It was just sitting there in my brother’s backyard, rotting, decaying — no longer so much a vehicle as a potting bench. It was like some rusted and forgotten object of war, discarded in a jungle somewhere. Once a clunker, now an overgrown heap.
If I’m not mistaken, it was a 1964 Volvo, with its rounded pug-nose and long hatchback.
I say “was” because it had long left this earth. Leaves covered up the sides and hood, rust had threatened to detach the body from the frame and a tire was not only flat, but off the rim.
When Ernie, our buddy, and a former roommate of my brother’s, packed up to leave for New Zealand, he parked the Volvo in my brother’s backyard. None of us, including Ernie, thought he would stay so long. But he’s since been named prime minister, and looks to be there until the New Zealanders come to their senses and ask him to go explore another country.
That said, my brother Scott decided to take action. Part of that was due to his girlfriend, Holly, who told him that few gardens she admired ever had Volvos in the middle of them.
Scott can be a lot of things, but dumb is not one of them. Besides, he was starting to feel the same way. Too long he had tried to tell people the partially buried car was an Indian burial mound.
But it’s no easy task moving a petrified Volvo that had sunk roots deep into the ground.
I had proposed a number of ways to get rid of it, for instance, borrowing the jaws of life from the fire department.
I could just picture us down there talking it over with the chief. “But we’ll bring it back in five minutes!”
Our buddy George got in on it, too, and didn’t like my idea. Even less did he care for my suggestion of taking a blowtorch to the car, cutting it into pieces and leaving out for the garbage pickup.
George stared at me, almost angry. “The whole backyard is covered in sawdust, woodchips, leaves and who-knows-what-else-your-brother-poured-out-there. Gasoline isn’t as flammable as that backyard. It’s a Hindenburg!”
He had a point.
But how to get it out? First we had to move our two ‘65 Mustangs, neither running so well. And then came the main attraction. George went to start it with the magical device — a screwdriver inserted into the ignition, which dangled like a dashboard ornament.
When he didn’t see even the faintest light on the dash, he poked his head under the hood, his eyes darting around.
“A-ha,” he said, and emerged with a dangling battery cable swinging free. “Could be that’s the problem.” With little fanfare and a quick poke, he jammed the wire into a hole, and Eureka! There was light. That’s how it went with Ernie.
With the screwdriver back in the hanging ignition, and despite the fact that after sitting for almost two years (George was convinced the gasoline had long since turned to varnish), it puttered once and then purred to life.
“Well, I’ll be,” I said.
Not that it was easygoing now. The clutch had departed the earth, and it sounded like an asthmatic wood chipper trying to get it into gear. Luckily George had once driven a car for months without a clutch, and knew how to start it already in gear. It’s the see-where-it-takes-you method, and it took him straight into a wood pile.
Suddenly, with the car alive, all talk has turned from having it hauled off to the scrap heap to now to getting it road worthy again.
My brother wants to turn it into a rally car. George thinks it’s the perfect weekend mobile. I myself think it made a better planter, but who am I to say? Ernie, if you’re reading this, send the title soon. The boys want to take your baby out to play. And Holly, I don’t think you’re rid of a Volvo yet.