Monday, March 14, 2011

Short Fiction: Essay from a Lame Owner of a Jeep

While editing a piece of fiction, I cut the following text. It wasn't supporting the main story, but I hate to throw anything out. I like the metaphor about the bikini top and the two boobs, but that alone can't justify 2 pages of rambling off topic.

Standing alone it reads as an essay from a lame owner of a Jeep. Jeep owners are traditionally portrayed as rugged, outdoorsy, mud lovers—not this guy.

The original full canvas top for my Jeep was not repairable after years of neglect, even with duct tape. I never had a garage and the sun and weather had introduced and expanded cracks in the smooth surface. A new one was six hundred dollars, and I couldn't swing that, so a year ago as a cheap compromise, I bought one of those tops that only stretches over and covers the front seats. It's called a bikini top. I wondered if it got that name because it was also usually over the top of two boobs bouncing around and not doing a very good job of keeping them in.

Experience has shown me that where there was one Jeep owner, there was usually a best friend who thinks mudding was just as fun, whose job it was to get beers from the cooler, and who had to jump out into whatever kind of muck they were stuck in and go hook up the winch. Hence, two boobs.

My Jeep, however, was not jacked up and customized with big, knobby tires; it didn't even have a winch. Except for the bikini top, it was completely stock, and the tires were so bald that they squealed every time it went around a corner. I didn't go off-roading or mudding; my Jeep was mostly on city streets: flat, striped and paved streets where concrete curbs and gutters rush the water away and mud never forms.

I had a good reason for not going out and tearing it up; it was my only transportation. Not being able to afford an extra vehicle, I didn't think it was wise. With the bikini top and the doors off, I felt like a mudder anyway; I rationalized that the potential that I could go mudding at any time was enough for me to adopt the attitude-hypocritical though it may be. Actualizing that feeling, I drove around in a state mostly resembling a tent, very exposed to the elements and loved it-for a while. Honestly, it was a very short while; it was beyond uncomfortably cold in the winter.

Another interesting property of the bikini top, unsurmised until you directly experience it, was that at low speeds the top flapped like a bed sheet on a clothesline in a high wind. Additionally, at higher speeds, the negative air pressure from the wind rushing over the top pushed it up like a bubble. Occasionally, without warning at freeway speed, the air pressure would change, and the top would snap down fast like a wet towel pop, and sometimes it came down far enough to catch me on the head. It didn't hurt, but it was often a galvanizing surprise. Luckily, I never ran off the road because of it.

In conjunction with the wind flap, another fine feature was that I always got wet when it rained. Water dripped in from the roll bars above my head and blew in from the back where it was open. I had to sit with my legs positioned just so as to not be in the drip path, and I had to maintain a particular posture so the back of the seat would catch most of the drenching assault from the rear.

Because the bikini top was a stretchy vinyl, it formed a shallow bowl shape when parked, and it collected water amazingly well. During a long rain, it would easily fill up and fountain over the sides. I guessed it could hold three gallons. Every time before I got in and drove off, I had to carefully push up from the inside and guide all of the water off of the top, or it would dump in on me from the sides once I started moving. I kept half of a broom handle under the seat as my pushing tool.

It also collected water if I sat stopped in traffic for too long, then once I was moving, the air pressure would lift the top and voilĂ , a sopping me. It was more difficult than you think to clutch at the appropriate time with your leg shivering from cold, wet jeans. I looked for routes that had the fewest stops. I had thought about wearing a plastic rain-suit like a motorcyclist, but instead, of course, I went the cheaper route.

If I knew it was going to rain, I would put a blue, five-dollar plastic tarp over the seats and steering wheel inside. After the rain, I drained the top into the seats, then drained the seats into the floorboards, and then pulled the tarp out and shoved it into the back. I had removed the rubber stoppers from the factory drilled drain holes, so I could just dump all of the water into the floor, and it would clear out in a minute or two.

Inevitably some days I would get caught with my tarp down; for such occasions, I stowed trash bags in the back to put over the wet seats, so at the very least my ass would be dry. I had to be prepared for every possible weather event. It had come to that; in a minimalist sense, everywhere else I could be wet and cold, but as long as my ass was dry, I was okay.

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