1994: Magically Appearing Cars

 

Dad’s on a mission today. “Jenny, come on, I want you to get dressed nice like you’re going to church. Daddy’s got an idea to get us a car.”

We have a car now, but it needs a new engine mount and it has no reverse. So Daddy says, “it’s cheaper to just get a ‘new’ one.”

“There’s an old woman that lives in that little house around the corner from us. I’m pretty sure her husband kicked the bucket because the car hasn’t moved all winter. She probably can’t drive anymore. So let’s see if she wants to sell her car to someone in need. Don’t forget what Daddy always taught you. Our business is our business.”

No your business is your business. I don’t want any part of it. Such a good Samaritan! Always there at precisely the right moment to help an old lady in need. God this is how we got our last four cars. Why can’t we just go to the dealership like a normal family. Oh yeah, we tried that once. Only because my Mother made you do it! And they repossessed the car four months after she moved out—“couldn’t afford it without your mother’s help”—Bullshit! Always someone to blame! Always someone to manipulate!

 We arrive at the door. I have never met the woman who lives here. He knocks. It takes a few minutes for her to answer. She looks alarmed, but then she catches my eye. She asks, “Can I help you?” behind her screen door.

“Hi my name is Tom. I’m your neighbor…live right across the street from you. This is my daughter Jenny. I work for the church and help a lot of the needy people in our area. I would like to talk to you about your car.”

She half smiles in a perplexed way, but invites us to come in.

He makes small talk with her and tells her more about his “credentials.”

The he says, “Well, Mrs. Smith, I came here today because I noticed you haven’t moved your car all winter.”

Mrs. Smith hesitantly replies, “Ye-e-s, well, I have a bad hip and I can’t drive anymore. My husband passed away last year. So my son is going to come and take the car out of my driveway anytime now.”

This is ridiculous. I can’t even believe he figured this out. I can’t believe I am just standing here and listening to this. I am willing myself to magically disappear, but they continue to talk despite me.

My father explains to the elderly woman, “Well, as I was telling you, my daughter Jenny and I work with the needy. And as it happens, there is a woman in the complex where I live. She’s a single mother. Husband left her alone with a newborn. He was abusive. Bad situation. Anyway, she’s in dire straits and really needs a car. I am hoping you’ll consider selling yours to help that poor woman out.”

No! That did not just happen. I guess that’s why you told me about “our business”—the thing you say when you want to tell a lie and have me keep my mouth shut. I knew you were going to come over here and manipulate her, but I figured you would tell her that we needed the car. And not on the first visit! At least that’s how you’ve done it the past. Not taking any chances this time apparently. Son-of-a-bitch!

Mrs. Smith remains uncertain, but says, “W-e-l-l, okay. But I should call my son about that—–

He interrupts her, “Oh of course, of course, it’s just that she needs something as quickly as possible. She just got a job. And she can’t manage the baby and the job with no car. That poor woman. I was hoping to be able to help her out here.”

Not going so well is it? There’s always a pesky son or friend. Don’t do it Mrs. Smith! Don’t fall for it. Or just hurry up and give him the car. Another car I will be teased about. Oh well, at least it’s not an old cab this time.

 Mrs. Smith wants to return to her afternoon tea. “Uh, how much would I sell it to her for? I’m not even sure if the car is running. My husband always took care of that.”

Dad assures her, “Don’t even worry about that. I know a great mechanic that will do the work for very little. The best thing is to sign the car over to me today for $100—that way motor vehicle doesn’t tax it as a gift—and I then I will repair the car and have it to her in no time. God bless you. You are a good woman to help out in this way. I can be back in an hour with the paperwork from the DMV”

She looks stunned. I’m stunned. This story doesn’t even add up. Why would she sign the car over to him? Why wouldn’t she get to meet the woman? What if she sees us driving the car later… because she can see our driveway from her living room window!

 But despite Mrs. Smith’s, and my, confusion, Dad makes good on his promise to get us a new used-car that day.

The old cement-grey Plymouth starts right up. As usual, I brace myself for the dust cloud that will inevitably blow out of the vents. After it idles for a minute, Dad wastes no time moving the car from its former driveway into our gravelly parking space at the complex.

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