Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Blast From The Past . . . God Drove A 1965 Mustang

so this is the only story i have ever had published - it's really old, and i'm still happy with it, even though i wrote it when i was 20 years old, which is so many many years ago - it was published in The Greensboro Review (number 40, Summer 1986) and i suppose if i tried much much harder, i could get another story published, or my book published (but my agent is working on that), but how much harder can i try? i mean, really . . .

God Drove A 1965 Mustang

    God drove a 1965 Mustang...I was sure of it. His hair was almost black, almost blue-black like the car and it flew wildly as he drove. The first time I saw him I was walking to school and the flash of his sunglasses in the sun made me melt. After school I stopped at Henry’s for a Coke. I was sitting with Bernadette by the window and God drove in the Exxon across the street. Bernadette was talking about her Pop and how he wanted her to go to beauty school or something when we graduated next spring. I was watching God. I kept wishing he’d get out of the car so I could see how tall he was. Bernadette got awful mad at me cause I wasn’t listening, but I pointed to God and she about died. “What a fab car,” she said. Yeah, what a fab car.

    You know when you’ve got an infatuation and you’re looking all over for the guy, but you don’t see him? You forget what he really looks like...he’s just pieces in your head like those crazy Picasso paintings, some sunglasses, some hair, a fire-bright flashing chrome bumper. Well, I kept expecting God to appear at school or at least his car in the parking lot, but he was nowhere.

    Every Friday night Bernadette and I used to go to the movies. It didn’t matter what movie it was, we just went to see who was there. You couldn’t even hear the movie for all the yelling. We always sat in the very back row so no one could spit in our hair or snap our bra straps. Well, on this night, Mr. Bronson, the manager of the theater, got really mad and turned off the movie. All of a sudden it was dark except for the red exit signs and the one thin white line of light that comes through the crack of the swinging doors and travels down the aisle. We thought the movie broke, so we were yelling at Mr. Bronson to fix it, and three minutes later the swinging doors opened, and Mr. Bronson was standing there all black and square like Frankenstein. He told everyone to shut up and you know what? You couldn’t hear popcorn crunching. “I’m going to shut all you brats here and let you all kill each other.” “Hey, man! Don’t oppress us.” It was God. He was all white in the light. I didn’t know what he was saying, but it sounded good.

    “What’s your name, boy?” Bronson asked.
    “I ain’t got a name.”
    “Don’t play games with me, son.” Bronson wasn’t breaking, but God just turned and walked out the exit door. Bernadette grabbed my arm. “What a fab guy,” she said. I didn’t say anything, I was numb.

    We all left and headed for Henry’s. Bernadette parked her car and asked me if I wanted a cigarette. I lit it and we went around the front of the diner. At the door I knelt down to fix my sock. I turned my head and saw the silver hubcap, the symbol of the Mustang’s stretched stride in flashing light. In it I saw my face reflected and all screwed up. The car was ticking with heat. I stood up and looked at the car, every inch of it. He was there, he was at Henry’s the same time as me.

    Bernadette and I took a booth by the door. The diner was smoky and green white with flourescent light. There was talk, loud mottled voices all about the movies and a rebel. While Bernie was ordering a Coke, I spotted God, sitting in a booth alone in the back. He was staring out the window. His face reflected bright in the blue lit window full of stars and headlights off the highway. He was thinking hard.

    “Bernadette, don’t look but he’s in the back.”
    “Smile at him,” she said, intent on her cigarette. God, she’s stupid sometimes.
    “Shut up, Bernie! That isn’t the way to do this.” But I looked over at him by accident and he looked back. We didn’t smile, just electrified each other...or at least me.

    Then Sam and Ely had to come and throw themselves into our booth. Bernie liked Sam, but I thought he was a real jerk. And Ely, he always wore the same plaid shirt and told me how pretty I looked. His nose was stuffed up that night and it made him uglier. Bernie would say, “Be nice to him, Marina, he’s Sam’s friend.” I would say didn’t that tell her what a jerk Sam was? But she was blinded by love and the fluorescent lights off of Sam’s greased hair.

    Sam and Bernie were giggling and talking with their faces real close. I sank down, I didn’t want God to see me with this nerd Ely. I tried to get my mind off it and looked at Bernie’s pink dress. It was tight and the material was sort of old and nubby, she looked fat in it. The dress was falling off one shoulder and I kept thinking she should pull it up or let her red hair hang down over it.. “You have hair like Elizabeth Taylor,” Ely said. He’d moved closer to me when I wasn’t looking. I told him his nose was running. He turned white and ran all spindly legged with his face down, out the door. Boy, was Bernie mad cause Sam followed Ely. “Sometimes Marina I...I...hate you!” Then she left, I saw her catch up to Sam outside. He put his arm around her and they disappeared among the cars and darkness.

    I looked at God, he’d finished his Coke and was getting up to leave. I decided to finish my cigarette and walk home. “Where’d your friends go?” Geez! He was talking to me.

    “Oh, I don’t know, they all got mad about something and took off. Now I’ve got to walk home.” Honestly, I didn’t mean that as a hint.

    “Wanna go look at the universe?” he asked. I almost died, right there.

    He opened the car door for me without a word and I got in. The interior was black and leather and clean. God right in and started the car. I threw my head back and closed my eyes, all I could see was him. Tall and lean, he wore tattered, almost white blue jeans and a black t-shirt. His black hair hung straight and shiny into a sharp bony face with quick eyes, almost like a bird.

    “What’s your name, girl?” he asked.
    “Marina,” I said.
    “That French?”
    “Yeah,” I said. His face suddenly go dark as we moved out away from the neon of Henry’s sign. “My name’s Gunther, call me Gun if you care to.”

    “How come I’ve never seen you at school, Gun?” We drove out in the flat fields and the wind flipped our hair about as to almost pull it out. I felt a rushing in my body all hot, all cold. Gunther-Gun-God. What a fab name. “I don’t go to school, I’m a poet. I’m here to learn.”

    “Learn what? There ain’t anything to learn around here,” I said.
    “Yeah there is. There’s the corn and sky and the diner,” he said.
    “Where do you live?”
    “Nowhere, I guess. In my car.” I had a hard time believing that, it seemed too clean. I felt I’d found something in my mother’s drawer that I wasn’t supposed to. We kept silent and Gun pulled off the road onto the edge of a cornfield. The corn was high and spoke when the wind asked it to. Gun closed his eyes and took my hand. “Marina, water, harbor, fish. You make me think of the beach with a name like that.” I didn’t say anything. I just looked at the purple night. The universe, bigger than any of us, bigger that our town. It was all lit up with fiery stars like a bunch of hubcaps. “Where have you been?”
    “Lotsa places, girl. The last place I was in was Coney Island. At least it was the last place I stayed for more than a week. I ran the Ferris wheel. Carrying souls round and round, high and low. I used to stop it and hold people transfixed in states of high or low. Then I got sick of controlling lives and came here to see the flatness.”
    “How long are you going to stay?” I wished forever.
    “I’m splitting tomorrow. Gotta find me something new.” I felt something fall from the top of my body to the bottom. But he leaned over and wrapped his arms around me and made me fell like I’d touched something for a while that nobody ever had. We sat there till the sun was striping the sky, watching the universe move.

    When Gun dropped me off I stood in the road and watched him turn into nothing but a black pinpoint with flashing red taillights. I turned and I saw my Pop standing at the screen door. All blue in the face, he screamed that I wasn’t going to anymore Friday night movies. I told him, “Don’t oppress me.” I didn’t know what it meant, but it sure did make him shut up.

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