by Karl Arnold Belser 

Jackie, my curvy girlfriend with eyes like emeralds, asymmetrical, business-like haircut, contagious smile, saw it in a used car lot, a 1996 Ford Taurus station wagon, one year old and the color of her favorite purple roses.  It was spring in San Jose, plum trees blooming, sweet new leaves shimmering, crisp cool air caressing our faces.  It was the time to buy a new car.

I regarded my partner with interest when she jumped with delight, making her short jeans dress puff out and showing her legs.  Even after many years of living together, I still found her attractive.

I said, “I don’t like that color.  It’s too feminine,” and I worried that she had already made up her mind, so I gently grabbed Jackie’s arm and continued, “Don’t get excited.  We will only buy the car if we can get a good price.”

However, I did like the accessories: gray leather seats, a sunroof, power locks with a keypad on the driver’s door, stylish chrome rims, a CD player, and even a two person jump seat for our grandkids in the wagon’s bed.

“I do like the car.  It’s well equipped,” I said.

A portly salesman walked up, popped the door locks with a remote and looked directly at Jackie like I wasn’t even there.

“Hi, I’m Hank," he said.  "We just bought this car at auction yesterday, so I can give you a great price.  Do you want to drive it?”

“Yes,” Jackie said without consulting me. 

Hank offered her the keys with his chubby hand, and she got in and sank into the soft leather seat.  She smiled with satisfaction and looked at Hank with wide green eyes.  Hank apparently caught her glance, and his pudgy cheeks pulled up in a friendly, knowing grin.

I thought the salesman was moving too fast, so I said, “Wait.  I’m coming with you.” 

I walked around the car, and got in.

Jackie cranked over the engine and the smooth purr of the powerful 24-valve V6 erupted.  I thought, this feminine vehicle has a decent, manly engine, and my heart jumped a little.  This car might be acceptable despite the color.

The car smelled of leather and plastic, and I whispered to Jackie, “They’ve sprayed in that new car smell.”

Jackie quietly answered, “Yes. It’s overpowering,” and pushed the buttons to open the windows and sunroof letting in the sweet spring air.

Hank commanded with a loud voice, “Drive her. You can get out over there,” pointing to an exit between two poles across which a chain usually hung.

Jackie drove slowly through the streets that were lined with the purple plum trees but didn’t test the power or maneuverability of the machine.  Finally I said, “Drive it hard for a few miles.”

She pulled the seatbelt tight in anticipation and applied full power.  The vehicle jumped and rounded the first corner fast enough that I said, “You’re scaring me.”  She slowed a little, turned onto the freeway and pushed the pedal to the floor to zoom up the on-ramp.

I told Jackie, “This car’s solid at 80,” and she guided the car off at the next exit and went back to the lot.

Hank had told us that the car was a lease return, that the new-car sticker was for reference, and that it had only 15,000 miles.  I had researched the price of used cars, so I offered two-thirds of the price shown on the sticker.

Hank’s face showed no emotion now, and he said, “Let’s go inside and talk.”  It was clear that Hank thought that the hook was set, and that it was time to reel the fish in.

I whispered to Jackie, “I know you love this car, but don’t say anything that shows you’re excited.  We may not buy it unless we can get the low price I offered.”

After what seemed like an hour of talk with no agreement, I said, “We are not even close.”  I stood up, and Hank just sat there with his arms folded across his protruding stomach, so we left that sterile cubicle, stagnant smelling from too much talk.

Jackie and I walked sullenly to her old yellow car, Jackie walking slowly, hands folded in front, looking at the ground.

I had my hand on the door handle to open it for Jackie when Hank ran up and exclaimed, “Would you really buy the car for the two-thirds price?”

Jackie lifted her head and smiled.

I turned to face Hank, looked him over, being in no mood to answer quickly, and finally said, “Yes.  That was my offer.”

Hank said, “Done.  Let’s go inside.  You know I can still offer a 100,000-mile warranty for a little extra.  The car is essentially brand new.”

I knew that this was a ploy to get a few extra bucks.  But I also knew that the Taurus had a poor repair rating from Consumer Reports, so we bought the warrantee.

As we were about to say goodbye, Jackie chirped, “Thanks for helping me.  I love this car, and I’m going to name it Sweet Rosy.”

The wind had blown a few pink blossoms from the purple plumb trees onto the car.  I watched Jackie caress the smooth curves from front to back, knocking the peddles to the ground.

I thought, such a simple thing, and it gives her so much pleasure.

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Last updated November 14, 2005

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