Halfway To Fabulous

“So you think you can drive an automobile sour?”

Ksenia, the teenage girl sitting in the kitchen chair, gulped and swallowed. Hard. She knew what was coming.

“Tell me Mrs. Big Shot, Mrs. Steel Wheels, Princess NASCAR… you’re the master of the American highway system. Do you think you have what it takes to drive a car drunk?”

Ksenia clutched her learner’s permit and tried to think about clouds.

“Hope you got the moxie, sweetness.” Papa paced the tiny kitchen and turned suddenly, a bottle of Bluebeard’s Black Rum in his hand.

“This is strong stuff,” he gestured to the bottle. “Nobody fucks with this gentleman.”

Daddy shook the bottle and the liquid inside moved slow- dark as night, thick as molasses, unwilling to ripple. There on the label was the menacing corporate logo of Bluebeard, a bloodthirsty pirate, his sword drawn and the moon in his eyes.

“I hope you had a good breakfast because you’re going to drink the entire thing.”

Ksenia made whimper and whine, but it wasn’t doing any good. Papa yanked her ponytail back and her face straight up. He held her nose until she had to open her mouth, pouring the black rum in her mouth, cane waterfall slow like honey down her throat. She swallowed most of what he poured, even when she tried not to take a breath. By the time Papa led her out to the yard- hot dry hand on the back of her neck- Ksenia was halfway to fabulous.

She took a stagger step, stammering mumble consonants and seeing blurry doubles of everything nearby… it was all she could do not to upchuck. The orange sun scorched the Great Plains and Ksenia’s retinas.

“This is gonna be a lesson special!”

Papa pushed her across the dusty driveway, her sneakers scuff the red dirt, pulled her past the stack of flat tires, past the chain-link fence, and threw open the door to the Firebird.

“Get in there!” he pushed Ksenia down behind the wheel. Her head bob slow as she tried to orient herself.

“Turn the key, Ksenia! Now!”

Then the car was started, and Ksenia was driving, somehow. She was down the road about one hundred yards when she suddenly realized that she was down the road about one hundred yards. That’s when things got kooky.

The car veered sharply to the left, apparently of its own accord, and Ksenia forgot what brakes were. She hit Othar, the neighbor’s dog, broadside. The poor beast let out a howl to make ears bleed, and he quickly scampered off to lick his wounds and die.

Ksenia’s three and a half driving lessons were quickly forgotten as she tried to remember her name. She spit up a few ounces of black rum and silently cursed that vicious bastard Bluebeard. The car was still cruising, and Ksenia thought this might be a good time to adjust her rear-view mirror. Her hands left the steering wheel as she reached above her head. The car skid, the back tires shooting gravel like bullets. Othar, the wounded dog, was hit in the eye by one of the pieces of projectile gravel. He was instantly blinded and concluded that today must not be his day.

The Firebird slammed the telephone pole, and it popped from the ground easy, interrupting thousands of people screening their calls. Ksenia ramped the car over the pole and landed with a TUNK- still in motion. She cranked the steering wheel, pulling the car into a complete U-turn.

She lurched forward, gathering speed, and saw she was headed for the brick wall of the parts shed. Othar, sightless, knew something was coming, but didn’t move in time to avoid being crushed by the low steel bumper of the Firebird as it pressed against the wall of the shed.

The dog’s last thought was of being in love.

The parts shed rocked, rumbled, said, “Mmmmm….. I don’t know…. well maybes… okay, here I go,” and finally crumbled like a cookie, brick slip like chocolate chip.

Ksenia, stupefied, threw the car in reverse and slammed the gas. The car fired backward like an arrow, bundle full-speed reverse over the dusty plains.

It sped quick and quiet, like a gazelle getting a midnight snack, and just as quick and quiet the car slipped off the cliff, falling down the 70 foot drop.

The car was spanked by a boulder as it rolled, its top bashed in, trunk pop wide open, and after the bounce finally made landing with the grace of an epileptic seizure.

Papa, squinting, sensed trouble. He ran over as fast as his stubby legs could carry him. He froze at the cliff, surveying the wreckage below.

‘Body work,’ he thought as he watched the upside-down car’s wheels spinning.

“Ay! Ay!” he called out, curious, “Ksenia!”

There was quiet.


Papa heard the call of a non-indigenous bird. Maybe a white-tailed hawk.


The car burst into flames then, the window glass exploding outward, the upholstery kindling. The snap, crackle and pop of the fire was audible from the rocks above.

Papa held up the empty bottle of rum. There was Bluebeard, flashing his manic grin through a black matted beard.

“You see?” Papa told him, “I told you she couldn’t drive an automobile sour!”

Bluebeard winked back at him, smiling: "Damn straight."

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