This story was written at the prompt of my friend, Allison Plummer, who goes attends the University of Missouri Ralla. There is a radio contest there for $50 in gas money for the person to write the best story/reason as to why they should receive the winnings. Here is my attempt:
Betrayal is a hard thing to stomach.
Stranded on the side of the road, out of gas—this was not the position in which I thought I would find myself when I left the house this morning. The alarm went off at the sinful 6 o’clock hour. The day was premature, only having existed for those six puny hours. Yesterday seemed so recent and sleep was something I somehow missed out on when I blinked last night. Now I had to peel myself out of my nice, warm bed and put my feet to the cold, unwelcoming floor and face another day.
An hour later, showered, dressed, and bitter I got into my car and turned the key in the ignition. The engine reluctantly turned over and the slow rumbling grew over the course of a few seconds.
“If I can do it, you can do it, Esmerelda.” Her exotic name seemed appropriate for her luscious, rusting 1992 Honda civic exterior in a dull but endearing navy blue tone. She’d been faithful over the years. What began as an embarrassment to my 16-year-old need for image maintenance grew into something like an annoying, quirky friend that grew on me while I wasn’t looking and now I can’t imagine myself without her. I think we have a sort of mutual understanding, a sort of symbiotic relationship, if you will. She takes me where I need to go and I keep her sheltered as much as much as possible and hydrated with gasoline. It’s a relationship characterized with joint respect and concern for one another and I had no reason to think that there was any sort of beef between us.
Esmerelda rolled down the driveway slowly, letting me in on her discontent at the trip commencement with a cloud of lavender-gray smoke streaming from the tailpipe in the rear. My dad’s diagnosis was that this was a symptom of burning oil; I knew that it was more of a physical manifestation of inner emotional unrest. “I know, Ezzie, momma knows...” I said patronizingly as I gave the dashboard a few loving strokes. A small flash of orange light in my peripheral vision caught my attention and my eyes migrated across the dash to my fuel meter. The low fuel light had just blinked on. This did not surprise me as I usually keep it filled in small increments based upon whatever small amount of cash I can reason with myself to part with for this obnoxious, environmentally unfriendly, money-guzzling cause. I often compared myself to the Biblical widow who miraculously always had just enough oil to get her and her hungry child through the day with nourishment. She emptied the jar to cook their bread for the day, and the next day she would wake up to find that there was miraculously just enough to do the same thing all over again. This comparison had made me feel noble although the pathetic puddle in the bottom of my car’s gas tank was something short of supernatural. It didn’t feel quite so miraculous when I was at the gas station, outside in the cold, fingers aching and lacking blood flow as they grasped the cold metal pump, cursing the day that this God-forsaken horseless carriage was invented.
So I found myself at the commencement of the daily commute trusting that this small amount of fuel in the tank would somehow be enough to get me where I needed to go until I was able to break out of my lethargy and find my way to a pump once again.
“Esmerelda, I’m sorry,” I said apologetically, “I know that it hasn’t been easy lately, I know that you’re probably frustrated with me, but I need you to do this for me today. Just this once, I promise I’ll do better. I promise to keep your tank fuller and not to leave you outside all night so that the ice accumulates and you have to be scraped in the morning (I know how you hate that). I really promise. Please just get me to work, please, please. I ‘ll make it up to you.”
I continued the drive out of my neighborhood with my fingers crossed (more mentally than literally as it often proves difficult to drive with one’s fingers crossed, especially when driving a stick). The further I drove, the rougher the engine sound became. The car seemed to be progressing in a fatigued, forced manner and my anxiety began to rise. Esmerelda had been a moody vehicle form the start, never one to put up with any crap. I’d let the coolant get too low lately, the last oil change was overdue, and the gas situation wasn’t helping either. She certainly did not hesitate to let me know that she was, in fact, quite peeved.
Despite my requests, despite my angry threats, my reminders of my quality traits as an auto owner, and finally, despite my desperate pleas, Esmerelda would not be appeased. It wasn’t long before she sputtered and slowed to a stop on the side of the road at a jaunty angle, as I had barely managed to get the car out of the steady stream of traffic in time.
That, my friends, brings us to my initial sentiment, that sickening feeling of betrayal referenced at the commencement of this story. In the argument between my car and I, my fickle, beloved automotive of Japanese descent had the last word. Betrayed—betrayed after all these years together. My nonchalant and lazy actions had culminated into this final act of animosity, this final statement of her exasperation. I found myself at the side of the road, wallowing in regret, wishing I would have done a better job of respecting my car. The problem is that the lightness of my wallet contributes to the heaviness of the obstacle that lies between the two of us, Esmerelda and me. I have not the funds to keep the tank full.
I recall this emotional saga to beseech, to ask, to beg, really, with those to whom this issue concerns to take this story into account when deciding the recipient of the gas money. I love my car very much, and I especially love the transportation she provides me. I desperately long to right that which has been broken, but the lack of gas money has created quite a rift. For the sake of our love, for the sake of my wonderful, piece of junk vehicle and the relationship between us, for the sake my livelihood, and for the sake of all that is good and holy, please grant us the gas money. I believe it will be money virtuously spent, and I think I can speak for Esmerelda (someone has to) in saying that she couldn’t agree more.
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