Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Much Needed Cleaning

Note:  This piece is in literary Beta.  I believe it is complete, but I will not be sure until I leave it alone for a while and then read it again, when I have forgotten what it felt like in the first place.  If you have any constructive criticism, that would be most appreciated, but realize that this is a first draft, written without a single pass of editing, and any negativity in my comments section will be dealt with swiftly.

Until today, when looking to the left from my front porch, down the tunnel that had been an extended driveway for many years, my eye would be drawn instantly to a single, unsightly, visage.  About ten meters back, just past the bulging roots of the great white oak which dominate the terrain and delineate the driveway proper from the wooded portion of the yard which houses unused vehicles, just before the three great cairn stones which mark the grave of my four-legged best friend, at the fork of what seems to be a natural trail which is delimited equally by woodland overgrowth and abrupt shift in elevation, sat my truck. 

Her name is Jesse, short for Jessabelle, because the bitch would turn on you at the worst possible moment and she had left us stranded, walking to the nearest Advance Auto Parts, more than once.  She had been sitting under that oak for quite some time, being run only for the sake of keeping the engine in working order, and her paint was thickly caked with dried, black sap and general filth from the forest in whose orifice she had dwelt for so long.  Her bed was laden thick with leaves, a remnant of an autumn in which all of us were to busy to mind most of the yard work, and her rims, those beautiful, tightly spoked after-market rims, were encrusted with mud and filth so thick that their Aluminium make was indiscernible.  Her interior was musty and filthy from such a pitiful existence, and her seats were infested with an unsettling fungus whose spores had once sent me to my inhaler for immediate respite, thanks to my having left the window down through one particularly harsh thunderstorm.  Her gauges were indecipherable under a carpet of dust and grime, not less than a millimeter in thickness, and the windows were nearly tinted from heavy stains of nicotine left over from the smoking of far too many cigars by my father and I over the course of a dozen years.  To make all the matters worse, what had once been a minute chip in the windshield, had creeped tentacles out so fas as to disrupt vision from almost any angle.

Though all of these things were rather apparent, and there had been a seemingly unending battery of miniscule maladies which had prevented Jesse from being graced with a legal tag over the last three years, Jesse is my truck, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss having her with me wherever I go.  Her smooth, tight clutch was the first I learned to feel for just the right amount of bite, my father breathing a sigh of relief that he may not have to replace a clutch after all.  Her high, uninsulated shifter was the fist from which I had learned to feel an engine's subtle shifts and aberrations, while my father sat beside me, his ears tuned in to Jesse while he puffed on his cigar.  Her hood was the first I lifted with the full intention of understanding, by myself, just what had gone wrong, while my father looked on from the porch, waiting for me to ask for help.  Her large, squared mirrors were the fist I'd used to reverse a vehicle without turning around while my father sat beside me telling me to watch the corners.  Her hitch held the first trailer I ever towed while my father sat be side me, reminding me to watch mirrors and remember that the trailer is just a little bit wider than the truck.  Her title was the fist to which I'd signed my name, my father bitching, "I regret this already," as Jesse passed from his custody to mine.  She is my truck, and I love her.

This morning, I looked out my front door and to the left, and, like every morning, I saw Jesse and thought, "I really have to get around to cleaning you up."  But today, with skies darkly overcast and winds a subtle bluster, something in me felt quite different.  I was overcome with urge... No.  It was more a compulsion, a deep, driving need to approach a task and complete it.  The task most pressing was that of my beloved Jessabelle and her decrepit visage crying out across the yard for me to rescue her from the overgrowing forest and slow death by infestation and decomposition.   So, with a heavy sigh and forward step, I made my way to the day's work.   First, I found such chemicals as I thought might be sufficient to purge the scourge of fungal rot which cursed the weave and leather skins draped o'er the forged steel skeleton of Jesse's well worn seats.  I poured a large bowl of a citrus and Ammonia concoction, which burned the hands with the slightest overspill, and grabbed a stained and tattered rag from somewhere in the laundry.  When I cracked her passenger door, the rancid effluence of fungal spores and rotting cloth and leather overwhelmed me, and I was taken aback, unsure as to whether my self-appointed task was even completable.  But, with sentimental motivation compounded by compulsive, curatorial zeal, I cleared my throat, ignored the welling of mucous and tears, and pressed on with my malconceived  mission.   Over the next hour or so, I would follow a rigorous and monotonous process toward the completion of my goal.  I would first select some region of the upholstery, not more than a decimeter squared, then soak my rag to its fullest capacity, and begin to scrub in, with all my musterable muscle, the lime green potion of leveraged germicidal potents. As each millionth of a hectare was culled, in turn, of any sign of discoloration or abhorrent texture, my gaze would set to the next, most convenient, proximal microhectare.  When all accessible surfaces of cloth or leather had been touched by my fungal genocide, I turned my focus to the plastics and the floorboards.  First, I found a larger bucket to be filled more fully with a more dilute dispersal of the powerful potion, then I started with the dash, where it meets the windshield, and steadily, cautiously scrubbed my way back.  Toward and away from the driver's side door I scrubbed over and over again; ripping, with the tightly woven fibers of my disheveled dishcloth, the very essence of the filth from the microscopic matting of the pleather dashboard's skin.  It was as my hand dunked once more into the 19 Liter can, as I readied myself scrub the last few centimeters squared of the cup holder, that it became apparent that 16 Liters of solution had not been enough to contend with the vast accumulation of filth in my beloved truck.  With that, I stepped aside.

As I went to the toilet to flush away what had become a bucket of thin mud to make room for a fresh concoction, I was emphatically interrupted by the shrill excitement in my son's voice as he asked to come help me with my chores.  I agreed and appointed him the task of securing for us a few more rags with which to scrub.  His joy abounded as he snapped to attention, saluted proudly, and shouted, "YES SIR, CAPTAIN DADDY!"  I was pleasantly surprised when, in a few short moments, he had returned with three more tattered rags, quite appropriate for the appointed task.  I explained to him the mission, and we set out across the yard; myself lugging the necessary chemicals and hot water, and him marching merrily beside me on the way to the grand adventure of cleaning Daddy's truck.  When I cracked the door again, I told him, in my most clear and deliberate diction, that he was to scrub, as hard as he could, every square inch of the door.  I told him that he should not stop until I had told him that all of the fungus and filth was gone, and that I would be working on the floorboard, beside him.  Once again, he agreed emphatically, and began pouring every last drop of elbow grease into that door panel, tearing of layers of grime older than himself whilst I busied myself in mopping the floorboards with another tattered cloth. We continued this way for some time, having to flush and refill our container not less than three times, before I finally gave the word, noticing that he had rather lost interest in the removal of mold and mildew, and that the sun had begun to shine through, to change gears for the time being. 

The Great Purge of the Interior was completed to within statistical insignificance,  and there yet lay ahead what seemed a thousand fold the level of filth, caked upon the crimson paint.  So, we readied for the task.  I sent my enthusiastic little soldier to the porch while I drove Jesse across the property, to a more convenient proximity to the garden hose, where I parked her with bed downhill and tailgate open.  Then, after carting out 16 Liters of hot water, heavily solvent of dish detergent, we set to the arduous appointment of exterior exposition of the underlying Acrylic.  Over the course of the next few hours we repeated, many times, the tedious task of scrubbing and rinsing.  With each fresh bucket of solution, we would find a general area which seemed dirtier than the rest, and we would go about scrubbing and rubbing until the bright red shone through from behind the layers of dirt and sap.  After a time, as the sun began to dry out the suds, I opened the valve of our garden hose, and let forth a torrential infusion of moisture to the whole endeavor, guided by a four year old with a pension for pranking he had learned from his late grandfather.  As one might imagine, it is quite possible that I received more of a soaking than did my truck, but the suds and the dirt were washed away, and we had plenty of fun in the process.  After each round of rinsing, I closed the valve, to the great contempt of my son, and began the process of refreshing the soap for the next round.  This pattern continued until, to within statistical insignificance, all traces of the sap and dirt and filth and grime had been washed thoroughly away from the now beaming red Ranger with brand new tires on Aluminium rims and a fresh smelling cab with a crack across the windshield.  When The Great Washing was done, we went inside to clean ourselves up and play "Don't Break the Ice" while Jessabelle dried out in the beating sun.

Today was the first day that I had driven my beat up old Ranger since late October of last year; the fist time in months that I had sat behind that wheel and felt her temperate undulations through my palm and feet; the first time that she had moved since my father died.  Today was the first day in many months that I had taken Jesse beyond the confines of our yard; the first time in ages that I had put her haggard little four banger through its paces up the old, winding, mountain rods;  the first time, in what seemed like forever, that I had felt my body shift slightly, without thought, to compensate for a turn taken too fast with her tight, slightly lifted suspension; the first time in so long that I had felt ease and comfort of letting first fall to second, second to third, third to fourth, all without ever touching the clutch.   Today was the first day in years that i had taken our family dog, Tubbah, in my ragged, old, red pickup for a ride to the top of the mountain.  It was also the first time since I scrawled my name, in what I had hoped would be semi-legible chicken scratch, on that absurd scrap of pressed wood pulp, sanctified by embossed symbolism, that I had realized that Jesse isn't my truck.  The title is mine; the taxes are my responsibility, as well as the maintenance; but she will always be My Dad's Truck.

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