Car 42 Where Are You?


Some people name their cars.
Car 42 came with a name.
He was up on an auction block in 1984, when a friend of Sven's friend, first saw him.
I don't know what that guy paid for him, but Sven managed to bring that slightly used Plymouth Volare home to us for four hundred dollars, cash.
And he was worth every penny, even though his interior was a plain blue-gray vinyl, and all scratched up.
"Probably from the guy's holster," Sven said, pointing to the driver's seat.
His exterior was a dark and sinister blue.
The passengers in the back seat couldn't open their doors from the inside.
The glove box contained a notepad of unwritten parking tickets, which we promptly issued to friends, neighbors and strangers.
That is how I know that nobody pays their parking tickets.

Sven, the carpenter, mounted a set of homemade wood racks on top of our new car.
And even though he bragged about the great pick-up speed of Car 42, he always drove slower than a drippy faucet.
When we ended up in a rear-view mirror, the car in front of us would slow down.
"One Adam twelve, breaker nine, come in. Do you read me?"
It was especially fun driving on the interstate.
We were always in the lead.
I picked up the set of keys from the kitchen table with 0042 stamped into the round medallion and tossed them to Sven.
And then, on that beautiful, blue-skied Wisconsin summer evening, Sven, his eight-year-old daughter Adrienne, and I, climbed into Car 42 to pick up some steaks for our Saturday night.
We were at the front of the line at a busy intersection right next to the grocery store.
Our left blinker was flashing.
Adrienne had control of the radio.
The arrow turned green.
And then, in the slowest kind of slow motion, while Cindy Lauper sang on about girls just wanting to have fun, Sven drove us straight into the light pole.
It was a rather curious move.
But also, very Sven like.
I have since been in a head on collision with the same man.
And that was just a few years ago.
That day, my mother picked me up to go to the cottage.
As we neared the end of our long driveway I said, "Oh, look. Sven is home."
And he took a left into the driveway.
My mom put on her brakes.
And then she says, "Millie, he isn't stopping!"
And then she slams her car into reverse, just as Sven slammed into us.
That is when his head snapped around to the front and he and his giant eyeballs looked right at us.
I have a feeling that is the same look he had in the dark of night when he, as he always puts it, "I took a gazelle leap off the front deck."
Well, that giant leap landed him on an improperly stored garden rake lying in the yard, which immediately brought the handle up and smacked him in the face.
"I thought that I either got shot or somebody hit me with a baseball bat," he liked to say.
"What the hell?" I said, jumping out of my mom's car. "What were you doing?"
"I was looking at that pothole at the end of the driveway," he says. "I can't believe it's back. I just filled it."
Well, Adrienne took to hanging her head out the window and screaming, up there on that median, while Sven and I jumped out of the car to inspect the fender and light pole damage.
Sven rubbed his chin and said, "It's not too bad," as traffic whizzed on past.
We were stuck out there on the little island with a pole, for another couple of sets of stop and goes.
It was rather awkward.
Finally, a car stayed back in order to give us enough space to back out and get back down onto the road in order to take that left, leaving a dark and sinister stripe on the pole behind us.
"We have to report this to the police," I said.
"No, we don't," says Sven pulling into the grocery store parking spot.
"Anything over two hundred dollars in damage you are supposed to report," I reported.
"I'm going to fix it, myself. It won't cost that much."
Adrienne was still sniffling.
"What about the pole?" she said.
"The pole is fine."
"Why'd you do that, Dad!?"
"I thought I was all the way out in the middle of the intersection when I turned."
"Millie, I want you to drive from now on," she says.
Sven repaired Car 42 the next day.
It was shortly after that, that I stopped on my way to work to pump ten dollars' worth of gas into the tank.
I was tapping a foot covered with one of my favorite steel toed boots, and a man got out of his truck and came over to inspect the front left fender of Car 42.
"Who does your body work?" he says.
"My husband. Do you want his card?"
He didn't.
But it took him a few minutes to regain enough composure to spit out a simple, "No thank you," between snorts.
You see, Sven did buy a new headlight.
And I held it in place.
And then Sven squirted a bright yellow liquid insulation that foamed up, all around it. And then he filled in the dent with the foam. But before it hardened, he shaped it to look a little bit like a car.
And then he sanded it.
Because you always sand before you paint a panel.
And then he dug up a rusty can of spray paint that was labeled aqua-blue.
Sven fixed my mom's license plate too.
He just beat it back into shape.

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