The Gazette’s main office was located on West Street, in a twenty-four-story building that had the Hudson to the west and the Twin Towers to the east. When the possibility of the towers collapsing entered the minds of the editors, support staff, and firefighters, it became clear evacuation was necessary, and publication of a September 12th edition was in serious jeopardy, along with mere existence. As my superiors scurried to find a way to get a paper out, and eventually succeeding, we reporters and photographers took to the streets on what, chillingly, was a perfect summer day, with the sky pristinely, ubiquitously blue except for where it was interrupted by the searing sun and the conflagration of man’s wrath.
[Short story won the 2003 Whitman Award for Fiction from Southampton College]
At first, the loud revving and squeaks were disturbances Sally hoped would go away. Thinking it possible that cars came with the ability to diagnose and repair themselves, she felt all she needed to do was avoid overstressing the vehicle, an old blue Taurus Marc had found in a used lot three years ago. The car didn’t cost much more than their monthly mortgage payment and Sally initially feared it would have constant problems, because of its age and cheap price. All it ever required, though, was regular maintenance and Sally gained faith in the Taurus as a strong car. Even when it began to exhibit signs of weariness, she had no doubts it could be fully revived with proper attention. So, she wasn’t surprised and was even a bit proud when some of her methods appeared to work.
If she let the car idle for three or four minutes, the engine would rev lower. A gas tank that was always at least half-full made for a smoother ride and a full, fresh tank prevented the loud coughs she often heard when the car was turned on or off. However, the squeaking persisted whenever she applied the brakes with any force beyond a tap and this caused her to drive slower and avoid the highways. She also stayed well behind any car in front of her, especially when her son was in the passenger seat. For a boy of sixteen, he frightened easily and Sally knew Peter wasn’t at all comfortable with his mother behind the wheel of any automobile, particular that one, with all its weird noises. On the days she met him at school, he would sit completely still in the passenger seat and hold his breath, never saying a word to Sally, not even on the day she figured out how to make the squeaks go away. She drove so slow through town and on the back roads that led to their home that a simple touch of the brake pedal would cause the car to roll to the speed of a wheelchair. At stops, Sally wouldn’t need to keep her foot on the brake at all, and when it was time to depress the accelerator, she did so gently and the car commenced with its Little Engine That Could routine.