Each $100 car Dad procures presents us with a particular dilemma. Last year, Mrs. Smith’s car lost reverse. The flowered contact paper that Dad hastily applied to coverer over rusty body holes brushed the lawn each day as we drove over the grassy hump—the barrier between stone parking lot and road.
Now the retired taxi.
Rumors about Dad punching the crazy cabbie wane just as he discovers that the back brake lines leak.
“Goddamnit, Jenny. It’s always something for you and your Father.” He looks up at the pop-corned apartment ceiling as though he can see straight to heaven. Shaking his fists, he proclaims, “God, Lord Gabazar. I’m going to do your work. I’m gonna to get your message to the people, but could you cut my daughter and me a break for Christ-sake?” Jesus. Not Gabazar again. Can’t we just go back to being good Catholics? I swear I won’t complain about Sunday Mass at 7:15am anymore.
“Well, the hell with this, Jenny. You and Daddy will have to fix it ourselves. Like always.”
Let’s get this over with. Let’s pray the jack doesn’t fail this time. Pumping that up last year while he screamed, “get this motherfucking car off my stomach” scared you for life.
Dad grabs his toolkit and pries the triangular orange jack from the trunk. “Now, Jenny, you remember how to pump this up, right? In case this fucker falls on your poor Father, like last year?” Fighting back howling laughter, I nod with a slight snicker.
While Dad inches his way under the car, he yells, “Motherfucker! Who put this goddamn nut on here? A thousand-pound gorilla? Jenny! Hand me the half inch would ya?”
I scan the toolbox. Where is it? Nine-sixteenths…no…hurry up idiot, he’ll be growing impatient.
“Motherfucker!!!” I’m hurrying. Give me a second.
“I-m—uh—I’ve almost found it…”
Dad keeps yelling while scurrying out from under the car.
Jesus. He’s getting crazier by the day. Now he’s gonna kill you for not finding the socket in under thirty seconds.
I brace myself for a backhand across the bridge of my nose. Instead, Dad scampers around the parking lot while shaking his pant legs. “Dad?” I call out softly. Oh well, let it go. At least he’s not after you.
When he loops back toward me, I hold the half-inch cylinder up. Disinterested, He yells, “Didn’t you see what just happened to your Father?” I narrow my eyes in confusion. “Fire ants! Thousands of them all over this shitty fucking driveway ate me alive! I have to go in and change my pants. Watch the car and all this shit!” I look down to see the tiny red villains marching over the jagged stones. Jumping back in surprise, my cheeks begin to quiver. You’re going to lose it. He’ll kill you if you burst out laughing. Suck it in. It’s not that funny. They ate him alive. Yes, it’s fucking hilarious.
After Dad disappears for a moment I squat behind the mailbox and double over. He returns just as I compose myself, again. “Sorry, Dad.”
“Yeah, yeah, you probably loved seeing your old man getting eaten alive. After I move this car, just hand me the tools I need.”
I shoot him my aye-aye-captain look while he jams a screw in the left back brake line—followed by the right one. “Well that oughtta hold us. Now we just have to find some sucker to let us pass inspection. And why should anyone care. You don’t really need back brakes, anyways!”