“Aerostar” by Anthony Marshall

Categories: ISSUE 02: Billie

Aerostar
“That’s the problem.” Danne said getting into the weary minivan and closing the squealing door, “All of the good ones are already taken.” The van backed out and rounded the corner with lamenting tires. I closed my eyes and said a quiet little prayer that the minivan made it to her destination. Terry bought that car for her right after they married. That’s how Terry showed his love to Danne. When he gave it to her he even put an airbrushed front end license plate on it that read Love Always. It had so many problems with the engine, the alternator, the interior lights didn’t work, the gas gauge was broken, you name it. Even the handle on the inside of the door was broken so you couldn’t get out unless you rolled down the window or someone let you out. Danne was talking about trading it in. She came over for coffee because Terry was off work and home with the kids. He worked swing shift at Ford but when his three days off came Danne was spotted all over Port Huron. As we drank and looked out on the kids in the yard she told me how she met up with that kid she was seeing from Detroit two weeks ago. She told me that she broke it off because he was so shy and he never made a move. They went to the movies and made out, but the kid was so nervous he peeled the paint chips from the side of the van and made a giant rust orb in the baby blue. Terry was mad when he saw it and wanted to know what happened. Danne just shrugged and walked away. Even though they didn’t really do anything too bad, she was still overcome with guilt. She couldn’t sleep and when she did she had nightmares. She was irritable and chewed her fingernails constantly. So she broke it off, spending the next week and half quoting the bible while dragging the kids to church.

Before Danne pulled out of my driveway she said she was going to talk to a guy about selling the minivan. It was such a mess that I didn’t think anyone would seriously consider buying it or taking it as a trade in. Maybe she couldn’t see it through the dark lenses on those Passion Red Wayfarers she wore. Walking up to it you could smell it. It reeked of diapers and dirty panties. The floor boards were covered with fast food bags because she never cooked. There were two baby seats, a Jesus air freshener, discarded bottles and one of Terry’s work boots. She always kept an overnight bag in the back, she explained, for when she went to visit her sister in Marietta, Georgia. That usually happened when Terry kicked her out. Those long drives putting all those miles on that poor minivan really took a toll on the engine. Terry was at fault too because even though he worked a lot he didn’t maintain it like he should have. It was always running hot or smelled of burnt oil. If he had given it as much attention as he had his ’85 Camaro that he kept covered in the garage it might have run better. He talked about that Camaro all the time, always comparing it to Danne’s van. He liked to tease her and say how much the girls loved that car in high school when he had long hair or any hair for that matter.

A few weeks ago Danne came over and was telling me how she started seeing a therapist because she was lonely and depressed. She was leaving his office and realized the van had a flat tire. The therapist, Jim, was kind enough to change it for her and put on a spare. When she came the following Thursday he asked her why she didn’t get it fixed. Danne told him Terry wouldn’t change it, and she knew the spare was just covering up the problem, she needed a new tire. Jim took her out after their appointment to help get a new tire and then wham-bam they started sleeping together. She told me that he liked to talk dirty to her while they screwed in the backseat and that really turned her on. Danne eventually went through the same Christian anxiety and guilt and broke it off with Jim. She tried to continue the therapy but after one session of explaining why she didn’t want to see him anymore for the full hour she never returned. About a week later Jim slashed all four of her tires and left a note on the windshield, which Terry found on his way to work in the morning. That was almost it for the old minivan. I didn’t think it would recover from the tire slashing, and Danne either.

Terry called me on my cell phone. He told me he thought Danne was cheating on him with some guy who works at a Kmart. He found some E-mails and a motel room receipt from a place in Ann Arbor. I, being a good friend to them both, said I hadn’t seen her today and knew nothing about it. I tried to calm him down, being a good friend to them both, but he said he’d kill them if he finds it’s true. Being a good friend to them both, I hung up the phone, closed my eyes and prayed that he minivan didn’t make it there after all.

Story by Anthony Marshall
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Background & foreground photos by Jayme Joyce