- Reading time: fifteen minutes
- Word count: 2448
- Published: 22 may 2013
- Author: Matt Matrisciano
- Copyright: Matt Matrisciano, 2013
Logan wished he weren’t driving.
“How’s the car look?” Phil asked over the phone.
“Let’s pretend they screwed up the paint job.”
“Should they repaint it free?”
“I’d say yeah.”
“They screwed up the paint job.”
“But you got it re-done. There’s no way you’d drive off without them owning up to their mistake.”
“Nope. Manager refused to fix it. He said the coat was even and smooth and sealed nice, so there was no defect.”
“Huh. That’s, that’s some—”
“He said I could of course pay them to re-do it.”
“Did they screw up the color?”
“The most obvious part, they screw it up, and then they won’t fix it?”
“What color did they paint it?”
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
Half an hour later Logan thanked the good Lord above the record shop had been slow the last week or so. He had time to get used to the Bismol-pink paint before any regulars harassed him about it. He also had time to stop in and get his paycheck. He parked near the door and walked in.
At the counter, straight back and just out of line with the door, Scherry stood next to the register, reading a comic book. The owner had told her to stop reading at the counter but never did anything about it. She worked only every few days.
“What are you reading?”
Scherry propped her chin with her hand. “One of the new Batmans. Another gritty reboot.”
“Like Batman Begins?”
“But this one’s bad.”
“I don’t read comics.”
“Basically they keep killing everyone off.”
“Like a horror movie.” Logan leaned on the counter. “The old man print out our paychecks?”
“Yep. They’re right back—” Scherry tore a piece of receipt paper and marked her page. “Here.” She turned around and unlocked the middle floor cabinet behind her and shuffled through some papers. She faced the counter again and handed Logan an envelope.
Scherry slid the comic behind the register. “Pretty slow so far.”
“Same as the last week or so. Every April. That music fest kills us.”
Scherry sprayed the counter and wiped it with a paper towel. “Scotty came in again this morning.”
“To talk about his thirty-seventh band, I’m sure.”
“Something. He’s really proud of the name. Cans of Piss.”
“He should change his last name to Stipe.”
Scherry stopped wiping and squinted at the front door. “Whose car is that?”
“The pink one out by the door. Sun’s bouncing off and blinding me.”
Their shadows on the back wall were surrounded by pink. “Good lord.”
“No. That’s my car.”
Scherry’s eyes bugged out.
Scherry grinned. “I never thought pink was your color.”
“I know. Good that you know. You can’t keep it pink.”
“They won’t repaint it free. Manager said the coat was done right and sealed proper. Says even though the color’s wrong, they did nothing wrong.”
“You can’t keep it pink, Logan. It’s not manly.”
“Sure. I can’t afford to repaint it.”
“So you’re saying pink is your color.”
“And even if I had the money, why would I give more to the screw-ups who won’t admit they screwed up?”
“It’s not your color.” Scherry laughed. “Really isn’t.”
“You know, at least Phil was reasonable about it earlier.”
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
“Wow. Your place is impossibly clean.” Phil walked in the front door.
“Yours is just impossibly unclean.” Logan shut the door. “Now my cousin Sam, his place is impossibly clean. It’s like he doesn’t live there.”
Phil stepped into the kitchen. “You still got some of that Abita?”
Phil opened the door. “Mind if I have it?”
“But you’re gonna keep asking me about it. Go for it.”
Phil opened the beer—“Good man”—and had a gulp. “Man. That Amber’s bitchin’.”
“Bitchin’? I thought you said shiny now.”
Phil shrugged mid-sip.
“Wha’d you come over for, again? I know you got beer at your place.”
Phil put the bottle down. “I’ve got a directive for you.” He leaned on the counter.
Phil nodded toward the door.
“I always have a wreath hanging there.”
“Not that. You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t.”
“The car?” Logan took the beer from Phil.
“What else would I mean?”
“Specifically the pink paint.”
“Specifically the pink paint.”
“I told you, I can’t afford a new paint job.” Logan dumped the beer into the sink. “The manager insists the shop did nothing wrong. Money down the drain for me—”
“Waste of a beer.”
“—and they’re the cheapest place in town. Plus, I don’t care about the color. And if it somehow bothered me so much that I’d borrow money to get it re-done, I wouldn’t go back to them.”
“You like a girl’s color.”
“I don’t like it or dislike it. It’s just a color.”
“You’re saying that ’cause you like it.”
“And you were so reasonable about it this morning.”
“Is there something you want to say?”
“Yeah. You’re an ass. Get out.”
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
Mid morning at the record shop and its must and mildew still hadn’t aired out: It had rained an hour ago. The seal under the front door had worn out years back, so the water leaked into the carpet.
“How bad do your clothes smell?” Logan said.
Kaylee next to him stretched her arms on the register and sniffed her sleeves. “I can’t tell if that’s me or the carpet.”
“That’s my line.”
Kaylee pulled her arms back and shielded her eyes. “What’s giving off all that light?”
“What light?” Logan squinted at the light.
“Is that a Sentra?”
Kaylee turned to Logan. “You drive a Sentra, yeah?”
“Would you ever paint—”
“No, I wouldn’t. But that is my car.”
“I knew you were getting it re-painted the other day, but I thought you were getting forest green again.”
“I was. But the paint shop felt pink was better.”
“Yeah. But they painted the wrong color and refused to re-do it. At least the coat’s smooth and sealed nice. You can check it later. They did it right.”
“Principle-wise, no. Practically, yes.”
“It’s just a car. You know?”
“I bought it a year after college. I’ve had it for ten years. I love that car.”
“It’s not you. You can always get it repainted.”
“Already spent my car-painting money.”
“Sure. And till then, it’ll sit there in that garish Bismol pink. Out of every shade, it had to be bubblegum.”
The door squeaked open—a tall woman walked in—and slammed shut.
“The manager actually tried telling me it’s easy to get green and pink mixed up.
“Whose car is that out there?” The woman’s feet squished across the carpet.
“That gaudy pink bastard out there is yours?” The woman laughed. “Are you gay?”
Logan walked out from behind the counter. “Funny, huh.”
Logan sidled up to the woman. “Get out.”
“I just walked in. You can’t kick me out.”
Logan pointed to a sign behind the counter: UNRULY, RUDE, OR OTHERWISE UNSAVORY CUSTOMERS WILL BE REMOVED BY MGMT—MGMT.
“You a manager?”
“So you can’t kick me out.”
“Then I’m not leaving.”
“But the woman at the register—her name’s Kaylee—she’s a manager.”
“You think we should kick this customer out?”
Kaylee joined Logan and the woman. “You making fun of him for his car’s paint job?”
“It’s pink, so yes. And?”
“You really don’t want her to do that.” Logan walked to the counter. He pulled up his sleeve. “See this bruise?” At least half his bicep was a dark bluish purple. “That’s from last week when I cracked a joke about her purse.”
Kaylee looked at Logan, then back at the man. “He’s not lying.” He was. He’d lost a bet, and Phil got to hit Logan’s arm with a baseball bat.
“Out,” Kaylee said.
The woman flipped her off and walked out.
“It’s pink.” Kaylee walked back behind the counter. “It’s just a color.”
Logan was hunched over the counter, staring at the front door. “I know that. But she doesn’t know that.”
“It’s just that one person.”
“No it’s not. Two days ago Scherry wouldn’t admit it’s just a color. Then Phil wouldn’t either. And that woman we just kicked out, she was in here yesterday giving me shit.”
“I wish it was Scotty. We could finally ban that guy.”
“He was in here yesterday, too.”
“He thought pink was a clever ironic statement.”
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
“You never invite me to your place any sooner than five days out.” Logan stepped into Scherry’s apartment and sat down on the couch in the living room. “What happened? Did you finally ask Joe out?”
“Nothing like that.” Scherry locked the door. “Nothing at all.” She turned around. “But you can’t sit there. Table, please.”
Logan looked at the kitchen table. He walked to it—“Now I know something’s up”—and sat down.
Scherry sidled up to the table.
“You gonna sit down?”
“I’m staging an intervention.”
“Which of your friends is on drugs?”
“It’s not Joe, is—for me?”
“I know you won’t take me seriously. I got someone you’ll listen to.” She turned her head. “You can come out now!”
Logan’s mother walked into the breakfast area.
“You got my mom to come down here? God.”
Logan’s mother sat at the kitchen table across from Logan. “I’m so disappointed in you.”
“What am I doing so seriously wrong?”
“It’s your car.”
“Why is it pink.”
“Oh, you’re shitting me.”
“You watch your mouth!”
“You’re upsetting your mother.”
“It’s just a color. A weird color for a car, sure.”
“I never knew you were gay.”
“That’s what this intervention’s about.” Scherry finally sat down at the table. “People think you’re gay now.”
“Let them. I don’t care.”
Logan’s mom shook her head.
“You haven’t had a girlfriend in two years. And it’s not like you have a girl on your arm everywhere you go. Plus Kelsey looked kind of boyish.”
“I might expect my mom to say that, Scherry. Maybe. But you?” Logan stood up—“Stop being stupid”—and walked out the apartment.
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
Gasoline vapors hung and burned smooth inside Logan’s nose as he stood next to his car waiting for the gas pump to shut off. A man in a neat-pressed suit walked out of the convenience store. He changed his path to pass right next to Logan’s car.
“You being a good man, huh?” He smiled. “Filling up your girlfriend’s car on a wet rainy day.”
“It’s not my girlfriend’s car.”
“I don’t have a sister. I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Logan shut his eyes, gritted his teeth, and nodded. “Yeah. Mine.”
Logan saw himself taking the nozzle out of the tank and spraying gasoline at the man as he walked off. He opened his eyes. Still a few gallons to go. He thought of taking up smoking just so he could say “Fag? But we don’t live in Britain.”
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
“You look upset. Rough day?”
Logan beside his car looked for the source of the voice. A woman in a flowery dress stood on the other side of his car. “Off week.”
The woman smiled and walked to him. “I just want you to know, I get the struggle you go through every day. Your car color’s a bold statement. Very brave.”
Logan finally got his key in the door. He said nothing, got in, and started the engine.
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
“Hey man, that your ride, or your girlfriend’s?”
Logan knew he should’ve ridden with his windows up.
The driver next to him was a somewhat muscular guy in a bright blue polo and a white visor, worn backwards and upside-down.
Logan knew he shouldn’t answer. “It’s mine.”
“Nice car, faggot!” The man threw a cup at Logan’s car. It hit the front fender. Coffee splashed onto the hood and windshield.
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
“I understand you’re upset, sir”—the manager wore a serious concerned look on his face—“but we can’t re-paint your car at no charge just because you spilled coffee on it.”
“It’s not the coffee. You guys painted it the wrong color. I was going to live with that for a few years, but my friends harassed me about it all this week. Just today three strangers did the same.”
“Is the coat even? Is the seal solid?”
“I think so.”
“Then we’re under no obligation to re-paint it for free. If you want, you can pay us to paint your car again.”
“Oh my God, what’s that garish pink thing out there?”
“That’s your car? I can see why you want to re-paint it.”
“You and your boys are the ones who screwed it up.”
“Are you gonna get your boyfriend to argue with me? Rough me up? Have a stern chat over tea?”
Logan grabbed the manager’s shirt, threw him into the wall, and walked out.
“I—I’ll give you that one free. Get out before I call the cops.”
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
Logan drove to the lakeside cliffs outside town. The night was warm, but not muggy. He stopped at a cliff’s edge, left the engine running, and turned on the radio. On the college station Dave Matthews was singing the opening of one of his band’s closing songs: “If I go / Before I’m old / Oh brother of mine / Please don’t forget me if I go.” The ooh-zee-ing of locusts wafted through the windows and over the music.
As the song finally faded out, Logan backed up far from the edge. He hadn’t been able to find another paint shop in town. He unbuckled his seatbelt and made sure his door was unlocked. He floored the accelerator, and when the car hit twenty-five he resumed the cruise control. He adjusted the steering wheel, then jumped out his door. He rolled himself to a stop and looked toward his beloved car.
The Sentra drove on, obeying its computer, unaware it was in charge of its own destiny now. Its pink paint streaked long and bright in the dusk light, ghosting in lines that ended in arcs long after the car had leapt off the cliff into the water below. The streaks shot down to the bottom of the lake, a gaudy pink candy cane that stood and glowed for three days after.
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