My Brief Affair with an '85

by Eric Beebe

Back in 2005, Lowrider Magazine was full of three things: scantily-clad women, classic cars inches off the ground, and the wisdom of the men who had attained both. Between the hype of Grand Theft Auto and my love of rap videos, I assured myself at twelve that these three things were the keys to success. The dream was fixing up El Dorados, Impalas, and Coup DeVilles to cruise low and slow around town.

My grandma’s old ’85 Chevy S-10 was the closest thing within reach to a real lowrider. It was lower to the ground than most trucks like it I’d seen and would technically be an antique by the time I could drive it. The cab’s sun-bleached maroon interior was full of trash, and the ash tray still held an old cigarette butt or two from the years my grandma drove it. The grill was a matte grey plastic begging me to be replaced with metal and chrome. There was still a warped, dented section of the back bumper where my uncle Donald had once backed it into the barn my grandparents used to store trash and their lawn mower. I planned to restore it with his older brother, Kenny.

Worktimes flexed around Kenny’s night-shift sleep cycle and my juvenile aversion to scheduling. Set plans didn’t always succeed, but sometimes when I made spontaneous appearances at my grandparents’ house looking to work, my grandma would wake her son from his slumber. But our definitions of that work didn’t always align. I was a teenage idealist that saw every chain-link steering wheel and 8-ball shift knob in a magazine as something I could add to my ride, which might eventually make the S-10 worthy of car shows, music videos and a spot in Lowrider. Kenny, on the other hand, saw the semi-functional, forgotten machine losing its battle with rust under a tarp tent. When he taught me how to cut through steel with the blue- white blast of an oxy-acetylene torch, our thoughts were polar opposites. Mine: I can totally chop the top of the truck with this! His: there’ll be lots of bolts too rusted to unscrew.

One day Kenny and I removed the liner from the truck’s bed to reveal years of dirt and sediment piled over the neglected metal beneath. A nest of twine from one rodent or another lay balled up against the wheel well, so all I could think about when he handed me a broom was rat shit. He told me to get sweeping while he worked on the engine. I brushed the dirt out in shovel- worthy loads while my uncle screamed at parts under the hood and beat them with a wrench if they stumped him.

By high school, I had given up on the truck. I couldn’t pin it down to one reason why. Any time Kenny brought it up, I was always too busy with homework or the football team. I’d only joined to follow some friends, and after my parents’ coaxing. At that point the only people in school who cared about their cars the way I had were the same ones who bought the most expensive sports gear they would outgrow in a year, or the ones the shop teachers had to cut off after too many classes. The workings of cars remained arcane at best to me, and any less was menial labor. I found more satisfaction in the creative power of pen and paper than a wrench. My teenage libido found more pleasure in internet porn than it ever did with the ladies of Lowrider.

Once it became apparent I’d moved on, my grandparents paid to have the S-10 fixed as a gift. I wore the truck down, busted the illegal brake job from Kenny’s chosen mechanic, gave the back bumper an uncanny experience with a boulder instead of a barn, and drove it over every parking lot median I didn’t care to abide. I eventually handed the truck down to my brother with the door strips falling out and decals peeling off its sides.

By the time it was my youngest sister’s turn to inherit it, she all but refused. Between my dad using it for hauling mulch and the family history it had, we didn’t sell the S-10, but it barely had a purpose anymore. We gave it a spot behind the unkempt berry bushes in the back corner of our family’s property, where year by year it recessed into a canopy of birch and oak, nearly invisible to the world.