The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

Johnny Gets his Car
Jerry Billstrom

When Johnny got close to sixteen there was considerable tension in Pop's mind because he knew that Johnny would want to drive the car. With five kids he'd always tried to be fair with them but how was he going to be fair on this one? His oldest, Hilary and the second one, Leslie both started driving when they wanted to, neither of them until they were seventeen. But Johnny was a different type of kid and his anxiousness to get in the driver's seat had already manifest itself on at least one occasion.

Johnny had taken the car just after his fifteenth birthday and used it to pick up Jane Foley and take her to the roller rink in Surrey. That was the strike against him, the one detraction aside from the allegation that he was also using drugs. The allegation had been raised by his sister Hilary who claimed to have smelled it on Johnny's person on more than one occasion. But when Pop asked Johnny's brother, Leslie, he got a different story. "Hilary doesn't know what it smells like. She said she smelled it on him but how does she know what she thinks she smelled was what she smelled if she's never smelled it herself?"

Whenever there was confusion in the air Pop never made decisions, he only tugged on his whitening handlebar moustache and pulled out a stick of Wrigley's Spearmint, ripping the stick in half with a decisive twist. With the gum between his front teeth he'd drop his head in thought, chewing vigorously the whole time while the muscles of his thick jaw worked and the brushy handlebar swept the air. His wife, Helen, never talked to him when he was thoughtful because she thought he looked like a bunny with his whiskers moving up and down, and she liked that.

On the other hand, Johnny looked forward to his sixteenth birthday with only one question in his mind: would Pop spring for a car loan like he had for Hilary or would he make him share the family Olds with Les. Nothing else entered into it. The maxim "what is fair for one is fair for the other" was Pop's MO so it was either one or the other. He'd gotten off pretty easily after taking Jane Foley in the car to the roller rink the year before, probably because it was well after the fact that Diane Foley told Hilary who in turn told Pop. And then, in atonement (with his choice of punishment), Johnny washed the car every Saturday for a month, even though it was November and twice the doors froze shut. The atonement was legal, however, and there could be no further punishment no matter how much Hilary demanded it.

There was no precedent anywhere in the world, Pop pointed out. Just before Johnny's birthday Pop called Hilary, Leslie, and Helen into his oak floored study for a meeting on Johnny. After Hilary again made the charge that Johnny was a drug 'addict' and Leslie discounted it, it was decided that Johnny would begin a six week driving course and if during that time no further evidence was produced that Johnny was an 'addict', as Hilary charged, he would be allowed driving priviliges.
The finding was then presented to Johnny by Pop while the sixteen candles on the cake were still smoking.

The course began the next week.
Les drove Johnny to the course. Les joked with Johnny on the way over. He said that when the course was over he would be the best driver in the family which would not be a big achievment since Les had failed the exam six times. Johnny thought that was funny and even more funny than it was because of the joint they had just smoked together. However, over the period of six weeks that the course ran no further evidence was turned up against Johnny and Johnny was allowed to write his driver's license.

There was no doubt about it Johnny was the best driver in the family. Les had never seen anyone do 'police' turns (as Johnny called them) the way Johnny did. At fifty kilometers per hour Johnny hit the parking brake hard and cut the wheel swinging the big car around 180 degrees. And then, with a squeeze of the accelerator the big block 394 churned out enough horses to squeal the tires until smoke billowed and the great cream colored shark shot off in the other direction.
"Not bad, eh?" said Johnny, proudly.
"Not bad," agreed Les.

Hilary had not changed her mind about Johnny. Her baby brother wasn't going to be out driving while he was high if she could help it. She went through his room every day looking for the evidence that Pop had asked for while he was off to his driving lesson. One day she found disgusting pornography under his mattress which she examined page by page, having never seen the stuff before and comparing the models' physiques with her own. She found a few pages of love poetry to Jane Foley, also under the mattress. ('Jane, I stole the car for you/To take you to the dance/I want to show my love is true/ I want to get into your pants'). Johnny hadn't given Jane the poems. He wasn't stupid like Les. She wondered if Jane looked like the models in the magazine and then put everything back. She checked the pockets of his numerous windbreakers and found spent concert tickets, a two-dollar bill, some lint covered life-savers, a crimp note full of math, but not a single chunk of hash. Not a joint of Thai and none of that blue-microdot that was all over the place. In May when the course was almost finished and Hilary still had not found anything and thought that maybe Johnny had quit, she gave up the search.

Hilary died of an overdose a month later and three months after the funeral Pop had a meeting with Johnny, Leslie and Helen in his study. He'd given up gum and was smoking the big goat's head pipe.
"Now were going to decide what to do about Hilary's car. Does anyone have anything against me giving it to Johnny?" Helen, her mouth fixed in a pout stared at the oak floor.
Leslie spoke, "I guess Johnny should have it. He's the best driver." Johnny smiled and winked at Les who smiled back at him.
Pop nodded.

© Jerry Billstrom

More stories in Dreamscapes


© Hackwriters 1999-2006 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.