I’m Just Saying: Help, my car needs an exorcist!

Published 4:36 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

After 170,000 miles and a slipping transmission, Paul bravely decided to send his Hyundai over the rainbow bridge. Except it needed a tow truck to get over it and meet all its South Korean relatives on the other side.

“It was the kindest thing you could have done,’ I said, mopping my eyes. “It’s in a better place, now.”

“I know that,” Paul replied, blowing his nose, “but it’s still hard.”

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And so the search was on for a new car and what a rarity that is in our household. We are most definitely not a ‘brand new every two’ kind of couple. Generally, we’re ecstatic if we’re driving a car manufactured within the same decade we’re actually living. But after lots of research and a price that couldn’t be beat, Paul, who had always had a crush on Subarus, found a stripped model in a deep rich claret color at a local dealer for a bargain price.

It’s a manual transmission with which we’re both comfortable, and while we opted for no bells and whistles, we still got the groovy blue tooth system and back up camera (very handy when you have stupid cats who blatantly ignore the horn and refuse to budge from their slumber just behind the rear wheel).

“Very clever of you to buy a red one,” I remarked, buckling my seatbelt and breathing in the ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, and toluene, better known as ‘that new car smell.’

Paul, craning his head both left and right before pulling out into traffic as we left the dealership, agreed. “I thought it would make a nice change from the silver Hyun-” and choked back a sob.

I placed my hand on his arm.

“In time, you’ll be able to talk about it and smile at all the happy memories,” I murmured, then repeated, “But it really was smart to get a red car because I just read a study that said silver cars are hit the most often by other cars but red cars, because the color really stands out, are rarely hit.”

“That’s good to know,” Paul said, shifting into first and merging into the traffic.

We hadn’t gone two miles when a driver in the turning lane decided he didn’t actually want to be in that lane, and suddenly swerved into our lane while we were still occupying it. With a rude word, blaring horn and wild maneuvering, Paul managed to miss him by inches.

“I thought you just said red cars stand out and never get hit!” he yelled.

“Well, they stand out if a driver actually looks,” I said defensively. “That guy never even looked.”

Now, if it had been a one-off, that would have been fine, but Paul’s only had this car for a couple of months and we’ve had four incredibly close calls. The most recent was last week as we were coming home from a book signing I had scheduled in Asheville. Cruising down Highway 14 we saw a car waiting at a two-way stop which inexplicably pulled out directly in front of us. Slamming on the brakes to prevent t-boning into it and swerving madly to miss him, Paul found himself heading right towards a pick-up truck before swerving back into our original lane.

“I’ve got that weird metallic taste in the back of my throat that you get when you’re hit with a rush of adrenaline,” I said, composing myself. “But why do we call it metallic? I’ve never eaten a hinge or a handful of ten-penny nails, so how would I know if something tastes metallic?” As Paul was still trying to get his breathing under control, I added cautiously, “There’s something going on with this car.”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you ever have this many close calls in the Hyundai?”

Paul thought a moment. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “Never.”

Speaking in a very low voice so it couldn’t hear me I intoned, “Do you think this car might have been manufactured on some sacred burial mound or something?”

“Yeah, right,” he scoffed.

“I’m serious,” I pressed. “Don’t you remember that Stephen King movie, ‘Christine?’ I think this car–” I dropped my voice into a whisper “–might be cursed.”

Just that moment an incoming call jangled at full volume through the blue tooth speakers and we nearly took out a mailbox. The call went to voicemail and we drove in silence until we reached the farm.

“I can call a priest if you want,” I offered, “or get somebody from Asheville to come do a smudging ceremony to get rid of evil spirits.”

“I don’t want anybody getting ash and smoke in this car,” Paul grumbled. “And Father Robert will look at us like idiots if we ask for him to perform an exorcism. Besides, you’re looking at this all the wrong way. Instead of thinking we’ve nearly been killed four times by this car, maybe think its excellent steering and nimble ability has saved us four times.”

“I’m just saying this wouldn’t be the first car that’s ever been haunted,” I replied. “You might be driving home late one night, glance in the rear view mirror and see some ghastly face in the back seat staring back at you.”

“Shut up,” Paul replied nervously. “You’ve been listening to ‘Coast to Coast,’ again. That’s ridiculous.”

So he says, but I’ve noticed he’s been coming up with excuses to use my truck to run errands because he needs to “go check the P.O. Box–and then get a load of mulch while I’m at it,” or “swing by the church and help the office set up a new computer–and then get a load of mulch, or “get a hair cut–and get a load of mulch.”

The Subaru remains sitting defiantly, as well as unused, in the driveway.

But the garden looks great!