the true stories
When I was small during one of our daily rounds of fighting, my elder sister and I waxed overly loud.
Our mother pricked up her ears just in time to hear me exclaim, “I hate you!”
That was it. Our fun was put to a swift end and we were treated to a stern lecture. The main topic was the horrible word I had dared to utter. I was told to get the big dictionary off the shelf in the living room and return to the inquest forthwith. I complied and was instructed to look up the foul verb in the Webster's. As I did so I was told that most assuredly I would find out that in fact, I didn't “hate” anything. It was simply a matter of my being uneducated.
I thumbed through the tome in front of me and found the evil expression on page 510 halfway down the left-hand column. My mother did that sideways neck thing black women do when they are celebrating a touche. My sister sat beaming with anticipation it seemed to me at the time. All hands were waiting for my deep regret and the apology to follow.
I found the entry and read, “Hate -Verb -feel intense dislike for or a strong aversion towards.”
“Well then,” said my mother “You see, Michael, you don't really hate anything or anyone, now do you?”
“Yes Ma'am, I do. I hate Tina. I hate tomatoes and eggplants. I hate liver and I hate getting dressed up on Sundays.”
Tina giggled and my mother frowned.
“No you don't, you just don't understand what the definition says. I don't want to hear that word in my house again. Is that clear?”
When she left the room I looked up the word aversion and confirmed the rightness of my stance.
When I was much older I had a car. It was my third or fourth vehicle. I had bought it from a Swedish fellow I knew in Lynn Valley. He and his brother were distinguished in the neighbourhood for having a hutch with meat-eating rabbits. I didn't believe the rumours and when I went to purchase the car from my friend's brother, I was shown in person the protein craving beasts.
The guys were local tough guys and the car for sale by the big brother Almquist was a tough guy's car. It was a beige 67 Beaumont. The owner had installed a Holly 4-Barrel carburetor and little red Christmas lights throughout the interior for making out in the dark at Lynn Canyon. It had dragons and snakes hand painted across the sun visors and the dashboard itself. I took the furry dice off the rear-view mirror and replaced them with my own medicine pouch.
It had seen some miles but I was assured that it would at least get me to Texas and back if need be. The price was right at $200.00 and we shook on it. The car had two speeds, due to the over-size carburetor. These were full stop and tear-ass. For a time I loved the car. With continued use this changed. It was with this vehicle I moved to Vancouver Island to work in a new restaurant being opened there.
On the big night with a crowd of 300 dignitaries, personal family, friends of the owners and investors, many of whom had come from California for the grand opening, I drove up to do the cooking. The parking lot was full and I was a few minutes late. There was nothing for it except to park crosswise on the newly laid lawn hard beside the huge crowd assembled at the front doors awaiting entry.
I saw my boss and the owners and waved. I hurriedly disembarked and when I slammed the door, the horn shorted out and went full roar. The crowd jumped and plugged their ears, many of them noticing the grotesque coach for the first time since I pulled up. I tried everything I knew and a few things I made up on the spot. All to no effect. After agonizing eternities of embarrassment with my boss giving me the slash across the neck sign, I ripped the wires out of the horn itself. I was covered in sweat and grease and I would be visible for the entire evening up front in the broiler bar flipping steaks.
When I left that evening which I shall never forget, there was a puddle of muddy oil on the new lawn where I had parked. I got home and saw that there was the same foul residue where I had been parking.
I began to dislike the car. Within a week I actively hated it. I had to resort to buying green bulk recycled oil by the case in glass refillable jars and stop every few hours to pour more in as it ran out below onto the Island Highways. The horn had to stay permanently disconnected, which adversely affected the tape-deck and the make-out lights.
When life washed me up on other shores some time later I was getting quite vexed with this chariot. My money was low and I managed to get a mechanic pal to diagnose some other major problems it was having since returning to North Vancouver. He kept her for a day and told me that an old trick involving sawdust and the crank-case had been pulled on me. There was no telling if the Swedes had done it and I left them out of the roster of suspects for the time being.
One day I reached the end of the tether. I phoned my brother-in-law and gave him co-ordinates and a time for meeting me on the Barnett Highway in Burnaby. I grabbed a screwdriver and a backpack and asked my wife if she wanted to come on an adventure. She was game and off we went trailing green sludge all the way. The highway mentioned above runs east-west along the south shore of the Burrard Inlet and takes one from Vancouver into the next municipality to the east called Burnaby.
The inlet is in reality a fjord and this was in my mind. I had bought the car from a Swede. I was part Swede and the car had had quite an illustrious career. What it wanted was a proper burial at sea. I intended to give it one. We were at the rendezvous in no time. I filled in the details for my eighteen year old wife as we went along.
My brother-in-law showed up within a minute of the appointed time and I briefed him. We took the license plates off and put them in the backpack. Being environmentally aware even in those bygone days, I had intentionally run the tank nearly dry and the oil was constantly dry anyway. I had previously removed all the important stuff like windshield scrapers and tire chains, etc. I rolled down all the windows that still worked.
As my wife stood a few yards off with astonished admiration, brother-in-law and I began pushing the damnéd rolling junk-pile off the shoulder and up to the brink which would take it straight through the blackberries and into the salt to sleep. If she got thirsty there was a refinery and oil storage complex only a mile away at Ioco.
I looked up from where I was handling the wheel and shouldering the window frame as I heard my wife gasp. There coming to a stop was a Burnaby RCMP patrol car. My wife was the first to greet the officer as he strode toward us. I put the hand brake on and went around the back.
“I had nothing to do with it,” my wife said, pointing at me while walking away. “It was all my husband's idea.”
My brother-in-law couldn't help himself and started to laugh. I think I turned red, partly from the words “for better or worse” ringing in my ears and partly from the disappointment at missing a fitting end to a spent dragon ship. Now I still had to go on hating that car.
The officer stood straight as an arrow and looked me in the eyes. I waited for the worst.
“Son,” he said, “I know exactly how you feel and I know exactly what you are about to do. I also know why. I have to tell you that you cannot do it and if you persist I will have to arrest you.”
His voice was sincere, stern and gentle.
“Is there anywhere else I can do it?” I asked.
“No sir, there is not.”
“I cannot in good conscience sell this piece of crap to anyone, not even an enemy.”
“I know. Happened to me when I was your age. You will have to pay some scrapper to take it off your hands as much as that is going to irk your soul.”
“Alright, put your plates back on and take her home.”
I thanked the man and gathered up my wife who had managed to put a hundred yards between herself and the mess. I apologized to my brother-in-law and thanked him for coming out. I had to buy gas and oil just to get home. I really hated that car now. I forgave my wife the first time she smiled at me. I loved her.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.