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Exercise Wednesday: My First Car

February 29, 2012

This year, the theme for the FWA Collection is My Wheels, a collection of short stories connected in some way with wheels: Ferris Wheels, cars, grocery carts, skates, Ezekiel’s wheel of fire. For more information about the collection, click here and scroll down a bit.

Today’s exercise is a variation on the theme. Everyone remembers their first car. My daughter will vaguely remember it, as I totalled it two days after we bought it. It works out okay, though. Everyone walked away and she wound up with a better car.

A reasonable facsimile of a car my daughter owned for about 60 hours.

My first car was a sky blue 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle. Of all the cars I’ve owned, it was the best car ever when it came to driving in the snow. It should have been; the engine was over the back wheels. Unfortunately, it was also the only car I’ve owned where you had to scrape the rear view mirror on the inside of the car during the winter.

We called it the Millenium Beetle and except of the convertible top, color, and rich guy driving it, it was just like the one Magnum drove before he started mooching on Robin Masters’ prowess.

So today, your character should talk about, reference, drive, or otherwise consider his or her first car. It could be a flashback, a memory based on seeing a similar car, or it could be a scene set back when he or she drove that car. Especially if your character is older, an exercise of what they were like when they got their first car could help build their character.

Time limit: 25 minutes

  1. Chris Hamilton permalink
    February 29, 2012 6:28 am

    “You bought a Volkswagen?” Mike wasn’t impressed.

    “Eight hundred bucks and it’s all mine.”

    “You spent eight hundred dollars on a Volkswagen?”

    “Seventy-two Superbeetle.” I pulled two Cokes out of the cooler and grabbed a bag of chips off the rack. They’d go well with the subs we’d just ordered.

    “At least tell me it’s got a convertible top.”

    I snorted a laugh. “We live in upstate New York, which is like the North Pole during winter. I want a car that’s gonna hold heat.”

    He tossed the subs on the conveyer by the cash register, followed by the sodas and chips I carried. Brit, the cashier, took a slug from the her bottle of Tab and sauntered to the register.

    “That stuff’s gonna kill you,” she said. “Chips and all that sugar in the soda.”

    “Wishful thinking on your part,” Mike said. “I’m gonna live forever. Jim over here will die in a car accident. In his new 72 Superbeetle he paid $800 for. He’s gonna hit a dragonfly and it’s going to cave in the entire front end of his car.”

    Brit’s dark eyes brightened a touch. “You got a car?” She seemed intrigued.

    “Got another job. I need it.”

    “You aren’t working here any more?” Brit seemed disappointed. Brit is sixteen, so her attention was becoming both gratifying and uncomfortable. When you’re twenty, sixteen might as well be twelve.

    “Working both jobs. Here in the mornings, there in the afternoons.”

    She nodded, seemingly pleased with the whole thing. “Nine thirty one,” she said, and she put our stuff in a paper bag.

    “Why are you working two jobs, exactly?” Mike said.

    I shrugged. “What else am I going to do?”

    He picked up the bag and walked from the register. “Go golfing. Sleep. Read. Show Brit here the backseat of your new car.”

    I felt my cheeks flush and silently cursed Mike.

    “But since you’re working two jobs, you can lunch today.”

    I pulled out a ten and dropped it on the conveyer. Brit smiled at me, her head tilted forward, her eyes staring through the bangs she’d recently started wearing. Her eyes stayed on me while she pulled the change from the drawer.

    “Sixty nine is your change,” she said. “I listened to you last night.”

    I believe I turned a dark crimson red. “Uhh, thanks.”

    “Hey Jim, you have to be to work in an hour and I need to get home.” Mike had dangled me over the abyss and now he was saving me.

    When we got to his car, a 75 Pacer that was coated with house paint on the outside–the one with a railroad tie for a front bumper, he tossed the bag inside and pulled out his Coke. “She wants you.”

    “She wants anyone who can pee standing up.”

    He laughed and got in.

    That was almost thirty years ago. The Superbeetle is probably a paperweight on someone’s desk. The store where that took place has been replaced by a Cumberland Farms. I don’t know what happened to Brit. Nothing happened to her in the back seat of that car. A 72 Superbeetle isn’t conducive to that kind of activity. And statutory rape isn’t conducive to a career in radio.

    Ironically, it was a good thing I kept that job. The radio station changed formats three months after I bought the car. The radio station is gone, too.

    I got in my rental and drove to the airport to go back home.

  2. February 29, 2012 8:55 am

    Really nice piece of writing, Chris!

    “When you’re twenty, sixteen might as well be twelve.” I wish you’d tell that to the guys who keep sniffing around our daughter! They (and she, for that matter) just don’t seem to understand our objection to their attentions.

    I’m looking forward to reading the “wheels” submissions!


  3. February 29, 2012 8:56 am

    Forgot to ask, is that a stock photo, or is that really you and your car in the picture?

  4. Chris Hamilton permalink
    February 29, 2012 9:33 am

    Nope, that’s a screencap from Dream a Little Dream, the Magnum episode with the flashback and the Beetle. As much as people confuse me with Tom Selleck, that’s not me.

    I don’t have pictures of the Millenium Beetle unfortunately.

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      February 29, 2012 7:58 pm

      And yes, I am a freak of the first order to know that without having to look it up.

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