By Scott Longman
The sphere snarled at me.
She was as tall as she was wide, which was about 5 feet both, and she was the very worst form of redneck trailer trash you have ever contemplated. She had a backup sphere, putatively her daughter. Between morphology, dress, attitude and a really bad shared bottle of discount hair color that I christened “Section 8 Bronze,” they were indistinguishable. And I could not begin to believe that this exchange was happening.
What Sphere Senior said was: “It would be a shame if something happened to your car if you don’t get it out of here.”
Sphere Junior contributed all three chins in vigorous nod.
There is, of course, a backstory:
I was just nineteen years old, and skating on broke, because most of what I earned went to pay for school.
And along came this car. It was a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner convertible, the absolute dream of humanity. It was a rolling disaster, which is why it had a tiny price. Although I didn’t know it then, the car was already far beyond salvage: It was rusted profoundly in every single last body panel, and more importantly, so too the structural subframes and rocker panels. The 383 V-8 smoked and burned so much oil that it needed a quart every forty miles.
Not wanting it to get any worse, and having utterly unrequited visions of eventual restoration, I wanted to put it in a garage.
A sketchy family member had, somehow, encountered Sphere Senior, dreadfully typical of his social circles. The Spheres lived in a taxpayer supported mess, where they maintained a trade of horrid kitsch which they sold at flea markets.
But they had an empty garage on the property.
My family member cut a deal that I would perform certain construction works that their slumlord wouldn’t, and in exchange, I got a roof over the head of my car.
So I did. I punched over there after class for months, doing what I’d said I’d do, and did a solid job of it. After I’d discharged the whole agreement, the Spheres appeared at the front door one day, and gave me an ultimatum: That car is out of here by tonight, or else. I found out later through a decent neighbor that they’d found someone who would pay cash to them for the same garage space, and, of course, they’d already gotten the work out of me.
Enter one wreck of a ’68 Dodge Monaco. I was the sixth owner of this parts car, and nobody in the chain had ever transferred the title. I bought the car for its motor. While that motor wasn’t a powerhouse, it ran well, and it would bolt in to the ‘Runner. I scored the whole Monaco car, including its functional motor, for $50.
I knew a guy with a chain fall and a big oak tree. Motor out. Secured.
But that left the rest of the car.
It had to go.
Epiphany: The Spheres had a garage without a car. I had a car without a garage. Karma.
And so the plan formed itself.
I needed a tow vehicle and a chase vehicle. We used tow straps to secure the front of the Monaco to the rear hitch of an International Harvester Scout, which had plenty of torque. Then we had the chase car follow close, with its lights on because there was zero power in the Monaco.
A dark, October night, a block from Sphere Central, we staged. So the chase car became the lead car, and the IH Scout got behind me, pushing me up to speed. I bounced the curb two houses before The Spheres’, stomped on the brakes as I entered their lawnspace, and then plowed into their wooden front stairs. I bailed and bolted around the corner, where the chase car awaited.
I’ll never know what The Spheres’ reaction was.
But here’s what I hope:
They looked out and thought, “Oh, some drunk hit our porch.”
And one or more of them came out to inspect.
Well, I had calculatedly left the key in the ignition, with a giant, orange keychain attached to it, so they couldn’t possibly miss it.
My hope? They went to start it, to put it on the street, but found it wouldn’t crank over. So they went to give it a battery jump.
Not only was there no battery. There was no engine.