Copyright 1991, Andrew P. Varga
Since before I can remember, Dad had this truck. He'd bought it used the year I was two, I think. He was forever proud of his truck, because of how powerful the engine was.
The year I turned eleven, he built a big box out of second hand plywood that covered the bed. "To stop it from rusting and to keep the rain and snow off the stuff inside," he said. This `topper-box' even had a door in the back, with hinges at the top.
Dad was also a collector of sorts. He collected the `It might be useful some day' kind of stuff, and kept it in his truck. At least that's what he always told Mom whenever she asked him about cleaning it out.
Once I stood on the trailer hitch and, unlatching the door of the topper-box, peered inside. Of what I could see there were the following items:
Tires; One looked badly worn, two others had big chunks of tread missing. These were still on the rims.
A small horse trough; Dad got it at an auction once when we all were talking about getting a pony for us kids to ride. But it wouldn't hold water, so my parents stalled on the pony until Dad someday got it fixed.
Two mammoth tackle boxes; Both were overflowing. In fact, I never saw either of them outside the truck, ever.
Two dead car batteries; Maybe it was three.
Five fishing rods; Three had the little metal loop-things broken off the tips. One was missing its reel.
Tools; Probably more that Dan Hawkins at the corner Standard station owned.
A bird feeder; The glass was broken out, but the pieces were still in the bed.
The rusted remains of my first bicycle; Dad had accidentally backed over it the first and, I
swear, only time I had ever left it in the driveway.
A chainsaw; It was partially, okay, mostly disassembled.
Empty pop bottles; Too many to count, they were both in and out of their cartons.
And leaves and candy wrappers and the like.
The stuff inside often changed. Dad added to it from time to time, and some of the smaller things disappeared. The bed was rusted through in places.
Inside the cab was no better. The only clear spot was the part of the seat directly in front of the steering wheel.
The deep metal dashboard held the mail. Years worth of sale catalogs, bills, empty checkbooks, and magazines. With some burned out turn signal or brake light bulbs, at least a dozen bottle openers, old hoses, clamps, and Lord knows how many pens, pencils, and keys - all tossed on at random.
The seat carried more mail (the important stuff I suppose), an electric drill with the cord cut off, pliers, screwdrivers, three or four worn left-hand work gloves (The `rights' always seemed to be in the house.), a winter hat; the kind with big fake fur ear flaps that snapped together on top, a bent coat hanger or two, a couple of rolls of electrical tape, and a big old overcoat with the pockets worn through.
The floor was covered with, among other things, a massive toolbox that was so full the top refused to close, numerous oil-stained rags (our old socks and undershorts mostly), pop bottles, empty Pall Mall packs and a few Lucky Strike tins, a couple of Ball jars of vegetables that never made it inside from Grandma's house, and a monstrous tangled wad that consisted mostly of jumper cables, odd lengths of rope, TV antenna wire - and the cord to the electric drill.
I once peeked inside the glove box, just out of curiosity. It was completely empty, except for a magazine that had a picture of a woman on the front. Best I can remember, she wasn't wearing much.
Every Saturday morning, Dad would `run errands'. He'd often take me with him. And we'd usually stop somewhere for candy or sodas along the way.
Needless to say, that one Saturday morning brightened immensely when Dad asked, "Want to ride with me to the hardware store?" I blurted an enthusiastic "Sure!" And off we went.
Sometimes, as I started to get in, stuff would come rolling out on the ground when I'd open the passenger side
door. After Dad would reach across and clear a spot for me, I'd have to quickly toss it back in and scramble up on the seat, slamming the door before it all rolled out again.
I always enjoyed riding in Dad's truck. Papers shuffled, keys tinkled, and tools and bottles clanked and rattled at odd moments. It was like being inside a rolling music box! And I'd often get to watch through the cracked mirror just outside my window to see something that had found a hole in the truck's bed go rolling down the road for a ways, trying to follow us I imagined.
Also, the clutch had been slipping for some time. Dad would just race the engine and let his foot slip off the pedal, the truck would eventually start to move.
I think Dad had to replace some tool that he couldn't find that day, so he could fix the washing machine again. (With a family of six, what do you expect?) He probably already had at least two of the right tool in the back. Truth is, once anything went into Dad's truck, it rarely came out again, on purpose anyway.
I had decided to wait in the truck at the hardware store. It was too much work getting in and out. Of course, if the hardware store had sold candy, that would have been a different matter.
As Dad got back in the truck, with new tool in hand, I looked in my mirror. The outside mirror on Dad's side had been missing since before I can remember. The one at the top of the windshield was useless, on account of the topper-box.
"Dad," I said. "There's somebody behind us."
Racing the engine, he let go of the clutch pedal and the truck started moving backward.
"Its okay," he replied. "We can get by them."
"But they're getting closer," I warned.
"We'll miss 'em," he reassured me.
Just then the driver of the other truck started beeping his horn.
"I think we're gonna hit them." I mumbled, tucking myself beneath the dash as best I could.
"No we won't, Son," Dad replied as the truck picked up speed.
Ka - LUNK!
I was instantly and, I feared at the time, permanently buried beneath catalogs, newspapers, cards, letters, and junk.
Feeling movement above me, I carefully raised my head. Dad was shoveling away the debris with his hands.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Sure. I'm fine." I caught my breath as he cleared a place for me on the seat.
Later, as we were returning home, Dad turned.
"Pretty fast way to clean off the dash, wasn't it?"
"Sure was," I smiled.
Dad finally sold that old truck, a couple of years before he passed away. It had become a home for lost mice by then anyway.
About a year ago, I bought an old truck of my own. I haven't tried to wash or wax it yet, Lord knows you can't wax rust.
But I keep the inside as clean as a whistle.
Well okay, sort of.