Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bessie's True Colors

At one point when I lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, when I was a new kid in town trying to prove himself, I did something rather stupid. I couldn’t have just painted my face. Okay, painted my face again. Sheesh. Get off me. This time, under cover of darkness, I went out to the street, where Bessie was parked, minding her own business. In my hand I held a container of dark brown shoe polish, the kind with the sponge applicator tip. Her hood was a light tan color -- the perfect canvas for my planned artwork.

It was the week of the big football game against the crosstown archrival Northside Grizzlies, so I thought it would be cool to draw a large bear paw print on the hood, with a circle around it and a slash through it. Effectively, I was saying, “No Grizzlies.” Pure genious. I was up very late making it look just right. I would drive to school displaying my school pride and park it in the lot for all to see. We had an open campus policy for lunchtime, so I could get some exposure then, too.

About halfway through second period the next day, I started thinking that 1) I now was a target for angry opposing team fans, and 2) brown shoe polish was made to stay on. That last revelation resulted from a rather brusk comment a friend made in first period. “That was stupid” is pretty close to a direct quote. I asked to be excused, borrowed Windex and paper towels from the band hall, and headed out to try to undo my fiasco. CTRL-Z was not an option. Already I was formulating a story of vandals drawing graffiti on my car. My apologies to anyone who heard that version.

I ripped paper towels from the roll, one after the other, as I rubbed, scrubbed, sprayed, cussed, and did it all over again. I made a muddy brown mess, but finally managed to get the last vestige of the polish off the hood. I grabbed all the used paper towels and the Windex and stood back to see how it looked.

Faintly, as if under the surface, my artwork still shone through. I hadn’t read Macbeth yet, so I didn’t know to say, “Out, out, damn spot!” In retrospect, had I known the line, I’m sure I would have used it. From that day forward, Bessie bore the stain of my impetuous youth.

That is, until I mangled her beyond recognition.

I was innocently driving down the road after school one day, headed to my dad’s office. Just before entering a curve I had navigated hundreds of times, I noticed a bug on the outside of the windshield. I was going to shoo the bug using the wipers.

Before you start laughing, stay with me.

The windshield wiper control on Bessie was not conveniently placed on a stick protruding from the steering column. Instead, it was on a knob on the lower left side of the dashboard. I had to tilt my head down to see what I was doing.

After rounding the curve with my head down, I looked up to see if the wipers had knocked off the bug.

Camaro. Left turn signal. Brake lights.



Dave said...

Oh wow.... that had to hurt... sorry to hear about losing "Bessie".

Mark said...

Losing Bessie? Who said that? You just have to keep reading. I'll post another tonight and Tuesday night, but then probably not again until next Monday due to Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanks for reading. Your son's car experiences were some of my inspiration for sharing mine.