In which the author learns to never buy a car that is older than he is… and that has blue flames.
by Mike Smith
My old flame had another interesting modification. I’m not sure why, but the guy practical joker I bought it from installed a toggle switch on the dash, which was the makeshift horn. I would assume that after the major modifications under the hood there was no room for a horn either. I guess it was marginally legal that way.
One night when our house was being painted our family stayed at a friend’s house down the street. My car was parked in front of their home for the night. I was sleeping in the basement on a cot. I awoke from dreamy sleep with a nagging sound going off in the night. Sort of like when your alarm doesn’t quite do the job and you sort of wake up out of eventual irritation to the noise. Exactly like that, in fact.
I finally started awake at the realization that it was the horn on my car. An alarm set off by the burglar… intentionally? Someone broke into my car, imagine that, and turned on my toggle horn and ran away. I thought to myself after I waggled my way up stairs to turn the horn off to the sleepy cheers of my new neighbors, “What car thief breaks into a car and turns on the alarm himself?”
“Ah, someone who will return to see his handy work or try it again.”
So I stole away behind a bush and awaited my prey. Sure as a car horn can wake up the neighbors, here he came again. Just as he got to the car to open the door and set the horn again, I jumped out. Of course he ran. But at the time I was the fastest kid in my school. I handily caught up with him as he reached the lawn across the cul-de-sac. I would have caught up sooner but faded back because I didn’t want to tackle him on the street. No reason to jeopardize my own knees. I pounced and tackled him.
In hindsight though, I think I may have caught him without really trying because he was weak with laughter at his clever prank. We had a good hoot on the front lawn of a neighbor’s house at 1:30 am. I had some good chums in high school.
I finally sold the car after the summer was over. It was closer to being legal when I sold it because I actually did repair some of the stuff the police so helpfully pointed out to me. My friends and I had more than a little fun in the car. I kind of miss my old flame, but I made deliberative decisions back then, and there was probably another car to buy that needed my kind of affection and professionalism ignorance.