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Topic: Exhale( 08/15/13)
A-huffin' and A-puffin'
By Marlene Bonney
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After a half century of dealing with used cars (at least 6 years old when we got a hold of them) in less than pristine condition, we ended up with a few scant years of reliable transportation. We ran them until they fell apart (sometimes, literally) or there were no longer parts available to fix them. Occasionally, searches at junk yards even became a necessity. We’d dealt with worn-out gears, faulty wiring, rusted exteriors (Michigan winters with no garage), parking lot bruises, overheated radiators, broken fan and serpentine belts, holey mufflers, and loose brakes. We stalled at intersections, manually jerked blinker lights into submission, patched gas tank leaks, changed nail-studded or bald tires, and suffered through heat-infested summers with no air-conditioning with antiquated window cranks. We managed to survive it all, as most people do who cannot afford anything more expensive.
Gone were the gold ‘ol days when hubby could hoist the sick body up and crawl under the carriage to manage repairs or prop the hood open to change the oil or replace the spark plugs or drained batteries. Computerized chips made the “general practitioner” obsolete and rocket surgeons a necessity. The only advantage to this was that hubby no longer needed wifey to stand in as surgical nurse, slapping needed tools into outstretched grimy hands.
We named our cars after their particular personalities. Doubting Thomas was our first purchase—we never could be sure he would start or not. New starter after new starter was installed, each one failing after a limited time.
Lottie was our second car (as in, Lot’s wife) because she consistently pulled to the left and slipped into reverse, as if wanting to turn back around; eventually, her whole body became a “pillar of salt,” her body rusted through from our winter, icy, salt-encrusted streets.
Jerry-rigged Jonah, our only Oldsmobile, stalled whenever he traveled through more than a half-inch of water. He also winked his eyes at will (his, not ours) as his blinkers shorted out, willy-nilly.
Our faithful first-ever station wagon, Jessie (short for Jezebel) was the orneriest and most-severely challenged of all, suffering a major heart attack (on the Pennsylvania Turnpike several hundred miles from home, no less) when her transmission went out. Stranded and at the mercy of unknown local repair shops over a holiday weekend, her transplant there of a rebuilt engine was ultimately unsuccessful. The expense for another one just a few months later added up to more than Jessie was worth.
Lazy was our favorite used car, short for Lazarus, because no matter what happened to him, our prayers seemed to raise him from the dead. At the time, hubby was without a regular job and Lazy was the sole means of transportation for odd part-time work for parents and three teenaged children who also had driver’s licenses; definitely a challenge that required the skill of a travel agent planner (Mom), as all of us juggled various jobs to make ends meet. Just when it seemed that Lazy had expelled his last breath, he would surprise us with another miraculous resuscitation. We finally put him to rest when he could no longer pass the state’s mandated safety regulations.
And then, there was Noah, our last (hopefully) used vehicle, who lasted us the longest. A rough and tough truck that we were convinced must have been amphibious. He took us through a flooded college town, laden up to his gills with our son’s possessions during freshman orientation week. That car moved all three of our children to/from their universities, as well as, graduate school for our eldest daughter. Soon after 170,000 miles registered on his odometer, he huffed and puffed his last breath of blue smoke out of a blown muffler system in a cloud seen for miles around.
Then the children all moved away, we had officially become “empty-nesters,” and we received an inheritance from my mother that put us in the position to purchase our first-ever brand new car. This has come in handy for visits to see our far-away grandchildren without anxiety over an undependable vehicle.
We have named him Methuselah, in hopes that he will not expire before our driving days are over.
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