Writing On The Wall

          He hopes his red Ford Ranger will make it another thirty thousand miles so he can tell people he’s driven it to the moon, but the transmission’s been slipping pretty badly, the clutch seems totally fed up with all the downshifting he’s been doing to save the brakes, and the brakes themselves gave up squeaking in favor of a deeper, more ominous grind almost a month ago.

          It’s not like he’s in love with it or anything like that. The rig’s been a pain in his ass since he bought it almost fourteen years ago. But he hangs on to it because he dreads the rigmarole of shopping around, the hassle of all that paperwork, loosening up the tightwad bankers and dealing with the dealers who don’t know him from Adam and don’t really care about anything except jacking up the price with a lot of options only a richer, fatter, and lazier man might want.

          Even though his father turns over in his grave whenever he tells anyone he’s driving a Ford, after the first few years he’d formed an uneasy truce with both the truck and his conscience, driving back and forth to the landfill, the Saturday morning coffee shop and, once, halfway across the continent just to make sure the old man was still in the ground where he’d planted him more than a decade before.

          And, to be fair, for a vehicle that only received sporadic and minimum maintenance and had never seen the inside of a carwash, it had served him well; had left the road only twice—once because of ice, and once because of alcohol.  It had only failed to start one time: at 3 AM and thirty below.  But he knew this much: if you ever needed a truck to start at 3 AM and thirty below, you really needed it start. It was because of this particular failure he knew that—whether he made it to the moon or not—the Ranger was going to have to go.  Soon.

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