It sits in the field behind my house. In the late fall and the early spring, you can see it there, but come the summer, there's too many leaves, and in the winter the snow's often too deep.
I can't see it now. Not because of the snow, or the leaves, but because it's dark. Can't really see anything outside, to be honest. Occasional flashes of traffic passing by, but that's it. Maybe I'd hear their tires swishing on the pavement, if I really listened, but I've got Avenged Sevenfold cranked right now, and can't hear anything else. If the back porch collapsed, I doubt I'd hear it.
What is it? Well, a buddy of mine reported that it's a 1946 Desoto something. Whatever. No idea.
It's not worth fixing, he told me. Floor's gone, engine's a solid block of rust, no tires, no glass—you get the picture.
Probably should just have it towed away. You know, they built cars out of real good metal back in those days, could maybe get $300 for it. And I can't really say that it's not worth the bother; even if I didn't drag it out myself, someone'd do it for free, the price of scrap these days.
But I just don't have the heart to. It's not hurting anyone, I mean, you can't even see it from the road. Nearest neighbor's a quarter mile down the road, unless you count the farmer whose land abuts mine. But what does he care, so long as it doesn't hurt his corn or soybeans?
No, I just go down there sometimes and look at it. Walk around, kind of imagine what it might have looked like back in the day. Was it a glossy black? Maybe a bright fire-engine red? Did it have wide white wall tires? Or weren't those invented yet? What did it sound like? Did that engine have a powerful roar, or was it a dignified quiet? What about the interior? The upholstery's long gone, of course, but was it cloth? Leather? Some sort of vinyl? Did they even have that in the 40s? And what color was the interior?
Can you imagine it, new on the showroom floor? Sometimes I think I can. I've got to imagine that it was a man who bought it—when it was new, anyways—1946, it probably would have been a guy. Maybe a soldier, just back from the war? I can see him now—I imagine him still in his service uniform. Maybe the salesman's got a bit of a soft spot for GIs, you know, gives him a little deal, maybe with a wink. And he takes it home to his sweetheart . . . they exchanged letters throughout the war, but she never thought he'd make it home. The news she read—especially early in the war, when things weren't going so well.
He got home, maybe once, twice on leave. I think he was in the infantry. Probably got promoted. Maybe a small wound, nothing major. He was offered a purple heart, but he turned it down. "Save it for the next guy," he said. "I was just doing my job."
They had two kids, of course. Both blonde. A boy, all-American, he was the oldest. Played football—not the quarterback, maybe a receiver. In the Boy Scouts. When he graduated college, he went to work for a machine shop, back when that actually meant something, back when that was a job you could look up to. He probably just retired. And the younger, she was blonde and beautiful. Melted the hearts of anyone who looked at her. He watched out for her, gave her some brotherly advice when she needed it, you know. She spent a lot of the time in the kitchen, learning how to bake from her mother. That's probably a lost art now. But she got married to an executive, let's say that he works for a newspaper, and they all get together for Christmas, even now. Probably don't give a thought to the old Desoto.
Or maybe it was a traveling salesman. Maybe he looked at the car, all bright and shiny there, and traded in his weary Chevrolet. It would've been a light green, had to be. Chrome pitted on the front bumper, paint faded on the roof and hood, maybe on the trunk too. That car wouldn't have had whitewalls (if they'd been invented yet). Dust on the running boards and fenders. But it was a good car, it took him safely thousands of miles. Probably the paint's all gone off the running board by the driver's door, and the edge of the trunk. Driver's side door, too, by the window. The didn't have AC back then.
He must have had high hopes for the car. How long did he keep it? One year? Two? I suppose it would depend on what he was selling. Something agricultural, I'm thinking. Maybe he wanted a car with a little bit of a better ride than his old Chevy. Did he drive it home every day, or did the car see most of the country? Sometimes I look into the empty headlight sockets and wonder.
And who bought it next? Did the GI or the salesman drive it until it would go no farther and then leave it in the backyard? I can't see that. I don't think either of them would have just left it. No, they probably traded it in on a new one and never gave a second thought. If it was the family, it'd have to be a station wagon. The kids were getting bigger, and sometimes dad had to take the scouts camping, so of course they needed a wagon. Probably never even gave it a second thought. If it was the traveling salesman, he probably just bought another car, and never had a second thought.
Here's where it breaks down. Who bought it next? Was it a kid just out of college? Might have been. Thought maybe he could buy either a new Ford or a used Desoto, and thought the Desoto'd be a little nicer. Maybe make a little better impression on his new boss. After all, he got a job as an accountant, or maybe at the bank. He'd have driven it for a few years, always taking good care of the looks. Washing and waxing it on Saturday (that way, it would look its best for church). He married his high school sweetheart, a bruinette. They probably sold the car before they had kids, though. He wanted to wait a little while, because he thought he might be going to a bigger city, if his job with the bank worked out. In the end, though, they fell in love with the small town and stayed there. Lived in the same house since '54, a trim little ranch with a one-car detached garage, that will always smell of dust and gasoline.
He just put it out by the curb with a for-sale sign on it. It was eight years old, now, and starting to get a little rough around the edges. No one at the bank had said anything, but you could tell. It was time to get another car.
This time, maybe it was a high school kid who bought it. That's probably where the dent in the left fender came from, a little mishap in the high school parking lot. Some words were spoken, and it seemed for a moment like fists would fly, but then it just blew over, like a cloud crossing the sun, and that was that. By the next day, it was little remembered, and maybe he thought about it once and a while, you know, when he was looking at the right side. He saw that dent there, and thought of it, but now it was kind of with fondness. A little battle scar.
That would have been when it lost a hubcap, too. Even if it had been missing one before, the banker never would have driven the car with one missing. But he had to change a tire by the side of the road, and laid down the hubcap to put the lugnuts in, and when he finally got the tire back on, he just tossed the jack and tire iron back in the trunk and forgot the hubcap. It was late and raining, then.
He drove it through high school, and then he went off to college. He left it at his parents house the first year, but the next year he took it with him. It was getting pretty ragged by then; the exhaust was mostly rotted out, and he just didn't have the money to fix it. He had other things to think of, anyway, so it mostly sat in the parking lot. Got some water in the distributer cap, and he had a heck of a time getting it started when class was finally out for the semester. He drove it home and parked it, took the train back to campus, and kind of forgot about it.
Of course, every now and then dad would mention it in a letter—well, it would say, "your father says . . . " and of course, they both knew that his mother was putting words in his father's mouth.
So that summer, he got it running again—not because he really needed the car, but just because he wanted to. Drove it all summer, and it brought back the memories of high school. He halfheartedly tried to sell it, but maybe his price was too high, or maybe there just wasn't the market that summer. Be that as it may, he took it out to his uncle's place. His uncle was a little 'touched,' his father said, although his mother referred to him as slightly eccentric. Maybe it was all the years of living out in the country, or maybe there's just a divide between city folks and country folks that cannot be bridged. You never know. I think it's the second.
It was ok if he left it out back behind the shed. His uncle didn't care. That land didn't amount to anything, anyhow. So there it sat. And sat. And sat.
Before too long, it got to a point where it wasn't worth doing anything with anymore. Probably the engine just quit. The uncle went to start it, and after charging the battery it cranked over a few times, but nothing happened. It didn't backfire, it didn't do anything. So he just shrugged, and left it. Must have needed the valve cover for something, though. Might it have fit a tractor? It couldn't have fallen off on its own.
It would have still had its windows. But the uncle split up the farm when he got tired of farming, sold all his land to his neighbor, kept the farmhouse for a few years, then finally decided to sell it. I'm not sure why. I don't want to think of him moving into a retirement home, or, heaven help us, dying (of course, if he did, it would turn out that he was the kind of eccentric guy who had kept garbage cans full of change in his basement.
Or else a full-blown, basket weaving nut, who kept garbage cans full of green stamps and never threw out a newspaper.
So the house got sold. The next guy who moved in, he had kids, and his kids had pellet guns. You know the story. Pretty soon, no more windows. It happens like that. It wasn't the mice, that's for sure.
They moved on, of course. By then, the old Desoto would have been sitting on its frame (what's left of it, anyway). They probably could have gotten the farmer to pull it out with his John Deere, but why bother? Even though the shed was gone now, there were enough trees—in fact, the backyard was kind of overgrown. What had once been a smooth grassy lawn was being reclaimed by nature.
As the Desoto will be, eventually. But for now, it can sit in peace. It has too many stories left to tell to disturb.