Night of Literary Prose, Poetry and Songs, Theme Night
Sometimes we have theme nights, where RBWG members gather in Beseme's back room to share poems, short stories (300 words or less) and songs we have written on a selected topic. The stories we share are often deeply personal, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and always touching. Last month's theme was cars. Here is sampling.
Readings are chosen for their variety, they are under 300 words, they can be read by our young writers and the readers don't plan on trying to publish them elsewhere. Future selections will be drawn from a hat the night of the reading (or from an orange bucket)
Here are some sample readings from those nights. Enjoy!
On Cars - April 18, 2011
Playing Chickenby Paul Dyer
The Pick Up by Tom Hoyer
"Tars" by Maribeth Fisher
My First Car by Janice Peebly
The Breakup by Marjorie Weber
His Thing Was Cars by Susan Patel
Playing Chicken by Paul Dyer
A 1964 white Dodge Dart. 1964-Dodge Golden Anniversary Year. Says so right on the medallion embedded in the center of the hard blue plastic steering wheel. Hard blue plastic seats as well. Half a black knob left on the volume control of the AM radio. No knob left on the tuner stem, the vise-grip which had hung there re-employed for some more important duty under the hood. All of our hours will be spent tuned to top forty WFIL out of Philadelphia with DJ King George Michael. On each front door a circle of words. On the top-“Don’t Cook Tonight.” On the bottom-“Call Chicken Delight.”
On top, the piece de resistance, a two-foot tall white plastic chicken with a blue vest, blue beret and a big smile on his yellow beak. Might not be smiling if he knew that his kinfolk were being hacked, battered and dropped in 200 degree frymax oil on the other side of the plate glass window. A twenty-five watt bulb lights the chicken at the flick of a switch.
Now my friends, you might be thinking that we must have looked like doofuses driving around with a chicken on our delivery car and I wouldn’t argue the point. But, when the last bucket of chicken, the last bag of fries and the last tub of coleslaw had been delivered and night had fallen, we would extinguish the lights, pull over and wait for a victim. When a car drove by, we would pull out with lights still off, move to within a foot of their bumper then fire up the chicken. When the spectral bird appeared in their rear view mirror, they inevitably would slam on their brakes and the chicken would fly past, smiling as it sailed by.
The Pick Upby Thomas Hoyer
My father had my battered, blue 1954 Ford for the day. He was to meet us at five o’clock in the parking lot behind the school. We drive home together. The school had two adjacent parking lots, one associated with each of its buildings. Each lot was surrounded by a curb. Between the two was a grass lawn divided by a sidewalk. Maureen and I waited at the edge of one of the lots. We knew he would be on time. He was never late.
The car entered the adjacent lot at precisely five o’clock, taking the corner with a squeal of tires and then stopping suddenly so that it was rocking back and forth. We waved our arms and were spotted. The car immediately began to move in our direction. I was idly thinking Dad would be annoyed to discover that he would have to retrace his steps to enter our lot.
The car was moving towards us in a straight line. It went slowly, or maybe it is just that the memory replays itself in painfully slow motion. I can still see it approaching from five hundred yards off, steadily, directly. I can see the bounce as it climbs the low-profile curbstone and settles into the grass median. I can feel Maureen’s hand convulsively gripping mine. With mounting astonishment I see the car bounce again as it encounters the sidewalk. And at last, I can both see and hear it as it leaves the grass and bounces down the far curbstone hard enough for the tail pipe to brush the curb. The car never slows down or never deviates from its course. It stops dead right beside us. Dad rolls down the driver’s window, smiles, and says: “Here I am, my boy, right on time.”
"Tars"by Maribeth Fisher
“You wanna play tars?” Sam said.
He struggled with c or k sounds.
So cars became tars.
I loved playing tars.
Playing tars meant lugging Tupperware bins of match box cars to the rug patterned to look like a map: gray roads, blue ponds, green grass.
We’d start lining up the tars. A “speedy white one” for Gramma, a slow white one for grandpa. His mom got a van. Uncle David, who dove to
each Thanksgiving in a red car, got a red matchbox. Sam’s brother Zachary got a purple hot rod, Sam a matching orange one. He gave me a broken bus or a fat Bugs Bunny vehicle and when I protested, begged, for a speedy car instead, he’d laugh. My dismay, my whining—please give me a fast car like yours, was part of the game.
We’d find a tar for everyone. His doctors, therapists and nurses; people at the infusion clinic, his sisters and teachers, his dad, the guy who delivered medical supplies to his house—and we’d line them up on the gray road.
But nobody went anywhere. Having found a car for everyone in his life, Sam would sweep his arm across the carpet and smash the cars into a heap. He’d then grab his Buzz Light Year action figure to swoop over the mess, making sure everyone was okay. Then, “What ‘re we gonna play next?” Sam asked.
He was seven.
I know he couldn’t predict the future.
I know I’m the one imposing meaning onto a simple game.
But at his funeral that spring, we played the theme song from Toy Story and I felt that everyone who mattered in Sam’s life was there, sitting in our tars, all smashed up, waiting for Buzz Light year to tell us we’d be okay.
My First Carby Janice Peebly
It was 1969. I was home on leave between basic training and my first duty assignment. The Vietnam War was raging; college students were rioting; young people all over the country were converging on
I would be home just long enough to pick up my car and start the drive to
. My father and I had shopped for the car before I left for
. It was a blue 1965 Volkswagen bug.
Immature, naive 21 year olds (and I was the most immature, naïve 21 year old I knew) see things black or white, right or wrong. There are no shades of gray for minds unused to thinking for themselves. If I’d been able to go to a real college instead of a three year nursing school diploma program where we were all insulated from anything other than medicine and nursing, maybe I would have consciously thought about how my life was taking one path and not another. I’d chosen the military, with all that that entailed: polyester, rigidity, following rules, uniformity, hair that didn’t touch your collar. Free love, flower power, cotton gauze dresses, long flowing hair and music festivals where the air was redolent of marijuana was not what was destined for me.
So how do I explain it? The day before I was to leave, I went shopping for towels with my mother. I saw a package of pink, vinyl flowers with adhesive on the back. The kind designed to apply to the bottom of tubs to prevent slipping. On impulse, I bought them and decorated my blue Volkswagen bug. Flower Power! My father said the army would probably ban my car from post. My mother rolled her eyes. I stood back and admired my car. It suddenly seemed like the best car in the world.
The Breakup by Marjorie Weber
He watched her walk away. It was a determined kind of walk, her back straight, her head high, the kind of posture she assumed when she decided, for once and for all, that she was done with something, like when she vowed to quit smoking and she did. Or lose 20 pounds and keep it off and she did. Oh, she was beautiful, he thought.
“Aren’t you even going to talk about it,” he wanted to say. “All these years together, all these years I’ve been there for you, I’ve been dependable, I’ve helped you cart your kids to school, made sure you always got to work on time, took you on vacations, took you for rides when you had the blues. Once you were proud of me.
"I know I’ve aged, I know I have a lot of miles on me. I know that sometimes I have trouble starting, that sometimes, at the worst time, I stall out, like I did yesterday at that red light. Remember when I was handsome, bright, shiny, candy apple red with chrome wheels, automatic on the floor, room for the kids? Then you liked spending time with me, showing me off to your friends.
"So now, I’m no use to you. You want to trade me in? I promise you, the transmission is good for another 100,000 miles. A little detailing, a thorough tune-up and I’ll be good as new. Please, I promise. Don’t leave me here. Don’t let them sell me for parts.
But it was as if she hadn’t heard him. She’d handed the keys over and was already gone, across the lot, looking at the latest model. And she didn’t look back.
His Thing Was Cars by Susan Patel
His thing was cars. He’d always been fascinated by them, from family sedans to sleek roadsters. She couldn’t discern between a Chevy and a BMW. He pointed out each hood ornament and she strained to see the differences between the headlights, taillights, and body curves. He spoke of fuel-injected cylinders and state-of-the-art brake systems like they were instruments in the New York Philharmonic employing a glorious concerto. On weekends he’d spontaneously pull into a dealership pretending to buy just to go for a test drive, so she thought it fitting when he took a job as a car salesman. While he worked eleven hour days, weekends and holidays, she’d go for long drives with the radio blasting. Every couple of months he’d pull up in a new demo and drag her outside to see, beaming and childlike. She marveled at his passion. Then it always happened. He’d turn to the peeling, red Buick Skyhawk she’d had since high school and ask, “Why do you want to drive that old thing when I can get you any model, brand new?” But it was hers. She’d saved from the age of twelve and worked two jobs during senior year with only one goal in mind – to leave. Breaking it in on those dusty roads with Steve Perry blaring, her long, strawberry hair whipped out the window and she raced unknowingly. She noticed her eyes in the mirror – the only time she ever looked back. On her eighteenth birthday, she left and kept going.
Six years later, when her little car was taken from her in a mangled blanket of red, she had been driving home from the obstetrician with news that she thought would be the anchor she needed. That night as he sat holding her hand, she knew she needed to go, and keep going. She wished she hadn’t seen that look in her eyes again. She wished she were more like him. She wished she liked cars. And she wished she didn’t need another one.