Note: the author would like to dedicate this story to his aunt and uncle, Donna and Donald Creer.It was the bane of Carl’s existence. It kept him up at night, and when he finally fell asleep, it haunted his dreams. It mocked him. It confused him. It sparked his curiosity and stole his heart.
That. Blue. Car.
Carl’s first memory was of him scaling a chair, getting on the tips of his toes, and looking at it through the kitchen window. Not once did anyone get inside, wash it, or pay it any mind. It drove him nuts.
Through the years he’d grown familiar with the unfamiliar car. He knew how long it was: 159 inches. He knew its exact color: Pantone 14-4481. He knew how the sun made the hubcaps shine like diamonds. But most of all, he knew nothing.
That was going to change tonight.
“I’m going to dinner with some of my girlfriends tonight, Carl. Do you think you’ll be fine by yourself for a couple of hours?” asked his mom.
Carl tried to hide his excitement as he coolly nodded his head. He’d been begging his mom to let him stay at home alone for a few months, and his perseverance had finally paid off. Since the divorce, she didn’t get out much anymore. To Carl, it seemed like she was always at work or at home – and he was right.
With his mom out of the house, Carl had the opportunity to stake out the blue car for longer than he ever had before. When he was younger, he used to sneak into the kitchen late at night to see what the car was up to. One time, his mom walked in on him and immediately burst into tears. He misses his dad so much that he’s looking for him out the window, she thought.
Being older and wiser, Carl was better at sneaking out of his room at night, but with one eye on the car and the other on his mom’s bedroom door, it was too stressful. Besides, other than the car, the only constant in Carl’s life was his relationship with his mom, and he didn’t want to risk making her cry again.
Carl’s mom paced the apartment. She was a tornado carrying debris of excitement, worry and anxiety.
“Don’t open the door for anyone, don’t leave the apartment and don’t stay up late watching the fuzzy channel,” she told him before she kissed him on the forehead and walked out the door. Carl wiped away the kiss residue as soon as he heard the locks click. He usually didn’t mind a good forehead kiss, but this one was a weird mix of sweat and lipstick.
He set off to gather materials.
Lukewarm liter of Mountain Dew? Check.
Fruity Pebbles? Check.
Other than witnessing someone step in the dog poop Mr. Jenkins forgot to pick up, there wasn’t anything exciting for Carl to report.
Having so much Mountain Dew on hand proved to be a bad idea. This was never more apparent as Carl watched his pee stream create bubble islands inside the toilet bowl.
Carl shoveled another handful of cereal into his mouth. He knew his time was running out. His mom could walk through the door at any second. He dug into the cereal box hoping to find a toy inside. The noise managed to drown out the sound of a car starting, but it couldn’t muffle the screeching tires that followed.
Carl’s head popped up just in time to see a blur head down the street. He jolted out of his chair and clumsily watched the blue car turn right on Clark St. through the wrong end of his binoculars.
“Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god-Oh-my-god!” was all he could manage to say.
To keep up with his mind, he began to pace like his mom. The decision to chase after the car on his bike was easy once he came to terms with what would happen if his mom came home and didn’t find him.
Just in case, he rushed into his room, balled up some clothes, and put them
under the covers to make it look like he was sleeping. If his mom was preoccupied enough to think Carl was three feet tall with a lopsided head, it just might work. He downed the rest of his Mountain Dew and took off.
He felt boundless as he sped down Clark St. He had never been this close to solving the mystery of the blue car. He had never felt this free. The cold night air stung his eyes as he scanned the street. He was so focused, so excited, so willing to do whatever it took, that he didn’t mind the pee running down his leg and onto his bike pedals. The Mountain Dew had gotten him this far; the rest was up to him.
He stopped to rest.
He asked himself half-jokingly, “If I were a mysterious blue car, where would I go?”
A familiar noise nudged at his ear, shaking him from his personal interrogation. It was something stronger than a giggle but not quite a laugh. He stood stiff, hoping to hear it again. Then, to his right, he heard it. This time, he knew exactly what it was.
“Mom?” he whispered to himself.
Carl looked across the street and spotted her draped in the arms of some man he’d never seen before. He pulled her close and they began to kiss.
This time he screamed it. She jumped back from the man and searched for Carl. She saw him across the street. His eyes were full of tears. His shirt was drenched in sweat. And his shorts were stained with pee.
His mom took a step, but before she could utter a word, he hopped back on his bike. A cocktail of emotions surged through his body as he sped off. He had chased after a mystery only to stumble upon another, more baffling one. He pedaled faster, riding off to nowhere in particular.
Photograph by: Jaemin Riley
Written by: Justin Grady