The Death Trap

It is late August in Texas, and they have been in two-a-days for a week. It’s Saturday night, so there will be no practice Sunday. Ted wants to hang out and later watch the preseason football game that is on that night. First, Ted agrees to join the young man at a church dance. They’re entering their senior years, and the young man has been to a number of great church dances.

When they arrive at the church on Wooldridge Road, they quickly realize that this is not one of them. The kids are younger; most people are milling around and not dancing, and neither one of them likes the music much.

“Wanna just head back to your house, Gordo?” says Ted.

“Yeah, that’s cool.”

They get in the young man’s car–a cream-colored 1983 Caprice Classic with a dark brown cloth interior. They turn out of the church onto Wooldridge Road. When they hit Staples, they turn left. When they near the intersection at Saratoga and Staples, the engine overheating light comes on.

“Ah hell,” says the young man.

“What’s up?” says Ted.

“The engine is overheating. I’m gonna shut off the a/c. Open the windows.”

“How’s that gonna help?” says Ted.

“It reduces stress on the engine. I probably need to refill the radiator with fluid. But we’re not that far from home.”

They both use the hand cranks to open their windows, and the young man turns right onto Saratoga. Normally, he would drive at least forty to forty-five on Saratoga, but he can’t coax the Caprice past thirty-five.

“Dude, Gordo, I smell smoke. I think your car is on fire.”

The young man rolls his eyes. “It’s not on fire. It’s an old car. It has leaky gaskets. Sometimes it smokes a little.”

They get to Everhart Road and stop at the light.

“Dude, I’m telling you, this is not good,” says Ted.

“It’ll be fine,” says the young man. “I’ll take the first left into the neighborhood instead of going to Aaron. It’ll be safer. We’re almost home.”

The light turns green, and now the car won’t go past twenty five. The young man eases the car to the left-turn lane and turns down Acushnet. They roll up to a stop sign, stop briefly, then continue creeping down the road unable to go over twenty.

On their left are the pool and tennis courts. On their right is a strip of houses. A group of Mexican men are playing football in the yard. Suddenly, they stop, drop the ball, and run toward the car yelling.

“Dude, we’re so screwed,” says Ted.

“Hey! Hey! Your car’s on fire!” one guy is yelling.

“Dammit, Gordo! I told you!”

The young man pulls the car over to the curb on the left side just past a drainage ditch and near the open field that contains the park. They both hop out, and Ted sprints away. The young man follows close after him. The Mexican dudes all come to stand near them. A soft orange glow emanates from under the car.

“I hate that damn car,” says Ted. “It’s the death trap. It’s trying to kill us. It’s gonna explode and wipe out this neighborhood”

“Anyone got a phone?” the young man says.

“My nephew is calling 9-1-1,” says one of the guys.

About five minutes later, two engines and a mob of firefighters are on the scene. They dowse the hood and undercarriage in foam, check to make sure it’s out, and then head off. Ted and the young man cut through the park and walk back to his house to report the sad news to the Laws’ parents.

The car is towed on Monday. On Wednesday, the Chevy dealer calls to say it’s all done and can be picked up and it will only be $150. How is that possible?

“You had a leaky oil gasket. Some oil got on some wires, and the wires caught fire and burned up. But nothing else was damaged. In fact, the car started right up when we got it in the shop. So we swapped out the wires, changed the gasket, and you’re good to go.”

Thereafter, Ted refers to the car as the Death Trap.

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