Car Trouble (Flash Fiction)

When Bob opened his car door it felt like opening an oven. The desert heat poured in and consumed the lingering AC that sighed from the dying machine. Steam hissed from the radiator and filled the air with its sweet, mechanical smell. He checked the back seat and found a spot of luck. His umbrella, the one his wife took such pleasure nagging about, laid on the floor. He grabbed it, popped it open, and laughed at the absurdity of it all. Last he knew, Nevada hadn’t seen rain in months. He loosened his tie.

The air was still and hot. State Route 89 was a thin black line that disappeared into the desert in both directions. Bob squeezed the handle in his hand and the wood gave off soft creaks. He looked down at his feet. He could feel the scorching asphalt softening the soles of his black business shoes. “Well boots,” he said, looking in both directions. “You ain’t made for walking, but let’s go.” He opted to go south. His phone rang. It was Susanne.

“Yeah,” he said. There was a long silence. “Well? Do you have anything to say yet?” The silence continued and he ended the call.

A black van buzzed by. A sedan with peeling red paint followed close behind. The air they pushed by caused his shirt to stick to his back. The flat land around him went on for miles, hemmed in by dark mountain ranges. His phone rang again. He answered without speaking.

“Are you there?” she asked.

Bob didn’t respond. He didn’t mind waiting to see how long the silence would carry on. He heard the ruffling of documents being shuffled. “I’m getting half,” she finally said.

“Like hell. You are.” Bob could already feel sweat forming around his ear.

“You’ve caused me emotional damage!” More shuffling of papers came through the phone. She was frantically searching for something. “You’ve left me… emotionally abandoned.”

Bob laughed. An old Chevy pickup with a flatbed pulled over in front of him. “That’s not hard to do when you’re married to a heartless bitch. How many times did you screw Harken? I lost count.” An older man exited the driver side and gave Bob a long squint. Bob smiled and waved with his umbrella.

“He was there for me. You never were.”

“Yeah,” Bob said. “Funny how that happens.” The man driving the Chevy took off his trucker hat and used it to shield the sun. He waggled an arthritic finger at Bob. Bob waved back. “It’s almost like he was my boss and I was stuck at work taking care of his shit.” The old man shook his head and pointed again.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m getting half and I want the Lexus, Bob. You know how much I love that car.”

“Yeah, I do. I spent over sixty thousands dollars on that piece of shit.” The man waved at Bob again. Bob turned around.

“I don’t care,” Susanne said. “I want it. Where are you, anyway?”

Bob’s mouth fell open with a wide smile. “Florida,” Bob said with amazement. “I wanted to visit your mother and tell her what a whore you’ve been, face to face.” The fog from the radiator was blanketing the hood of the car, but in the darkness glimmered something more.

Susanne hissed and Bob pictured her radiator boiling over as well. “I’m taking that car,” she said.

Bob looked back at the man standing next to his truck. He gave Bob a defeated shrug. The white steam of the black Lexus shifted in color and a small flame was born. Bob watched with growing glee as the flames licked their way out from under the hood. Black smoke poured into the clear blue sky. He stifled the urge to laugh.

“What’s so funny!?” Susanne screamed.

“Sweetheart, I’ve thought about it,” he said. The flames grew larger. A white Mazda stopped on the road. Bob watched as the tires melted and deflated away. “You’re right about the car. You can have the Lexus,” he said. “It’s only fair.”

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