Page 17 - WTP Vol. XI #5
P. 17

 mother turned red with shame. “I’m sorry,” she said in all sincerity, “I meant twat.”
transmission failed was I finally able to convince Maa that we should lay him to rest in the elephant grave- yard where his parts might be used to extend the life
The laughter among those students increased expo- of other dying vehicles.
I had a brief crush on PT Cruisers until they were One day I asked Maa why she named her beloved van typecast as official soccer-mom car and nicknamed
“Dumbo.” “PT Losers.” But the day I first set eyes on a Scion
“Like that cartoon elephant, Dumbo,” she said. “I thought you knew that.”
XB, I knew it was the real thing. I liked its tall boxy shape, like a top hat, my favorite Monopoly piece, a car I’d never lose in a parking lot. (I have a bad visual memory for automobiles.) I even liked the put-down assigned them by car snobs—“Toasters”—because
to me, toasters were gleaming, iconic appliances that rarely broke down. Scion XBs were also marketed to a young hip audience and ironically the perfect vehicle for a 54-year-old woman and her 75-year-old mother.
“But wasn’t Dumbo a nickname the other animals gave him? You know, Dumbo like dumb, stupid. Are you calling your van stupid?”
“Elephants aren’t stupid!” she said. “They’re smart! They remember everything. That’s why the Demo- crats—the good people, like us—are the elephants and the Republicans are the donkeys, the jackasses, right?"
Perfect because after years of driving Maa’s gas-guz- zling pachyderm with its weather-beaten grey hide,
I needed something shiny and new. Perfect because Toasters were cheap and fuel efficient. And perfect be- cause their seats were “the perfect buttocks height” for older women. Maa’s arthritic joints had made getting in and out of high vans and low sedans challenging. But the Toaster’s seats gently grazed the bottom curve of her derriere as she effortlessly slid in and out.
When I told her that she’d mixed up her animals, she refused to believe me, but was relieved when I con- firmed that her beloved Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that comforting radio voice of her World War II child- hood, had indeed been a Democrat.
The day Dumbo’s engine began smoking on the 210 freeway and a firetruck with a blaring siren pulled me over, Maa wasn’t riding with me, thank God. She would’ve panicked, maybe even had a heart attack. Later the mechanic told me that Dumbo had experi- enced a massive oil leak and his engine was kaput. But Maa wasn’t ready to say goodbye. She insisted on paying for a pricey engine transplant, which extended his life another two years. Only after his
Not that my Toaster was 100% flawless. During Santa Ana windstorms, its flat sides became sails, and I struggled to stay afloat in my lane. Its engine was loud and its ride rough, but that only bothered me on our family jaunts, when Tom drove, Maa sat alongside him, and I experienced firsthand how the Toaster’s backseat amplified these faults. Trying to converse with anyone up front was like talking over a coffee grinder while riding a mechanical bull, so I shut up and gazed at dis- tant transformers to avoid getting carsick.
One day Maa felt “funny” but couldn’t describe the sensation. I called Dr. Lincoln’s office who said they’d only be open for another twenty minutes so hurry over, but Maa—who had a lifetime struggle with pro- crastination—insisted on changing clothes, spraying her hair, and smearing on her coral lipstick, despite my efforts to gently hurry her along. “He’ll wait for me,” she said, but a half-hour later I knew better and told her we were going to urgent care.
We never got there. On our way to the car, Maa fell in
the driveway. An ambulance took her to a nearby
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