After I got things situated, I stood and worked to wrestle open the bay door to the garage. I hardly ever opened except on super-hot days. Mostly I just used the little door to the side.

Hmm. Maybe six feet wide. Ten feet deep. Plenty of space for what I’d found. But I’d have to get rid of most of my treasures to make room for it. That meant the stacks of speakers. The three television sets. Mike, the mannequin I’d found drowning in a dumpster behind the mall. The bike frames hanging from the rafters. My film projector. My workbench.

Four years’ of treasure hunting in that garage. And now I’d have to let it all go if I was going to pull this off.

Pop had just gotten home from work and looked beat. He’d picked up some extra hours lately due to the big build downtown and the renovations near the river, but he was doing his after work whistling now. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed that whistling after my brother died.

“Hey Pops, guess what?”

“Heard you rummaging around down there.” Pop is a smart guy, always one step ahead of me. “What’d you find now, Earnest?”

I felt the smile pulling at my cheeks. “Oh, just a car.”

He took an enormous gulp of water then wiped his mouth, set the glass down and he had his own smile tugging at his lips before he turned to face me. “A car?”

Pops was tall, like Terrence was. I took after my mom and only came up to his chest.

“You found…a car?”

I had the good sense to know when a “Lord have mercy” was coming my way, so I knew I had to act before Mom heard. But footsteps hit the stairs and she came shuffling down to the kitchen. There went that.

Pop took her in his arms. They kissed, then Pop said to Mom, “Our son found a car in the trash.”

“Lord have mercy.”

Mom sounded light and easy today. It was still hit and miss, her moods. Some days she was all sunshine and hugs, other days it was a fog so thick that you could hardly see her face. Now, I had to talk fast, before they could shrug off my car and move to other topics such as dinner and work or bills or whatever.

“I was hoping we could get the trailer and… it’s over at that condemned house on Pierce. An old VW under the tree. It’s not in bad shape. I think I can buff out the paint. Gonna need some new spark plugs, and…”

My eyes found Pop’s palm. “Hang on, Earnest. A car isn’t like some old books or even a pin ball machine. It belongs to someone. And besides where would you put it? Wait. Where were you thinking about putting it?”

“Um, the garage.”

Mom broke away from Pops, looking at me like she wanted to shove a thermometer in my mouth. “Earnest, are you honestly thinking about cleaning out that junk heap down there?”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s a car.”

She looked at Pop, then back to me. Something was up.

“That old VW? The one on Pierce Street. The one that’s been there longer than you?”

“Uh, I think so.” I’d never seen it until they trimmed back those bushes.

“That was Virgil Clem’s car.”

Pop popped his head up. “Virgil. Wow, I haven’t heard that name in a while. That man could fix anything. Had that shop down on Fourth Street. You remember. Fixed lawn mowers and such.”

“That’s him. I think his daughter was living in that old house on Pierce until a few years back. The one they’re tearing down to build something or other.”

“A shame too. That old house must be what, a hundred and fifty years old?”

“Give or take.”

I needed to get them back on track. “Yeah, but the car. How can we get it back here?”

Mom tilted her head. “Earnest, I don’t

I saw something in Pop’s eyes. That gleam he got when a good project came along. He looked at Mom. “Now hang on, Clara, we could probably find out something about that car. I could check with the clerk downtown.”

“Roger, you’re not really considering?”

Oh, he was considering it. I know how his mind works. Nothing Pops liked more than a project. The gears were turning and he was already figuring a way to get that old car home.

We’d have that beetle running in no time.





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