Friday, December 05, 2008

Post 999.75

It's been a bit insane since I got back from Kansas City Monday. Puck went in for surgery Wednesday and I've been driving Monte, who thought I was kidding at first, but once he realized I was serious it's been just like old times. I topped off his fluids and let him warm up a little longer than I do Puck, and we get along fine.

I drove by the body shop Thursday after work just to see what I could see and I shouldn't have; parked out between the office and the rear shop was Puck, and although his undamaged side was towards me I could clearly see that his bumper was gone. And while I knew that was part of the game plan, seeing him sitting there in that handicapped, amputated state sort of brought the reality of the accident home and the fact that some of his parts will no longer be original, even though he'll be as good as new.

I never doubt that Monte will get me where I need to go, even though he may do it without cup holders and heated seats and a speedometer (it works occasionally, but the needle exploded one chilly day so it's hard to read when it is functioning), and with way over 200,000 miles already flown under his wheels. I drove to Kemmerer today to meet Mom for lunch and do a little shopping, and when I got on the freeway I got the urge to weep with joy.

Monte, my '87 Dodge Raider, never was a very powerful vehicle, and after all these years it's something of a struggle to maintain 75 mph, which threatens to shake him apart. His hood flaps alarmingly since my National City head-on in 2000 (it's in no danger of flying open, I promise you) and the cabin roars with road noise and wind as the force of freeway air currents buffets his square angles. But driving Monte is still magic; something about his tipsy height and weighty sturdiness and the joyful bounce of his rusty leaf springs simply makes me happy.

This is the vehicle I drove when consequence was a distant blur, when I was fearless and unrestrained at the age of 17. Monte has ferried my favorite, most beloved people and carried me swiftly to them when they were far away. Over 130,000 miles of road we've rolled together, and that was after he'd passed his first 100,000 with my fifth grade band teacher. He's seen pretty much all there is to see of California, L.A. and San Francisco and the beaches and fields and deserts in between, and south from Tijuana into Baja, all the way to Ensanada where the tollways are patrolled by open truckloads of soldiers with guns.

Monte knows Wyoming, too, and he could probably drive I-15 between San Diego and Salt Lake like a work horse heading blindly from field to barn. He's been off I-80 near Bonneville, Utah to leave his mark in the powdery salt seen in commercials for sedans, his tread smudged like the tracks of a lunar Rover in the gray sand of the moon. He's been to Phoenix via I-10 in the dark, accompanied by Dad and Paul Simon's Graceland. (On that trip I saw Dad's mother, my grandmother Onita, for the last time and his aunt on his father's side, Lora Lee, for the last time, too.)

We have history, that hunk of metal and I, and although his future is uncertain, I'm enjoying this time with him. It's also reminding me of all the things about Puck that I already take for granted, the satellite radio and CD player and mp3 jack, the heated seats, the cruise control. These are luxuries, though, and I could survive without them, but I can't underscore enough how important two things about Puck are to me: keyless entry and automatic lights. When I opened Monte's door to gather my things and get out in the dark tonight, no lights came on, and I was momentarily confused and helpless. (Monte's interior light actually used to come on when the door was opened; it's one of several things that just doesn't work anymore, or maybe the switch is flipped.) Having the interior lights conveniently on when I get in the car and magically fade when I don't need them anymore is wonderful, and I love that the headlights greet me in the morning and at night stay on until I get safely into the house, almost like he's looking out for me. And I can't believe how much I love not having to insert and turn a key to get into my car. I also really love that extra pair of doors; Monte is the reason I will never have another two-door vehicle. There's really no point having that back seat without them.

So this time without Puck really isn't purgatory, but I'll be glad to see him and his sparkly new nose and cheek and anti-lock brakes. He's quickly become as dear to me as Monte for many different reasons, and I expect to have 12 years at least with him, too, and many more.

I just wish he came with a magical force field that deflected deer.

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