I passed you on the 880 Loop the other day. You were in the slow lane in your new fuel efficient, self-aware mini-hybrid. Since we are such good friends, I know you won’t mind my saying you might as well be riding on the interstate in a golf cart. A Mini-Cooper would crush you and your highly intelligent vehicle like a bug.
But that’s enough about you. As you are probably aware, I traded in my vintage Vauxhall for a domestic last year. Driving home from my MENSA meeting, my air conditioner went haywire. The driver’s side vents blasted ice-cold air while super-heated air blew on the passenger side. Ever vigilant and keenly attuned to my environment, I noticed the bifurcation when the vents to my right began to glow.
I drove straight to my trusted mechanic, Milo Fields, and paced in his waiting room. After God only knows how long, Milo walked through the swinging doors. From his hang-dog look, I knew it was serious. “Tell me the truth,” I pleaded. “It’s not good,” Milo said, removing his surgical mask and matching beanie. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this.” “Can you do something?” Tears filled my eyes. I searched Milo’s face for a clue, but saw only a stunning Marilyn Monroe beauty mark near his mouth I had never noticed before. “Is it real?” I asked the burly mechanic, wondering if it might be a mole. I concentrated on it, concluding finally it was probably a natural mole enhanced cosmetically to resemble Marilyn’s. It was not a bad look for Milo.
“Yeah, the problem is real,” Milo said. “Its manifestation could be physical or psychosomatic. And I’m afraid it’s beyond my expertise. I don’t want to go in and find something I’m not equipped to handle here. We’re going to have to call in a specialist.” Immediately my fertile imagination raised the specter of one fatal diagnosis after another. “Is euthanasia in the cards?” I asked, lower lip atremble. “I think we can deal with it domestically,” Milo assured me. “I’m calling Dr. Sigmund Schadenfreude. He’s the best.”
Within hours I watched my ailing car atop a huge tow truck disappear through the sally port of a towering downtown edifice. I wondered if I would ever see it again. The times we shared…. “It is quite serious,” I think Dr. Schadenfreude told me through the haze of pipe smoke curling from his nostrils. “I have seen this before, but not in one so young.” He shook his head. “Such a recent model.” I couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but everything about the doctor evidenced his gravitas—his shock of unruly salt-and-pepper hair and walrus moustache, his thick Teutonic accent, his curved Sherlock Holmes pipe, his permanently wrinkled brow—this great man knew of which he spoke.
“I have ruled out Degenerative Coolant Disorder, Chronic Schrader Valvitis, and of course, Harkin’s Clutch Neuropathy.” “Yes,” I screamed in an uncomfortable gumbo of triumph and gastrointestinal pain. “It will live, then!” It sounded like he said “some may call it living, but I…,” and pointed his curlicue pipe at me, mouthpiece first, humming a tune I recognized from my studies of non-traditional Nordic music. How could I have missed it? The pipe doubled as a mini-bukkehorn.
“Your automobile suffers from delusional schizophrenia emanating from a rare form of bi-polar disorder.” “My car is mentally ill?” “That’s why the hot…the cold…do you understand what it is I am saying?” Vat eet ees I am sayink? It hit me like a ton of bricks. Steel, rubber, and plastic, sprung from the wallet of my loins in a miracle of zero interest financing—was it over for us? From down deep I pulled myself together, gathering strength for the long road ahead. I asked him if I could see my vehicle. “I teenk so,” I believe he said.
Michael Henry is a writer in Oxford. A graduate of Tulane and Virginia Law School, Henry published his seventh novel, Finding Ishmael, in April 2014.