Chapter 1: A New Beginning
"What's his name?" the small Ford Fiesta asked as she watched the tiny van nuzzle in close to his father's tire.
"His name's Little Boss," VB said. "LB."
"Awe, that's so cute," said the Fiesta, who was his owner's husband's mom's new car, and also VB's niece, who she'd just happened to purchase. She was VB's brother Ekoline's daughter, and her name was Kelsea. "Congratulations, you two," she continued.
"Thank you," said Ella, beaming at the black hatchback, then turning to her new son proudly. She looked at VB. "Thank you especially," she whispered.
"For what?" he asked.
"For everything you've given me. Your love, your support, and especially our son."
"Oh." VB was embarrassed because Kelsea could probably hear the conversation. "No problem," was his only reply.
"Do your owners know about him?" Kelsea asked, addressing both VB and Ella.
"Not… exactly," said VB.
"No," Ella answered quickly. "My owner doesn't." She paused. "Oh well, I think we should go now before Little Boss gets impatient. It was nice visiting."
"It was nice to have you over," Kelsea said. "Bye."
"See ya," said VB.
At home, Little Boss, barely bigger than a tiny Matchbox car, often huddled underneath Ella, sometimes VB. If they were both gone, he often stayed with Impala and sometimes Kelsea, because her owner was here often, as always.
LB, like many young trucks and vans, had been born as a chassis cab. He didn't have any rear interior, just a chassis and a cab. When he was older, and went to a dealership, they would fill up that extra space on the end and turn him into a box truck, or a shuttle bus, like VB's dad.
"Well," VB said to Ella one beautiful April evening. "I really do have everything I've ever wanted. A son, a beautiful wife who I can spend the rest of my life with, a family who owns me. I mean, what could be better?"
"I don't know," said Ella. "A daughter too, maybe."
"Not so soon, Ella! Let's take things slow. I want to appreciate LB being little. Pretty soon, he'll be his full size and we'll have to bring him to a dealership."
"Not that soon, VB." Ella laughed.
"I still remember when I was almost as small as him," VB went on. "My mom used to let me ride in her driver's seat with the windows down. That cool Tampa ocean breeze was amazing! Those days were fun."
"And so are these days," Ella said.
He looked at her. "Of course." He paused. "You know, your dad used to tell me that vans don't go well together as a couple. I was young, and I counted on him so much, I just never listened to some of things he told me because I didn't agree with them. I was so stubborn."
"And you still are."
"No I'm not!" he growled.
Ella only laughed.
VB grew silent as he wondered what Amanda, his ex-girlfriend, the blue Ford Focus hatchback, would think of him marrying Ella and starting a family with her. Nothing good, that was for sure. He could only imagine all the curses that sassy car would throw at him.
"Wanna go out tonight?" he asked.
"Sorry," she said. "I can't. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that we can't leave Little Boss home alone. Impala's gonna be out late; his owner is closing, remember?"
"Can't you bring him with us?" VB asked.
"I guess I could..."
"Let him nap in your backseat. Problem solved."
"Okay." She sighed.
VB and Ella decided to just drive around that night and not worry about getting gasoline. VB let Ella lead, as usual, and soon grew nervous when she started driving in the direction of the very factory that had taken Amanda. Did she know it was there? Probably not, she hadn't driven much. She only had two thousand miles on her.
"Ella, sweetie," VB said.
"Yeah, what's up?" she replied cheerfully.
"Uh… D'you know there's a, um… factory… up here?"
"What kind of factory?" she asked. "You mean like a-"
"Yes, that's exactly what I mean. So can we, should we turn back?"
"It's okay for tonight, VB. We're only passing by, it'll be quick."
"I-it's you I'm worried about, Ella," he said, gulping nervously.
"Well I've got you to protect me."
"Yeah… of… course..." He didn't have that overly opinionated confidence in himself he'd had in the past. Ever since his battery died, there had been times when he'd felt nothing better than a half-rotten Oldsmobile from the 70's. "Ella, you have to understand that I'm not who I used to be with my battery like this," he explained.
"Okay, got it," she said. "But honestly, VB, can a bunch of people and maybe one tow truck make you work at a factory?"
"It's not what I'd call work..."
"Well, whatever you would call it, I don't care. Just enjoy yourself for once, will you? Old grump!"
"I'll show you an old grump!" And he sped up, nearing her back bumper.
"Hey, easy, I've got Little Boss in the back!" she snapped.
"Sorry," he said.
Eventually, the two pulled up into the parking lot for a car parts store.
"Why'd you choose this place to rest at?" VB asked.
Ella seemed to shrug it off. "Just the closest resting place," she told him. "I want to let LB sleep for a bit."
"Ella, I came out here with you so we could do something together. Not just sit here. I wanna make use of my battery since I was jumped."
"VB, you can sit here and talk to me," Ella said.
"I kinda would've preferred driving around, and having fun."
"Well, VB, our son is more important than us having fun right now. We can't do things like we used to until he gets a little older."
"We could go home and bring him to Impala, he has to be back by now. Then we can go out alone."
"I'm not doing that, VB. If I go home, that'll be it. All right?"
"Well, I mean, I asked you out, and all you can think of is him."
"VB, if you don't consider your son to be the priority, then you don't really deserve to father him, do you?" Ella asked, getting aggravated now. "I'm going home." She turned around swiftly and sped away.
"What ever happened to letting him nap?" VB mumbled under her breath. He watched as the glow of her headlights faded away down the road.
He glanced around. This was the same place were CV had rejected him, years ago, and although he was now glad she had done so, he always kind of loathed the place since then. It was also the place where CV told him about BJ. VB shuddered when he thought of that day. Ella knew nothing of BJ at all, and he had a feeling she wouldn't be very happy if she did. Had he told her months and months ago, she probably wouldn't have minded, but just the fact that he'd waited so long would probably anger her.
VB wondered if having kids was really as good as he had imagined. Of course, he loved LB so much, and now could barely imagine life without him, but kids just seemed to mean more time away from your partner. And more time away from your partner almost certainly always meant more arguments. VB didn't like arguing with Ella at all, although he wasn't so worried about it this time because he knew they'd forgive and forget, like good couples always do. But, for now, his anger wasn't subsiding, so he decided to just drive it off. There was no way he would allow himself to go home with even the tiniest bit of anger left in him.
VB drove past his owners' house, not ready to go home yet, then turned down Olney Street a few minutes later. He was content to pull to the side of the road to watch the cars at the housing authority as they were loaded up and driven away by some men. VB had no idea what they were being loaded up with, or where they were going, so he decided to just sit here and watch them to get his mind off things.
A red single cab pickup truck, who looked brownish to VB because he was colorblind, was being loaded with crates and boxes by two men. VB took a closer look to realize this was a Ford F-250, probably a little younger than he was. On his doors were letters that read, "HOUSING AUTHORITY" printed boldly in white. The housing authority must own several vehicles who worked for them.
VB remembered his dreaded days of being a fleet vehicle and wondered if workers treated company vehicles the same way renters treated rental vehicles. They probably did, because it wasn't their vehicle, thus whatever happened to it wasn't their responsibility, and that seemed to be the only thing people cared about. But did they live more freely than a rental vehicle? Were they allowed to drive out alone and do what they wanted whenever they weren't needed for work? VB had snuck out once as a rental and had been given quite the talking-to when airport workers finally found out, so it wasn't something he ever did again, but that one sneak out was worth it. Driving past beautiful Tampa beaches as the sun set was one of the fondest memories he had from when he was younger.
He wondered if commercial vehicles had more freedom than that. Would life be more free without one owner telling you what to do, or would it be less free, with a whole company telling you what not to do? VB's dad worked as a commercial vehicle. He had no single owner, and didn't bond much with people. Instead, several different people drove him around from stop to stop, taking turns all day and night. Occasionally he'd get to rest and another bus would drive his route with the workers, but from what VB could tell this didn't happen very often. Each bus had their own designated route that they almost always drove, unless they needed maintenance or repairs. VB guessed it was very rare that they got a break just because they were tired. No wonder fleet vehicles don't last long, he thought. It really was horrible to think about, and he was very glad the airport had auctioned him off. Although they did maintain him well, he was driven almost constantly, and pretty much always roughly.
The cars here were probably far too busy to have any free time, and VB wondered what that did to their minds. It seemed to turn some cars into mindless robots. It was like they couldn't even think for themselves anymore.
VB's dad could still think for himself, though, for sure. "Himself" seemed to be the only one that shuttle bus thought about during VB's childhood, and, being bitterly honest with himself, VB never really knew his father very much. He was always on a tight schedule and never had time for his family.
The loud slam of a tailgate closing startled VB from his thoughts. A man hopped into the pickup truck, started his engine, and drove off.
VB sighed as the truck vanished from his view. It was getting late, maybe he should…
Suddenly, a loud horn sounded. VB bolted awake, flashing his headlights on swiftly. Sitting right before him was a red van, and VB's immediate thought was that he was dreaming and this was CV. But, he was wrong about both.
"Wake up, you Ford moron!" yelled the Chevy Express van, who also had the words, "HOUSING AUTHORITY" printed in white on his doors. "You can't park, much less sleep, so close to our building. It's a tow zone, lug nuts!"
"A tow zone?" VB huffed. "Where's the sign?"
"There doesn't need to be a sign!" fumed the cargo van. "If I say it's a tow zone then it is one!"
"Oh, yeah? Who died and left you in charge?"
"Nobody had to!" he yelled, clearly getting more frustrated. "Now move your rusty bumper or I'll get my boss to call a tow truck!"
"You'll do no such thing, actually. If there isn't a 'No Parking' sign then I'm allowed to park here. Simple as that."
"You make me wanna snap your drive shaft, you know that?"
"That's awfully personal-"
"I said move your bumper you insensible piece of scrapped metal! You act like you've got your engine in your trunk!"
"I'm not a Volkswagen Beetle, actually." VB laughed. He was having more fun than he should've been with the cantankerous van.
"That's it, I'm getting my boss," the Express growled, turning back into the parking lot. "Stay where you are, you big lazy lump."
Then, VB tore out fast, tires screeching. "That'll show him a lazy lump," he growled to himself as he turned back onto his street. "Stupid Chevy."
When Vb got back home, he nudged Ella (who was asleep) gently with a tire.
"VB," she said quietly. "Where were you?"
"Just out for a drive," VB whispered, trying not to wake up Impala. "I want to say sorry to you about earlier. I understand that we should put LB before ourselves. I should've thought of that a long time ago."
"VB, I forgive you. You're a great dad, don't worry. And I'm sorry too."
"For getting upset with you so easily. Just because we need to put Little Boss first doesn't mean we can't spend time together sometimes. I understand now that you only thought what you thought because you love me and want to spend time with me."
"Thanks, Ella, I forgive you too." He eased in to kiss her gently but backed away when Impala muttered something in his sleep. "Well, goodnight Ella," VB whispered. "I love you."
"Goodnight," Ella said. "Love you too." She gave him a quick kiss before he returned to his spot and fell asleep.