The Tercel At Night by Meagan Maguire

He was blind drunk by noon. At night he fixed the Tercel. He let the oil and the antifreeze sink into the lawn. It was fine. He owned the land. He hated the earth.

There was no one around for miles. No one could hear him. No one could even if he stood outside and screamed until his lungs were emptied. Sometimes men came over. They left empty tallboys of Budweiser when they left. He was not glad when they came.

It would have been better, he thought, if the men came to him because of something he could not control. In his dreams, he was a ghost. He dreamed they drove up the mountain to his home. They came with flashlights and looked in all his windows and he had no choice but to be there when they came.

Instead they came to him not for what he was, but for what he had done. Those things he had done with his mortal hands. They came to him when there was a threat to the organization, when there was infighting, when the cash flow was slow. He had been a biker in a biker gang longer than the rest of them put together. He knew what to do.

He also knew there would never be patrol car sirens singing for him on the mountain. That was not how things were done in Maine’s empty countryside.

The men asked him why he no longer came to the clubhouse. They asked this last, when they were already settled on their motorcycles. Like many of the men, he did not start speaking English until he was already grown. Sometimes the English left him. He replied “Ça pogné les nerfs,” which meant, “It pisses me off,” but literally “It punches the nerves.”

Eventually, the Tercel got fixed. It ran. He waited until late at night. He drove it down an old logging road. The car bounced and the shocks squealed. He drove it to the swamp. He got out of the car but kept it running, taking a moment to walk around and inspect the Tercel as best he could in dim starlight. He put his ear to the hot hood and listened to the Tercel’s engine, listening to its peculiar ticks and clicks. He calculated the hours he’d spent fixing the thing up. One hundred, two, maybe more.

The shotgun was in the backseat. Then it was in his hand. He shot out all the windows without haste or worry. He fetched bolt cutters from the trunk. He turned off the Tercel and crawled under it, lobbing off the catalytic convertor with two quick, practiced cuts like he’d done a hundred times before. The metal burnt his hand.

He sat on the car hood and looked across the swamp. No one was coming. No one had heard him. There were no sirens coming up the mountain.

He slumped over and wished that they would come. He would tell them everything. If they came he would weep into the officer’s shoulder, right next to the radio. It would be the first time he’d cried in front of another man.

Meagan Maguire’s writing has previously appeared in Reality Hands, Be About It, Specter Magazine, and more. You can find her on Twitter at @MeaganWords.

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