the boy in the car

It was like any other late September Los Angeles day. After a heat wave, there was a calm purr of cooling, the air taking a deep breath that was kind to us and kind to all manner of weather patterns.

I heaved myself up as best I could with my brace cutting into the waking flesh of my back. Two pills, and a glass of water later found me ready to snap a little leash onto my little dog’s collar. She, Ruby, perched hopefully on the arm of a sofa.

Treats and bags in hand, we were off on our 15 minute constitutional, winding up a tall staircase and down a slight decline. I saw no one, ever, save a passing car, and knew all the 12 vehicles I would see parked along the route. Until I mounted the last hill. Up ahead in an illegal spot sat an old, clean car. Spotless.

The old Mercedes was one of the early 90’s boxy sedans, maroon with big, silver accents. The tinted windows were dark and large, their hue made the figure sleeping in the back almost drenched in a patina, a relic from twenty years ago frozen in slumber. Even the sunlight warmed to a nostalgic glow, humming dustily on the leather seats.

I didn’t want to get too close so I kept on, and nearly forgot about it until I embarked up the stairs the following day.

Like an awaiting friend, its flat, metallic underpinnings seemed to anticipate my arrival as I crested the hill.

The figure was still sleeping, although it had turned the other way and I could see the face of a boy, a teen, his eyelashes long and fanning out as I saw them from my vantage point. He had a long, thin nose and soft lips slightly parted, in repose. His face was colored orange from the setting sun through the window and where the tint darkened near the window edges, his light hair became almost blue. A moment from another era, a photograph already changing color. I walked on, tugged past by my dog, and vowed to look closer if it was there tomorrow. Maybe I’d tap on the door, see if he was alright. I turned again. There was no license plate.

I didn’t forget this time, that night, and wondered if he was sick or a runaway. He seemed clean shaven and not gaunt. Maybe a lover’s quarrel or a journalist on assignment. My theories were numerous.

I got ready for my walk and grabbed a little plastic water jug, maybe he’d be grateful for it.

I rounded the bend and the hill and the car was gone. I stood and watched an ant scurry across an old oil stain where the car had been. One of those large, heavy, black ants. A few gardeners walking past were watching me watching the ground. Ruby was pulling on her leash to greet them, so I turned and walked home.


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