The car had been giving us trouble for weeks, but we could not get rid of it. It was our only means of transportation. The vibrant blue of its youth had been riddled with rust holes, dents, and scratches over its fifteen years of ownership.
It had been my parents’ car. A 1989 Dodge Omni that had seen more of the country than most people do in a lifetime. When I finally moved out after my third year of college, my parents gifted the car to me. It had always been a trusty ride and Walter, my affectionate name for him, always got me to where I needed to go.
Today was different, however. The rattling had started after we pulled onto I-75 South just outside of Columbus. The windows shook, the seats were vibrating, and it was really getting loud.
“I don’t think we are going to make it home,” William said shakily as he watched multiple cars fly by us on the left.
“Of course we will,” I said overconfidently, “Walter’s got this. He always has and always will!”
“Pam, you’re crazy,” William said without looking at me, “And if this car starts to fall apart, I will jump from this car while it’s still moving.”
I truly hoped it would not come to that. Traffic was not terribly heavy, but the cars on the highway all seemed to be speeding above the sixty-five mile per hour limit. I was trying to grip the wheel as if my strength on that circular device would somehow keep the rest of the car together. However, the shaking got worse. Every inch of the car was violently shaking and I was struggling to keep the car in the lane. Cars started honking, I started breathing heavy, and William tensely put his hands on the dashboard.
“We can’t stay on the road,” William said loudly over Walter’s deafening noises. He was in his death throws now. His frame was nearing exhaustion.
I decided it was time to pull Walter over and let him rest. I reached down for my phone and saw that it was dead.
“I charged my phone this morning,” I said a little panicked.
“Your phone is dead?” William asked quickly breaking his stare away from the window.
“Yeah,” I said more shocked than embarrassed, “We’ll have to use yours to call for help.”
William’s stare was uncomfortable as I watched him silently keep staring at me from the passenger side of the car.
“I don’t have my phone, remember?”
Then it dawned on me. We had this conversation as we left for the concert. William had dropped his phone and then his dog decided it needed to be recycled…into the toilet. I had taken all of the pictures for the night. That is probably what drained my phone more than normal. Every time he wanted a picture or video, I happily obliged. Now, we had no phone and Walter was dying.
The car began to shutter even more as I decreased my speed. It seemed to take forever to merge into the farthest right lane and it felt like the wheels were going to fall off at any second. We finally heard the crunching of the gravel under the tires. Then, we slowly came to rest on the side of the road. Black smoke suddenly started to filter out from under hood, and we started to feel extremely warm air on our faces through the air vents.
“The car is on fire,” I said suddenly, “Get out!”
We both scrambled around to grab a few last-minute items. I wanted my clutch and phone, and William grabbed his small, red backpack from behind his chair. Luckily, my parents had always forced me to keep my car clean, so there were not many valuables in the car.
We both bolted from the car and ran down the highway before turning back to see the car slowly being consumed by flames. I laughed quietly.
“What could possibly be funny to you right now?” William asked incredulously.
“Walter was a warrior and in true warrior fashion…”
“He went down in a blaze of glory…” William finished the John Bon Jovi song lyric and smiled.
“It was an amazing concert,” I said, “What are we going to do now? There is nothing around and cars are speeding by like this car is a campfire we purposefully built to keep warm.”
Just then a large, red semi-truck pulled in front of us and slowed to a stop.
“If I wasn’t so tired and hungry, I would be worried about how this feels like a horror film,” William said and tried another smile. It was much darker now that we were farther away from Walter.
“I agree. That semi looks totally sketchy. If the driver is freaky, we’ll just run. Deal?”
A man in his late forties walked slowly up to us and called from a safe distance.
“Are you two alright?”
“Yeah. Our car caught fire,” I said.
“Really?” William said and turned toward me, “Do you think he couldn’t see it?”
“I just didn’t want him to think we did it on purpose,” I offered and then realized how ridiculous that probably sounded too.
“Have you called for help,” the man asked a little louder.
“My phone is dead and he doesn’t have his phone,” I offered in return.
“You’re stuck on the side of the road, your car is on fire, and your phone is dead?” The driver seemed amused, “Maybe you could write a country song.”
William was the first to laugh of the two of us, and then I joined in. In fact, we could not stop laughing, and we laughed so hard that we had to sit down to keep from falling over.
When we finally caught our breaths, William put his arm around me and said,
“If I was going to be stuck on the side of the road, I’m glad it was with you.”
I started laughing at his new lyric and offered one more as the highway patrol’s lights suddenly came into view, “We had plenty of time, but we were never going to make it.”
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Hi Elizabeth, This is a really fun story. I love the way you made a scary situation seem playful with the interaction between your characters. I actually liked that the extent of their relationship wasn't revealed, I feel like it gave the reader the opportunity to make their own guesses. I also liked how you incorporated music into your writing. I noticed, especially at the beginning, the word "car" is used a lot. I think avoiding that type of repetition, especially within the same sentence, would make your story even better. Nice job!
Thanks so much! I am so glad you like the story, and I see what you mean about the repetition. I appreciate you taking the time to read and critique my writing.
I really liked your story! It was like a sweet snapshot of this duo's relationship and how they handle conflicts together. I especially love your first paragraph, the visual immediately pulls you into the story and provides a deeper meaning to the car. Since you have some word count to spare, I wonder if the story could be stronger by providing some more context to the main character's and William's relationship. Are they friends or in a romantic relationship? Have they known each other for a long time? Have they experienced any good times w...
Thanks Ashley! I totally appreciate you reading and commenting on my story. I especially like your comment about developing their relationship more. Thanks again.