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.