a rally navigator, not a driver, and that the rally-driving boyfriend was long dead. It seemed reasonable that she might have inherited the boyfriend’s skill. Women, he realized, absorb us, becoming who we are or wish them to be, viewed through a glass darkly, or through his rearview mirror, leaving home for the last time.

* * *

She took his crutches and put them in the back of a new Corvette-engined ’88 Camaro. “So glad to see you out of the hospital. I wanted to do something nice for you… take you for a ride… we’re going to do, like, a hundred miles per hour in this IROC.” She drove with the carelessness of Fitzgerald’s Jordan Baker, looking away from the road while she swerved down the freeway and reaching over to touch him through his thin shorts.

“This IROC-Z… it’s… awesome,” he managed to say, “did you just buy it?”

“Oh,” she replied, “it belongs to a… friend, I guess you could say.”

* * *

He was trapped with the most beautiful girl in the whole school, possibly the whole world, in the back of a first-generation Celica notchback. Trembling, conscious of his dirty clothing from shop class and every blemish on his face. “It’s so crowded in this back seat!” she complained, and then there was a miracle: she manipulated her lithe body in the space that was no space and would up lying with her head in his lap, looking up at him, smiling. When they next spoke, twenty-four years later, she explained that the tumors were too large to remove, and that there was nothing left to be done.

* * *

“Be careful,” she told him, “my parents really love this car.” They were home from school and he was desperate to strike out from the herd of her admirers, find a place to claim as his own. Down the road, in a full-throttle launch, and his left foot stabbed for a nonexistent clutch at the shift point, found the brake, bloodied her face against the dashboard as the tires screamed. Yet she was anxious to console, not punish. That night, a drop of blood fell from her nose from the vigor of her motion, found him beneath, landed on his tongue. For a single, terrifying moment, he thought it tasted sweet.

* * *

She offered him a ride home from work since his Lumina was in the shop. Her ’92 five-liter RS rumbled from age and wear, and there were dirty panties in the back seat. Her conversation was distant, random, complaining about their employer, her night job dancing at a topless joint, her drug dealer. Without warning, she looked over and said,

“I dreamed you and I had sex.” Coughing nervously, he tried to think of something witty to say.

“Sounds like it was a nightmare.”

“No,” she offhandedly replied, looking down the road, “you made it good to me,” and he heard an echo of a room filled with thuggish, brutal occupants. Not our kind, dear.

* * *

“Oh,” she moaned, “I’m going crazy, being with you. It seems like everybody knows what we’re doing. We’re going to get caught. Everybody is looking at us. EVERY CAR AROUND US ON THIS FUCKING ROAD IS FILLED WITH PEOPLE LOOKING AT US!”

“Honey,” he said, smoothing her fluttering hands with his own, “it’s a very unique car.”

* * *

He handed her an open-faced helmet and she sat beside him as they exited the pitlane. For the first lap, she bit her lips and trembled. Her husband stood against the fence before Turn 1, and she waved as they went by. He turned up the pace, extracting more from the stubborn little compact, and she only looked away as they passed the start/finish line on the second lap. On the back straight, he tossed the car into a sideways, smoking, trail-braking attack of the narrow chicane and he saw her lips part. Her tongue was a dark, darting creature in her French mouth. Two wheels in the air up the curb in the last turn and she locked eyes with him as they blew by a lonely, waving figure who was dead to them both.

* * *

The elevator door was closing as he drunkenly stumbled through and found her, weaving on her feet, still wearing her manufacturer-branded polo shirt. Then they were tumbling through the door to his room. “Naked,” she said, “I want you completely naked, completely mine,” and she produced a cardboard box containing a USB drive. Tossing the little stainless-steel device to the ground and wrenching the ring off her left hand, she laughed, “Put your wedding ring in here, I will too, this is our event, I want you to love me like you love my car, my product.”

Hours later, in the too-bright morning, the box didn’t immediately turn up. She was kneeling on the ground, sobbing desperately, by the time he found it behind the double curtains. Without looking up from the floor, she took her ring silently and didn’t look back as the door slammed behind her.

* * *

Laughing, they ran through the junkyard. He pried an ornate “Regency” badge from a C-pillar and stuffed it in his pocket as they found the cars of their youth. Her phone rang and she made desperate, hurried excuses to the voice on the other end while he ran his hands through the velour of an old Buick seat. Back in their rental car, she looked at the BlackBerry in her hands and began to cry. “I can’t tell anybody,” she said, “but I think I love you. You love me too. You just don’t know it yet.” He was looking to the clouds, feeling desperately sentimental about the 1976 LeSabre. A cold sense of clarity came to him, and he knew that it was time to start unwinding this particular thread. As they entered the freeway he began replying to her questions in single words.

* * *

Alone in the hotel, nearly two hours after he’d opened their flirtatious dialogue, he received her response to his proposition via text. He smiled, thinking about her long body, her youth, her vicious energy and the coltish way she pranced across a convention-center carpet. This would be one to savor, all evening and into the morning. With a flick of his fingertip he selected her name in the message list.

“It pleases me,” the note read, “to be the one girl who refuses to sleep with you.”

* * *

The sun had set behind them on the road leading from the rural racetrack but she insisted they put the top down on his convertible. Her hand sought his as they flashed traffic out of the left lane ahead. He knew that she was the type of woman who saw herself as a character in her own romantic film, and he did his best to be quotable with each response. She’s like a teenager, he thought, watching her pull his hand to her soft, sweater-covered breast. His fatigue, the drinks they’d had, and thoughts of tomorrow’s driving students seemed to pull his mind up and away from his body as she shifted in the seat, tilting her hips up and forward, pressing that hand down, between her legs.

* * *

Somewhere in the freezing night he dreamed that they were all around him, all the car girls. He was standing at the grave of the one he loved as a child, and it became all of their graves. He saw the proud French woman drowning in the ruin of her flooded car, the impulsive California girl walking out into the surf, the PR flack clutching her stalling heart in a four-poster bed somewhere, the mother of his child broken in the ditch beside a burning station wagon, the psychiatrist unconscious next to an empty bottle of self-prescribed pills, the church choir performer vaporizing in a rapture that left him standing in an empty cathedral, the dancer cut from head to toe by a psychotic customer, a line of death, murder, accident, despair. You did this, a voice said. We took, and we absorbed, but it was never enough, never enough for you and your insane desire to be cherished, supported, loved.

“I didn’t know any of you,” he said, speaking to the line of headstones, “until you were gone, behind me. I didn’t see you until I saw you leave.” With a start he woke, hearing the buzzing of his phone. Another message. More messages beneath it. A gorgeous woman with a German sedan, a statuesque beauty who knew how to take the inside line, a dusky near-princess who caught his eye across the room of a press event. A never-ending stream of car girls, ready to absorb until he was empty — but he realized that he’d been empty for a while now.

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3 of 26 comments
  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Feb 16, 2011

    I enjoyed that. I'd be surprised if the stories aren't almost entirely true! Why is it that we can't really see them until after they're gone? Is it something within us, or simply the pheromones. Oh well, most of them were just as messed up as me.

  • -Nate -Nate on Apr 27, 2017

    4.27.17 . Thanx for linking me here Jack . . It's sad to see some just don't get it . . -Nate

  • Old Scold As a Marylander, I got those plates assigned to me when I purchased my car in 2016, 4 years after the so-called anniversary. I figured they were using up NOS, and it never occurred to me to check out the URL. I still don't care. It's a stupid issue, but I have my tag number memorized should I need it.
  • Hpycamper I drive a car with automatic braking and have nothing good to say about it. It has activated going around corners on mountain roads when the hillside is close to the road, when lawn sprinklers turned on and sprayed the car, and driving past cars on the shoulder that are making right turns. Luckily these phantom brake activations have not caused a wreck. The systems are just too dumb.
  • SCE to AUX How long until that $90k yields a profit for my grandchildren?
  • Ajla I do wonder what the legacy of the Alpha Camaro will be. It was higher performing than the Zeta but lacks the pop culture imprinting of that gen or the earlier F-body. And somehow it managed to be less comfortable than the Zeta. I guess it depends if this is really the last traditional Camaro.
  • SCE to AUX I'd admire it at the car cruise, but $20k gets you halfway to a new truck.