“I don’t know about this, Tony . . .”
“It’s cool, Bubbles. You just hold these two wires together as you turn the key, then put your foot on the brake, don’t let go of the wires yet, jiggle the shift knob like this, then put it in gear, and off you go. Then you can let go of the wires.”
Tony’s so proud of his car. 1974 Olds Toronado. Big Brown, he calls it. That’s about right. Like a large turd with four wheels and a vinyl roof. However, Bubbles needs to borrow a car. She has a job interview, up near Princeton, and Tony is the only person she knew who had one, such as it is.
She looks straight above her at the underside of the Ben Franklin Bridge, as it begins its ascent over the last few cross streets before stretching across the Delaware. Here between the huge, gray concrete columns is a parking lot where Tony parks his ride. It’s one of those strange urban places that you might see passing in a car, but you wouldn’t ever imagine yourself standing in. Street detritus blows around their ankles while the rumble and hum of the traffic above makes it hard to hear.
“C’mon, Bubs, get in.”
Tony ushers her into the driver’s seat and gets in the passenger’s side. “Check it out.” Tony rubs his hand over the seats. “I made these seat covers out of my Grandmother’s old oriental rug! Ha! Also please note the nautical-style port hole windows in the back, and . . . here’s the best part . . . Ta-da! Eight track tape player! And it works!” He reaches into the glove compartment and pulls out a big, chunky eight track tape. Presenting it like a game show girl revealing the grand prize, he barks, “Steppenwolf’s Greatest Hits!” ending with an air guitar flourish.
“Er, Tone, you got any others?”
“Well, I really got to get going now. Tony, I really appreciate this. I’ll call you when I’m on my way back. Is there anything else I should know about the car?”
“Hey, this baby drives like a dream, but sometimes the gas pedal sticks.”
“You just put your toe under the pedal and pull it back. No problem. And, yeah, if the speedometer doesn’t work, just tap on it, like this. That’s it, I think.. S’got plenty of gas, too.”
Bubbles rubs her temples. “Tony . . .”
“Don’t worry, Bubbles. Big Brown will take care of you.”
“That’s what I’m worried about . . .”
“Wanna get baked before you go?”
She creeps along through the Old City streets, getting the feel of the big boat, until she finds her way onto the ramp for 95 North. Waiting for a break in the traffic, she makes her move. Hitting the gas, Big Brown lurches forward with a squeal of tires and jumps assuredly out onto the road. Apart from a tendency for the car to drift a bit, she soon feels comfortable behind the wheel of the rusty behemoth.
The trip to Princeton should take a little more than an hour. She’s got her directions on the seat beside her, along with her cell phone, portfolio, and briefcase. She brushes some lint off her new suit. Well, her new OLD suit. The one from the vintage clothing store she’d had tailored. The sun’s shining, traffic’s not bad at all. She puts the windows down, enjoying the blast of air. Some tunes might be in order. She tries the radio, punching the buttons and fiddling with the dial. Nothing. She glances at the glove compartment. The eight track. Steppenwolf? What the hell. Reaching over and flipping open the glove compartment, she grabs the chunky tape and pushes it into the player. She hears a song fading out, then a pause . . . Bubbles cranks it up, and a blast of chugging noise like farm machinery in a hail of swirling feedback, blasts through the car, vibrating the dashboard. Suddenly it snaps into a tight little groove—
I like to dream yes, yes, right between my sound machine
On a cloud of sound I drift in the night,
Any place it goes is right,
Goes far, flies near, to the stars, away from here
“Damn! I know this!”
Bubbles is singing along, banging on the steering wheel, barrelling along in the passing lane . . .
Well, you don't know, what we can find,
Why don't you come with me little girl,
On a magic carpet ride
She glances at the speedometer. 0 mph. “Zero? Oh, yeah, Tony said tap it . . .”
You don't know, what we can see,
Why don't you tell your dreams to me,
Fantasy will set you free
85 mph. “Eighty five? Whoa, easy, Big Brown.”
She takes her foot off the gas and . . . the boat’s not slowing down! 90 mph. "Ninety?! Oh crap, the pedal’s stuck! Yeeah! Pull-up-on-the-pedal-with-your-foot, pull-up-on-the-pedal-with . . . your . . . FOOT!”
Close your eyes girl,
Look inside girl,
Let the sound take you away . . .*
Frantically, she reaches down to the floor, trying to unstick the pedal with her hand. As soon as she ducks her head the car edges toward the grass median. As she leaves the road, the car bucks and bounces down the slope, scattering a bunch of Canada geese. She jerks herself upright, screams mightily, and tugs the wheel back towards the highway.
Sod flying behind her, she swerves back out on to the highway, across three lanes. With horns blowing, Steppenwolf blaring, Big Brown crosses the shoulder and is heading for the ditch. Swearing and praying, with one foot on the brake and the other pulling up the gas pedal, she avoids the ditch, still going sixty through the rough along the highway. Finally the pedal releases, Bubbles jams both feet on the brakes, and Big Brown skids to a stop, scattering yellow blossoms from a forsythia bush.
The car shudders, coughs, and goes dead.
*Words and music by John Kay and Rushton Moreve
All lyrics © Copyright MCA Music (BMI)
All rights for the USA controlled and administered by MCA Corporation of America, INC
Bubbles Meets the Prince of Darkness
International Assholes' Day
Bubbles Runs the Voodoo Down
Bubbles Takes a Magic Carpet Ride
Big Brown lets Bubbles Down
Bubbles, Baked and Fried
Bubbles, Biff and Binny
Bubbles and the 99 cent Epiphany
Bubbles' Trip To See the Doctor
The Doctor and the Prince of Darkness Meet Again
The Doctor and the Naked Glory
More Troubles for Bubbles
What a Lame Vacation
In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive.