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New Fiction: Dust Up

The thing was, I didn’t know anything about cars. I mean, I’d never even had the hood up on one. My entire experience with motor vehicles involved having driven around in my parent’s lumbering Buick Invicta station wagon, while still living at home. I was always running to the store for my mother, always picking up my younger brother from school. It was a boon for Mom when I got my license. But that didn’t qualify me for anything remotely to do with automotive maintenance. My father did all that.

I had opted for one of the dorms at State for my freshman year, this was 1984, and the campus amenities, including proximity to a small commercial district nearby, made it possible for students to attend without needing a car. Most things you needed were within walking distance. The cost of college was no slam dunk for my family. To spare them the cost of a car and insurance helped. Suffice it to say that I left home with a clear understanding of the challenges I faced—I’d decided to pursue a degree in occupational therapy—but absolutely no clue about what made internal combustion engines tick.

My new boyfriend, Rick, had no such blind spot. He loved all things vehicular and had a special place in his heart for his burnt orange Plymouth Duster. It was a 1972 hot rod, with a raked-up rear end, a mysteriously louvered back window, and huge tires Rick called “slicks.” He had also installed a special muffler, called a “glass-pack” that gave the engine a low-end guttural sound. He liked to brag that because of a special carburetor he exchanged for the factory carburetor, “my 340 block can beat any 440 block in town.”