A Conversation in a Car.Submitted by Tom Sorrell at 2013-09-22 21:34:24 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 4 ratings (6 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
The ’69 Camaro was a blue blur on the country road heading towards Horner’s Corners, Kansas. A guy named Stu was behind the wheel, tapping his fingers to the beat of Strange Days by The Doors. His hulking cousin Bart was squeezed into the passenger seat, staring out the window. Bart's friend Lesley - mousy and all skin and bones - was by himself in the back, looking around in awe at the Camaro's silver interior.
“I love this car,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Stu grinned and ejected The Doors CD.
“I know,” he said, handing the disc to Lesley. “She was the first thing I bought after I wrote the book. I drove her from L.A. to here. It was great. I only got four tickets.”
Lesley laughed. Bart frowned.
“Did you say ‘she’?”
“Her name’s Charlotte. Charlotte, meet Bart and Lesley.”
He pushed down the gas pedal and the Camaro’s engine roared.
“Charlotte says hi,” he grinned.
Lesley laughed. Bart rolled his eyes and reached for the radio and began to flipping through the dial. He paused on a station where a DJ was talking about the fallout from the night before.
“We’re hearing reports that literally dozens of people have been confirmed dead while hundreds, literally hundreds are injured after events in Winfield sparked chaos throughout eastern Kansas. This is literally the worst thing to happen since…”
Stu rolled his eyes and turned the station.
“What are you doing?” Bart asked.
“That was literally the worst news report I’ve ever heard,” he said. “Let’s find some music.”
Stu flipped to several stations finding nothing but news. Bart slapped his hand away.
“Just leave it on the news,” he said.
“No, dude.” Stu replied, changing the station again. “It happened yesterday. It’s over now. Why do you want to relive the past?”
“I want to know what happened, Stu,” Bart growled.
“You already know what happened,” Stu replied, with a laugh. “You told me all about it last night, remember? There was a riot at the New Year’s thing. You two left Winfield to get your gear and some little girl stole it. Now you’re going to Small Mart with Charlotte and me so we can get supplies. That’s the end of the story. What more do you need to know?”
Bart frowned and shook his head.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “I need to know if it’s safe to go back home.”
Stu chuckled as the Camaro blew past a cemetery.
“Trust me,” he said, as he looked into the rearview at Lesley. “It’s not. Hey Lesley, grab a CD out of the case back there and hand it up here.”
Lesley grabbed the case and began to flip through it. The first several pages were the same artist.
“You really like Bob Dylan,” he said, with an amused grin.
Stu nodded and glanced at the rearview.
“You ever listen to him?”
Lesley shook his head. Stu frowned and turned around towards Lesley, jerking the car over the center line. Bart’s eyes widened as he grabbed the wheel and pulled them back into their lane.
“Watch the road, dumbass!” he yelled, steering the car with white knuckles.
“Man,” Stu said. “I can’t believe you’re for real. You’ve never listened to Bob?”
Lesley shook his head. Bart looked out the windshield at the sharp curve about half a mile ahead. He glanced at the speedometer – they were going 63 MPH and Stu still had his back to the road.
“There’s a curve coming up!” Bart yelled.
Stu ignored him.
“What about the big ones?” he asked Lesley. “Mr. Tambourine Man? Tangled Up in Blue? Like a Rolling Stone? You have to know those, right?”
Bart’s eyes widened as the car approached the curve. Lesley shrugged.
“I’ve heard them,” he said. “But I don’t know ’em. It’s not my kind of music.”
“Stu!” Bart yelled.
Stu rolled his eyes and turned around. He let off the gas pedal and downshifted, guiding the car through the hairpin turn with ease as he floored the pedal and accelerated out of it. He grinned at Bart and turned back to Lesley.
“What kind of music do you like?” he asked Lesley, as Bart sighed and grabbed the wheel.
“Rock, mostly. The White Stripes, Zeppelin, Floyd, The Who … Black Sabbath. Stuff like that.”
Stu nodded and pointed at the case.
“Hand me Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home,” he said. “I know a song you might like.”
Lesley flipped back through the pages. There was one empty space. Stu noticed it and frowned.
“What the hell?” he said. “Let me see that.”
Lesley handed him the case. Stu flipped through it, shaking his head.
“It has to be here,” he said, over and over. “It has to be.”
It wasn’t. It was in Stu’s CD player in his bathroom at home. He frowned and looked up at the roof of the car, gritting his teeth.
“You asshole,” he said. “That’s total bullshit. It was in this case.”
Bart and Lesley glanced at each other and frowned. Stu shook his head and looked at the case.
“Asshole,” he said, pulling out Highway 61 Revisited. “I’ll make you listen to this again.”
Bart and Lesley looked at each other, then at Stu as if he were crazy as he handed Lesley the CD case. Stu turned and inserted the CD into the player and took the wheel from Bart.
“Don’t ever do that again.” Bart said, motioning towards the wheel. “I’ll let the car crash next time.”
Stu sighed, staring out the windshield as the album began.
“Sure you will,” he said.
“And by the way,” Bart said, turning the radio off. “Bob Dylan sucks.”
Stu slammed on the breaks, pulled the car to the side of the road and turned to Bart.
“Why does Bob Dylan suck?” he asked, calmly.
“Because he does,” Bart sneered.
“Wrong answer,” Stu replied. “Get the fuck out of my car.”
“Make me,” Bart mocked.
The two of them glared at each other for a moment until Lesley chuckled in the backseat.
“What’s so funny?” they asked at the same time, still glaring at each other.
Lesley held up a pink disc and grinned.
“You have a Katy Perry CD, Stu? Really?”
Bart snickered and turned to look. He grabbed the disc from Lesley and waved it around Stu’s head. Stu reached for it several times. Each time Bart pulled it away and laughed.
“What are you, queer?”
Stu shook his head. Bart nodded, with a smirk.
“Yeah, right,” he said, turning towards Lesley. “See if he has any Madonna in there.”
Stu sighed and gunned the Camaro, pulling the car back onto the road. Lesley flipped through the case as Bart grinned in anticipation. Eventually Lesley laughed and pulled out a blue CD.
“We’ve got a gay!” Bart said.
Stu rolled his eyes and held up his right index finger.
“First of all, Bart” he said. “Family Guy wants its joke back.”
Lesley chuckled. Bart rolled his eyes and looked out the window as Stu ticked off numbers on his fingers.
“Second, just because they say something on that cartoon doesn’t make it true. Third, the only thing more asinine than Family Guy are the dumbass people who quote Family Guy. Fourth, a person’s taste in music does not define that person in any way, shape or form. And lastly…”
“Whatever,” Bart interrupted. “You’re gay.”
Stu shook his head and made a fist.
“Fifth, I also have a Nas CD and several Wu Tang Clan CDs. Does that make me black? I have a Tito Puente CD. Am I Mexican? A few minutes ago I was listening to a CD by The Doors. Does that make me a pompous asshole?”
Bart nodded. Lesley chuckled. Stu paused, then nodded and grinned.
“Ok, point to Quinn. The point is I like the music I like. If you don’t like it that’s your problem.”
“Why do you have Madonna and Katy Perry, though?” Lesley asked. “I don’t get it.”
“The Madonna CD has ‘Material Girl’ on it and I got my first hard-on when I watched that music video. Madonna was smokin’, man. That song is a special memory for me.”
Bart and Lesley laughed. Stu grinned and shrugged.
“Ok,” Bart said. “I can understand that. But Katy Perry? Come on. Yeah, she’s hot, but she sucks Stu.”
“Yeah man,” Lesley said. “Katy Perry is just … awful.”
“Why is she awful?” Stu asked.
“Because she is,” Bart snapped.
Stu shook his head.
“The fact that you don’t like something is not the reason it ‘sucks.’”
“Her music is awful,” Lesley said. “It sounds like someone tortured a cat and put it to autotune.”
“Her music is no worse than Nickelback or Shinedown. It’s just a different kind of awful.”
“Nothing is as bad as Nickelback or Shinedown,” Lesley laughed.
Bart turned to Lesley and shook his head.
“Two words,” he said. “Nicky Minaj. And how many times do I have to tell you that Nickelback is a good band? You have to go see them live. They rock.”
Stu made a face.
“Why would anyone pay money to see Nickelback?”
Bart turned back and frowned.
“Why would anyone pay money for a Katy Perry CD?”
Stu grinned and shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I like her voice. It’s really pretty … you know, when you can hear it through the noise. I’ll put it on as background sometimes and it relaxes me. It’s not like I drive down the road rocking out to Firework.”
Bart nodded, sarcastically. Lesley laughed and shook his head.
“Face it, Stu. She’s awful.”
Stu rolled his eyes.
“Both of you can get fucked,” he said, with a grin. “You’re not changing my mind. I like her. I think she’s talented.”
Bart laughed, loudly. Lesley laughed too.
“Talented!” Bart guffawed, wiping fake tears. “Talented? Are you nuts?”
“Katy Perry can play guitar,” Stu said, calmly. “Can you play guitar, Bart?”
Bart stopped laughing. Stu smirked.
“Then shut the fuck up and think about how you can sell more insurance when things calm down.
Bart narrowed his eyes and glared at Stu. Stu grinned and pointed at a field of wheat.
“Maybe buy another billboard out here,” he said. “Just go ahead and fill up as much of this beautiful space as possible with your dumb fucking face.”
Lesley’s eyes opened in shock as Bart threw a punch at Stu, but stopped his closed fist, inches from his head. Stu didn’t flinch. He turned towards Bart and grinned. Bart’s face turned red.
“Uh,” Lesley said. “I read somewhere that she named her cat Kitty Purry. Isn’t that weird?”
Stu laughed, loudly.
“That is bloody hilarious,” he said. “She’s great.”
Bart rolled his eyes.
“No she’s not,” he said. “And that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“That’s what makes it funny, dumbass!”
Bart frowned and looked out the window.
“You know why I don’t like her?” Lesley asked, sitting forward.
“Because she sucks?” Bart snorted.
“No,” he said. “I heard she used to be a gospel singer and now….”
“What the hell?” Bart interrupted. “She was a gospel singer?”
“That’s what I heard. Her real name’s Hudson.”
“What a hypocrite!” Bart yelled.
Lesley nodded again.
“She’s a phony, Stu.”
Stu pressed his lips together in a thin smile and shook his head.
“Jesus Christ,” he said, glancing into the rearview. “Why do you two care so much about Katy fucking Perry? I own one CD that I might listen to once a month, but you two seem to have an obsession with hating her. I don’t get it. Why do you care?”
Lesley and Bart shrugged.
“She sang gospel, Stu,” Lesley said, meekly.
“So?” Stu screamed. “Let me ask you something: Are you the same person you were when you were 14?”
Lesley shook his head.
“Good answer,” Stu said. “So why is that ok for you, but not for her?”
Lesley opened his mouth to speak. Nothing came out. Stu nodded.
“What does that have to do with anything,” Bart yelled. “She used to make gospel music and now she’s a whore! She makes terrible bullshit music for stupid people. That’s not ok!”
“It’s her life,” Stu said. “Why do you care? It has nothing to do with you!”
“I don’t like fakes and phonies,” Bart said. “I’m exactly the same now as I’ve always been.”
Stu nodded, chuckling ruefully.
“Yeah,” he said. “You are. And that’s terrifying, Bart. You’re like a pissed off 14 year old in an Iron Man suit.”
“Fuck you,” Bart said.
Stu pretended to be shot.
“Ow,” he groaned, slumping over the steering wheel. “You got me good with that one.”
He sat up and laughed, reaching to pat Bart on the arm and getting his hand slapped for the effort. In the back Lesley chuckled. Bart frowned and stared out the window, angry as hell. Stu clicked on the CD player and started the first song over.
“Listen to this,” he said. “You might learn something. You too, Lesley.”
The drums hit twice, followed by a keyboard leading into the lyrics of Like a Rolling Stone. Stu sang along, loudly and out of key.
“Once upon a time you dressed so fine. Threw the bums a dime, in your prime…”
Stu turned to Bart and leaned towards his ear, yelling loudly.
Bart grimaced and gritted his teeth.
“Turn that shit off,” he growled.
Stu put his hand to his ear and pretended not to hear.
“What?” he yelled. “Play it fuckin’ loud?”
He reached over and turned the volume up. Bart sighed as Stu whacked his arm and pointed towards the CD player.
“Listen, to Bob” he said, as the song continued.
Now you don’t talk so loud. Now you don’t seem so proud. About having to be scrounging your next meal.
Stu cackled and sang along with the chorus, playing an invisible keyboard on his dash.
“How does it feel?” he yelled. “Hey Bart, how does it feel? To be without a home. Like a complete unknown. Like a rolling stone?”
Bart turned to say something, but looked out the windshield and noticed a fat raccoon scurrying across the road ahead. He grinned and sat back, waiting for Stu to hit it. Stu glanced at the ceiling and grinned as he swerved around the animal. Bart frowned and looked out his window.
“Pussy,” he muttered.
“Sociopath,” Stu countered.