It was 3 AM when I heard it. The sound of screeching metal.
Screeching metal is not what you want to hear while camping. Especially when you’re borrowing your father’s pristine car.
I was nervous about using it at all. Martin and I were visiting California from North Carolina, and had intended to rent a car for our camping trip to the Eastern Sierra. But my dad, being wonderful, insisted we use his.
“Save your money!” he had urged us. “Take mine!”
Martin was in graduate school; I was a secretary. Save money? That sounded good.
And yet… my dad’s car was always immaculate. He hand-washed and vacuumed it every Saturday morning. He waxed it twice a year, lovingly rubbing in the wax, polishing it to a high shine, and buffing every inch until it gleamed. The windows sparkled. The upholstery was spotless. Even the wheel wells were unsullied with oil or grit.
One did not eat or drink in the car. One did not leave trash in the car. One did not smudge its windows or bump the curb.
He understood we were going camping, right?
I was anxious. There would undoubtedly be dirt and pine needles inside by the end of the trip; of course we would wash and vacuum the car, but what if sap got onto the floor mats? What if the fuel bottle leaked in the trunk?
What if – God forbid! – the paint got scratched? Or the windshield chipped?
I would absolutely die, if my dad didn’t kill me first.
No, nothing even remotely approaching “screeching metal” had ever – in my wildest imagination, in my wildest fears – been considered. It was unthinkable.