Mikey sits in the backseat of his father’s T-Bird, smoking a joint. His mohawk, the near-white color of lime sorbet, glows orange briefly in the dark. Earlier today Mikey shoved an older boy up against a locker so hard that the boy’s nose split open and spat blood through the locker vent, staining Lenny Oakley’s clean, folded white T-shirt.
Mikey’s father died in this T-Bird, last summer, taping a rubber hose to the exhaust and snaking it up to the driver’s-side window. Mikey had found him, behind the wheel staring, purple and red spots all around the eyes.
Mikey stubs the joint out on the leather of the backseat — he’s done this so many times he’s created constellations of burn marks — and gets out of the car. He stumbles a little, because he’s also drunk. He bought a malt liquor at the 7-Eleven on Washington that doesn’t card and drank the whole 40 himself. He gets behind the wheel of the car and squeezes it with both hands, hard, like he could strangle it.
He hates the car. He hates its hideous peach color — who buys a car as cool as a Thunderbird and paints it peach? — and that nothing ever seems to work right with it. There’s something wrong with the carburetor, which his dad kept saying he was going to fix… next summer. Mikey doesn’t know how many times he had to crawl underneath the thing to replace the O2 sensor, which seemed to fail monthly. He hates the car because he would have always rather been skateboarding or practicing guitar, but his dad had always convinced him to work on the car, instead. It seems like it was the only time they spent together.
Mikey hates the T-Bird for killing his father.
But still, here he is. Instead of practicing guitar or skateboarding he’s gripping the wheel of his dead dad’s Thunderbird, which his mother refuses to use but also refuses to sell.
When he lets go of the wheel he feels a pressure change, like escaping steam, and he looks up to see a few stars that have forced their way through the light-polluted LA night. In them Mikey sees again the pattern of that blood-red arc staining Lenny Oakley’s shirt.
Tonight Mikey is going to drive. He’s gonna drive this car so hard down Highway 1 and stop it in neutral at a little turnout he knows with no railing. He’s gonna put his shoulder to the bumper the way he and his dad once did at the base of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, and he’s gonna roll it down the steep side of California into the sea. He’s going to apologize to the older boy in the locker room, he’s decided, and he’s going to buy Lenny Oakley a new shirt.
Mikey starts the car and heads out for the ocean.
Noah Lloyd is an expatriated Texan living in New York. He believes that stories help us make sense of the universe and each other. An aspiring screenwriter, he has also published scenarios for several horror roleplaying games, and hosts the biweekly horror podcast “COVEN.” He is currently a PhD. candidate in English Language and Literature at Cornell University.