After I finally freed the thing of its hulking V8, I celebrated with a cigarette from an old pack of my father’s generics I’d been saving since he got me to quit by peeing in my mouth. He’d come home from work early, found me out back, and smacked the smoke from my hand before doing the unexpected. I was sixteen. Funny when the best solution is something you’d never want to repeat.
The big car yawned its now empty maw, the cigarette was giving me a buzz, and the combination of anticipation and light-headedness gave me a hard on. My father had passed years ago, and since then it’s been heartbreak after heartbreak. I gave the engine block a nudge and it swayed in the hoist. It seemed small, hanging there without the complicated apparatus connecting it to the car, like you’d never guess its power. Power’s what it makes of you, my mother once told me. My mother never talked much, but she had good instincts. She’d married my father to keep herself safe, just as she’d left him to keep herself safe years later. I wheeled the engine into her garage, then took its place.
Shutting the hood proved tricky, but once it was locked I could feel it against my back as I pressed my arms and legs out into the cavity until they found a fit. The compartment was warm to the touch, having been sitting out all day in the summer sun, and in the close darkness it reminded me of the times I used to hide under blankets in the basement. My mother would always tell me when the coast was clear, and as if on cue she came out now and got into her car, the car she’d had as long as I could remember.
I was nervous until she turned the key and I felt something surge through me that obliterated any doubt I had. She slowly backed out of the driveway and drove down the street. I had a sense of where we were in the beginning, but I couldn’t see where we were going, and as my mother drove further and further I just focused on responding to the throttle. Soon enough I was completely lost in the task, the old wagon around me entirely solid, inevitable, and we drove for a long time, she and I, cutting circuitous routes through the city where we’d both spent our entire lives. It felt like a victory lap.
After what must have been hours I felt us begin to ascend. I growled up a long hill, faster and faster, despite the overbuilt steel frame feeling entirely weightless. My mother must have felt the same way, because just when I thought we’d reached our limit she stepped hard on the gas and I found even more within myself to give, and when we broke through a metal barrier I pressed myself hard into the points where my body met the chassis, and when the road went out from underneath us I made sure to keep the tires spinning as fast as they could until we hit the ground.
Shya Scanlon is the author of Forecast, Border Run, and In This Alone Impulse. His new novel, The Guild of Saint Cooper, was just published in May. Visit him at www.shyascanlon.com.