Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kono's Car

[Congratulations to Brian Doyle for his second-place submission (tied with Laurie Barton) in our 2010 Creative Competition. Check back as we post runner up entries, one per day for the next week.]

Kono had a car that occasionally remembered everyone who had ever been in it, and when this happened the car would bulge out hugely on both sides, looking like the cheeks of an enormous chipmunk, a most remarkable sight. The first time this happened Kono had the side-panels hammered back into place by his nephews, but when it kept happening he tried to sell the car, but the car refused to start for any potential buyers, so back it kept coming to Kono, for whom it started as soon as he laid a hand on it. Finally his nephews put loose canvas panels on the car.
That was a most remarkable car. It got so it would start for Kono if he even waved his hand from a distance in a certain way or asked politely or sang a certain song.

The car also remembered the voices of every person who had ever ridden or slept or eaten in it, which Kono discovered one day when he turned on the radio and out came the voice of his grandmother who had been demised nine years. She was on the AM dial with the other old people, and the young people who had been in the car were on the FM dial. You could go to any radio station, AM or FM, and pick up a story someone had been telling when they were in the car. It was a most amazing thing. Kono said we should take the car to the university where they paid money for stories from the old days but when we went to the university no one believed a car-talking story so that was that.

The problem came when we were driving along one day and Kono turned on the radio and out came the voice of the girl he was dating saying things she should not have been saying to a man she should not have been saying them to. We were all quite startled, and Kono remembered that he had given her the car last summer for two weeks while we were fishing in the islands to the west. Kono had talked to the car for a long time before we went that time, explaining that he would be away, and that it was okay that she drove it, she was a girl you could trust, but here was proof she was a girl you could not trust, which was quite startling, because you should have seen this girl, she was the sort of girl you would like to have as your girlfriend if you did not have the girlfriend you have, for many more reasons than her beauty, which was considerable, but here she was on the FM dial, saying things that were not the sort of things you would like to hear your girlfriend say to anyone other than you.

Kono changed the station and we drove on silently for a long time.

Kono has no expectations in life, because he says you always get disappointed if you have expectations, and disappointment leads to fistfights and despair and dents in your car, and expectations are also essentially fascist, he says, because they are essentially attempts to constrain the behavior of others, and who am I to tell anyone how to behave? Yet we could see that he was deeply sad at hearing his girlfriend say these things. He would not confront her, because confrontations, he says, are functions of expectations, they are the theater of expectations, in which he declined to participate, but he did not find opportunities any more to ask her to go fishing or dancing or driving in the car anymore either, which was saddening to everyone involved, because this was one excellent and wonderful girl, and she really liked Kono.

This went on for ten days during which it rained all the time and the car was so crammed with the volume of all the people who had ever been in it that the canvas panels were flung out like sails in gales. It refused to play the girlfriend’s voice at all after it realized Kono was sad and when you touched the button for the radio station where the girl’s voice had been you got a men’s chorus from a church in Hanalei, usually singing Just a Closer Walk with Thee. After a few days it refused to play FM stations at all and would only play the old people telling stories on AM.

On the eleventh day the car began to play only Kono’s grandmother telling stories, but she was a remarkable storyteller, and death had not staunched the flow of her stories, for out they poured, one after another, stories no one had ever heard before, to the point where pretty soon people were crowded around the car and Kono had to prop up the canvas panels so the old people could hear better. On the twelfth day he gave up all thought of actually driving the car and he parked it in front of Foodland and opened the canvas and people came with folding chairs to listen to Kono’s grandmother. By the fourteenth day people were coming from all over the island and even from Oahu and there was a lady from the university with a tape recorder. There were also people selling fruit and beer. On the seventeenth day, late in the afternoon, Kono’s grandmother said that she had come to the end of this particular story cycle, and would like to speak privately to her grandson Kono. He was in the car for a long time, with the flaps down and the windows rolled up, and when he came out he smiled at everyone and said the stories were finished for a while but there would be stories again at some point, he would alert everyone as soon as he was told the schedule, and he said politely that he needed to actually drive the car, he had been assigned a mission by his grandmother, and everyone was very polite and made room for Kono and the car to slowly inch out of the parking lot. He drove to the girl’s house and said he was sorry for being sad at what she had said, and whatever she said was her business, and not his, his business was to say that he thought she was the best and coolest girl there ever was, and to ask that she come with him in the car to the beach, where they could hold hands and drink beer and tell stories, and she said she would, so that was that.

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