Please read Part One of this short story.
We drove through the country roads of Georgia for a few hours, with me dancing and singing to the radio, when my car started to act funny. This Ford Taurus was ancient, and I bought it after my dad wanted to buy my Ford Ranger pickup truck from me so he could use it for “truck stuff”. The seats of the blue Taurus had cigarette burn holes in the felt and the driver’s seatbelt never retracted. The seatbelt always dangled down when you climbed out of the car, only to be slammed in the door with a clang and a curse. It was a grandma car that I drove like a bat out of hell. So I wasn’t really surprised when the Tammy the Taurus began to shake.
Worriedly, I pressed evenly down on the brake…and the pedal went straight to the floor. Horrified, I pressed the brake again and began pumping the pedal with my foot over and over, willing for the brakes to suddenly work and for the car to slam to a stop. I continued to cruise behind Patrick’s truck at a reasonable speed of about fifty miles an hour.
Curse words filled the car as I quickly took inventory of my surroundings. I was going about fifty but had begun to slow a little because I hadn’t applied any gas. We were approaching a small town, and little ramshackle buildings were beginning to line the road. Luckily, the road opened into four lanes just as I spotted a stop sign ahead of me. Patrick had begun to brake, and I frantically waved my arms and mimed pressing the brake pedal down with my hand multiple times as my car flew by his truck. He watched me go by like he was watching a suicidal driver about to run a stop sign.
Let me elaborate about why I didn’t pull the emergency brake. Well, folks, that’s because I had learned where the emergency brake was on my FIRST car, a lovely 1992 Honda hatchback. I was very familiar with that car’s emergency brake because my dad would park my car on the top of hills and make me start from a stop, on a manual. He had written “Kid Learning To Drive” on the back window with white paint to warn the drivers behind me that I would most likely roll backwards into their car if they stopped too close behind me on a hill. I was used to pulling that emergency brake because I pulled it every time I parked. That’s just what you did with manual clutches; my mechanic father had told me so.
Tammy the Taurus, however, was an automatic and did not have an emergency brake directly next to my right hand.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS THE E-BRAKE?!”
By now I am approaching this stop sign at about forty miles per hour, Patrick is watching me in horror, and I’m craning my neck left and right to see if anyone else is approaching the four-way. Hopefully I would be able to catch their attention to get them not to enter the intersection so I wouldn’t be side-swiped and killed.
There was a car entering the intersection from the right. My mind quickly calculated their speed, direction, and what trajectory I would need to take in order to not side-swipe and kill THEM. I was about twenty feet away and barreling through. If my mental calculations were right, I would have to swerve about five feet to the right to not t-bone this Volvo and then swerve immediately to the left to not hit the sidewalk and the pedestrians that lined it.
The moment to swerve was here, and I jerked the steering wheel to the right…and the wheel felt like it was stuck in molasses.
“WHAT THE FUUUUCK”!”
Luckily my mental calculations hadn’t taken into consideration that my car was slowing without gas. I hand-over-hand turned the wheel slowly, painfully, and barely missed the Volvo. Then I hand-over-hand struggled the steering wheel left again. My car slowed considerably when I turned the wheels. So after I cleared the intersection, I started to pull the steering wheel left and right, weaving back and forth between the two lanes. Patrick’s truck was close behind me but at a safe enough distance.
Eventually, my car slowed enough for me to pull to the gravel on the side of the road and Tammy calmly crunched to a stop. Patrick sprinted to me.
“What the fuck was that?!”
My hands gripped the wheel tightly as I breathed in and out rapidly.
“I lost the brakes. Then the steering wheel seemed to lock up.”
“Jesus Christ, I thought I was about to watch you die.”
Patrick told me to pop the hood of my car. My hands shook as I reached down to pop the hood…and I noticed the emergency brake handle on the left. I groaned inwardly, then got out of the car to join Patrick at the front. His hands were already greasy.
“When was the last time you got an oil change?”
I shrugged. “Maybe a month or two?”
He walked back to his truck and returned holding multiple containers.
“Your fluids are all bone dry. Oil, brake, power steering…”
“That’s impossible. My dad checked this car out for me and he’s a mechanic.”
“Then maybe there’s a leak somewhere. Luckily I have some stuff.”
As he spoke he was unscrewing and pouring liquids throughout my engine. Brake fluid, power steering fluid, and oil. He pulled up the oil dipstick, wiped it with a rag he had dangling from his waist, then dipped the dipstick into the oil and pulled it up again. He leaned over to show me.
“See? You’re good now.”
“Thank you so much. I…I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here.”
“Couldn’t call anyone?”
“No…I’m not supposed to leave the area, I guess. And I don’t know anyone around…wherever we are.”
“We are about to hit South Carolina. Parris Island is about an hour away.”
I sighed and leaned against my car.
“You okay? That was a little scary back there.”
I buried my head in my hands and shook my head back and forth. Patrick stepped towards me and gathered me into a hug. My arms were between him and his arms were wrapped completely around me. I buried my head into his chest and sobbed dryly.
“It’s okay, Savannah.”
“No, it’s not. How does that even happen?! My dad would kill me if he knew the state of my car.”
“Well, I’m not going to tell him, okay? Everything is fine. Everyone lived.”
Patrick was right. He released me and headed back to his truck. He waited for me to get in, turn on the car, and give him a thumbs up before he pulled in front of me.
We started off, once again, towards South Carolina.