1. The car was packed. Egg salad sandwiches had been prepared for the journey. There were lots of pickle jars. It was an expedition like the search for the North West Passage. And speed was of the essence. Leonard, my uncle would stop for no one. The pickle jars were for the male passengers including himself. Filled with discharge they were cast out the window. The female passengers were on a stop watch when we stopped to fill up for gas. If they were late they would have to catch a Greyhound. We had to get to port before the Ferry left for P.E.I.. And rush we did. Through Ontario ,Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and then stop. And wait. Board the ferry. And wait. There was a small movie theatre on the ship but no one attended. Money must not be spend. Everyone had to vigorously use the washrooms. The ship took its time. And then we unloaded and headed for Millvale. Pulled into the driveway of my grandfather’s farm and parked. Uncle Leonard stepped out of the car, unloaded a case of beer from his trunk, sat down on the grass and had a beer. We were first. Hours later my other uncles would show up. Leonard was asleep.
2. The story of the automobile is the story of mankind. The love affair with a machine. That would one day take over the world. And we would hand them the keys.
3. She was my neighbour and she was doing me a good turn. So I loaded my groceries into the backseat which consisted mostly of toilet paper. I heard that there was going to be some kind of pandemic. So I stockpiled. Her name was Leslie. She was a professor at the university teaching Hegel. She was putting Marx on his head. We’re driving along. Chatting. When it appeared. A bee. On her steering wheel. Leslie, as she later revealed to me, had a phobia about bees. Without thinking she took a swipe at the bee. The car turned, flipped over a guard rail and slid down an embankment on its roof. For a moment I settled down into a state of bewilderment. What had happened? ‘Are you alright?’ Leslie groaned. ‘Yes,’ she said. I was fortunate. The bags of toilet paper that I had been carrying acted as an air bag. I reached over and rolled down the window. The bee flew out. None of this happened the way I described it. There was no toilet paper. I was not in the car. Leslie was not driving and she does not have a phobia. The story is based on a sister of a friend I knew in the navy. She had a phobia. She took a swipe at a bee. She flipped her car. It was a convertible.
4. Barry had a Elvis Presley curly que hanging over his forehead and a brand new second hand Chev. Everyday that shone he was out there polishing it up. Some days his friends showed up in their jalopies and they would spend a sweet hour leaning against their cars, smoking a cigarette, and looking at the chicks pass by. Except there weren’t any young women on our street. Just kids on tricycles.
5. My uncle Frank whose name wasn’t Frank but we’re not allowed to use his real name since the incident used to take me to the auto show. The new line of cars were hidden from the public’s view until the show started. Every auto company’s cars were completely different from each other. I brought along Gordie. Gordie was my neighbour. He wasn’t interested in cars at all but he came for the food. Everywhere you looked there was a hot dog stand. We were stuffing our faces and wandering around. Uncle Frank was deeply immersed in conversation with the different automobile representatives. Gordie and I were checking out the models. The women dressed in bathing suits who were draped over the cars like warming blankets. Gordie nudged me with his elbow in the ribs.
“That hurt,” I said.
“Isn’t that Billy’s Sampson’s mom in front of that Buick?” He asked.
“The lady in the red bikini.”
My mouth dropped as did the dog I was eating.
“I wonder if Billy knows.”
6. It was terrifying. He was my dad’s second cousin and he had a Cadillac. He was going to take us for a ride. Out to the new runways at the airport. I never appreciated the thrill of speed. Seemed like a waste of time. Eventually you were going to have to slow down. Or stop. Abruptly. When my dad’s second cousin reached 120 I tried to crawl into one of the ashtrays. When we reached 140 the Cadillac started to shake. So did I. I screamed. We all screamed. Some laughed when we slowed down. I cursed. “I’ll walk home,” I cried and tried to get out of the car. It was still moving.
7. We were trying to raise money. The girls were washing cars. The guys had an old Studebaker and sledge hammers. A lot of young guys wanted to test their manhood by bashing the old car. Older guys preferred to have their cars washed by the girls.
8. We played in the junk yard behind our house on Jones Avenue. I fell off one of the cars onto a rock. There was blood everywhere. My best friend Dennis took off. Maybe he didn’t like the look of blood. But a few minutes later he returned with my mother who picked me up and rushed me the three blocks to a doctor’s office. There was a trail of blood along the sidewalk. All the local dogs came out and lapped it up. I had twenty stitches and a scar for life. Dennis admired my scar and wished he had one. I said I could arrange it.
9. My uncle Jack, who we are not supposed to call by his real name since the incident, worked part time in a Used Car Lot. My dad said he was perfect for the job. My mother said that he shouldn’t talk about her brother in that manner.
10. Gordie and I had just finished watching Thelma and Louise, a movie about two women who drive their car over a cliff. At the end of the movie.
“Who did you feel sorry for,” I asked. “Thelma or Louise?”
“I felt sorry for the car,” Gordie responded.
11. “I’m going to buy a standard gear shift when I get older,” Gordie said. “My dad said that anyone can drive an automatic. He said they were made so women could drive.”
“I can’t see me ever getting a car,” I responded. “My mom says that cars are a black hole for money.”
Gordie looked at me. “What’s a black hole?”
“My mom wants to have seat belts put in our car,” Gordie said.
“My dad’s against them. Says they’re uncomfortable.”
12. Returning from Elora. Dropped off some art for a show. Frances was driving. It was his car. The snow started. We ignored it. Francis had driven through snowstorms multiple times. No problems. The wind began to blow the snow off the fields. We slowed down. And then everything was as white as a blank canvas. We should stop, I said. Can’t, Francis replied. Someone could run into us. I can’t see a thing, I said. Frank stopped the car. You should get out and walk ahead of me, he said. Like a guide. Like a guide. I looked at Francis.I thought he was joking. No joke. I got out of the car. Don’t run me over, I said.
13. Every story has an end. Every life gives birth to death. We are the fortunate ones, woken from happiness into consciousness. The gift of despair. I was driving an old Dodge Ram down a dusty road near Mount Forest. My wife was singing to a song on the radio. Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. The van came out of a farmer’s lane. I should have seen the dust. Cut us in two. Sandra went through the windshield. The steering wheel went through me. I don’t know how long we were on the road. Dead. I could hear water laughing down the ditch.
This is the end of the story. Neatly tied up in a package. Our kids buried us in St. Patrick’s Cemetery. On each side of a woman named Nora who had passed in the last century. Our kids went on to live their lives. Matthew spent time in jail for mail fraud. Louise became a stand up comic. Brian became an accountant. They all died. And their kids or friends buried them. And then their kids and friends died. And on and on. The body of the last human being was found in the trunk of a 1957 Chevrolet. Bel Air.