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The Junker

Sometimes this damn book reminds me of a guy I knew from my high school days back in Mississippi.

Public transportation back then was laughable, unreliable, and/or nonexistent. Also, teenagers wouldn’t be caught dead riding to school on a public bus or in a car with one’s parents.

Carpools with friends was passable, but the really big deal when I was in high school was having your own car.

So, this 15-year-old guy I knew, who lived in my neighborhood, desperately wanted his own car. His dad told him: We can’t afford it, so if you want your own car, you’ll have to do it all on your own.

The 15-year-old saved up his money from mowing lawns, working nights and after school at the local movie theatre, et cetera, and bought a junker off of an old guy from Rankin County who used to come to the theatre on occasion. The old guy lived wayyyy out in the country. I remember it cost the kid a whopping $150 bucks cash (it was a big deal back then, especially when his dad didn’t hand him any of it, and minimum wage was $3.35 an hour).

The old guy from Rankin County hauled the junker to the 15-year-old’s house and literally dropped it in the driveway.

The dad went ballistic, but there was nowhere else to put it.

I remember the 15-year-old worked on the junker for an entire summer, nonstop. He hunted parts from the junkyard, trying to piece the engine together. He bought parts from the local hardware stores when he could. The whole thing, really, was a piece of crap, but he was dedicated that summer, and determined to, at a minimum, get it running. He’d worry about what it looked like later.

Come September, the junker was abandoned in the driveway. There was a huge grease spot underneath it. Parts were scattered here and there, and the 15-year-old didn’t touch it once school started. It was more than he could handle, I suppose. He lost interest.

The 15-year-old’s dad had to get rid of it. Eventually, another teenager from Tougaloo either bought it off of the dad for $75, or the dad paid the kid $75 to take it. The 15-year-old went back to riding in to school via carpool.

Wouldn’t you know it, by February or March, the Tougaloo teenager had the junker running. It still looked like a piece of crap on the outside, but that’s not the point — the Tougaloo kid stuck with it, and got the junker to run.


Right now, Emmett’s book feels like a junker in my driveway. I’ve collected the parts for the engine, but I’m having trouble piecing it together. I don’t know when I’ll get Emmett’s vehicle running, and sometimes, it feels entirely frustrating.

I can see in my mind’s eye how I want Emmett’s vehicle to come together, but dammit, a lot of the parts are scattered around in my metaphorical yard, tools strewn here and there, too.

The insides of the vehicle aren’t pretty either: The back seat of the gutted insides are sitting under a metaphorical tree, all torn with stuffing coming out of the seat, with a bird sitting and shitting on the broken head rest.

But I’m not going to let it go.

And I’m not going to give it up.

I still love working on this project. I still can see this thing completed in my mind’s eye, but ~sigh~, you know?

Time to put my on my writing overalls and get started.

Categories: The Writing Life

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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