Patience, tolerance, and other trials of used car shopping.

My first car was a hand-me-down. A cousin of mine decided to create a ‘franken-car’ by marrying the body of an early 1960’s Ford Galaxy with the engine and transmission of a Mustang of roughly the same vintage. It proved to be a reasonably reliable vehicle, and I drove it until my inattention lead me to skid into an intersection in the middle of a torrential rain, The resulting collision damaged it to the point where I had to retire it. I saw it, years later, with the body restored, being driven by a chap who seemed happy to have it.

After that, I went through a string of used cars until 1996, when I decided to splurge and buy a new car. By then, I had graduated to smaller cars, and my initial infatuation with automatic transmissions had given way to a dedication to manual transmissions. It took a bit of shopping around, but I finally found a ride I wanted: a Honda Accord with ‘five-on-the-floor’ and an economical four-cylinder engine. The dealer had to trade with another Honda dealer to get it, but I got the impression that everyone involved was glad to move the car off the lot.

“Hoss”, as I eventually nicknamed the car, proved to be a reliable and loyal steed. But twenty years of wear, several accidents, and 200,000+ miles have begun to take their toll. So now I’m car shopping again…and finding that manual transmission cars are even rarer than they were when I purchased “Hoss”.

I am also being reminded of why I hate car shopping.

In my current economic situation, I can’t afford a new car, so I’m not even bothering to look. That limits me to looking for used versions of vehicles that are rare to start out with…a very small pond to fish in indeed. The Internet, you would think, would be a great tool in a search like this, and you’d be right but for one fact: the accuracy of Web pages depends on how often the dealership updates their information. I’ve contacted dealerships about vehicles, only to find out that, no, they no longer have that vehicle, it was sold a couple of days ago…or a couple of weeks ago. Then, once you call, the salesman (and they always seem to be men) insists on trying to sell me a car I’m not interested in, or tries to change my mind about wanting a manual transmission.

I explained to one why I wanted to stick with a manual. The flexibility in shifting, the ability to save fuel by dropping a car out of gear on a downhill slope and coasting, but I might as well have tried to explain it to this laptop. So I guess I’m stuck talking to these predatory morons in hopes of finding a vehicle that satisfies my needs and fits my budget.

I just hope “Hoss” keeps running until I can find its replacement…and that my patience doesn’t fray.

Gatherings and departures

We file into the huge empty space, two short, ragged lines of people following the coffin draped in white. As we walk down the aisle, the piano begins to play, and an enormous bass voice begins to fill the space with the words to “Amazing Grace”. We take our seats as the song closes, and the priest steps forward to begin the rites.

The words pour out, the prayers are offered, more songs are sung, but all of it feels hollow, the entire thing seems a dark phantasm, impossible to believe. The rites finish with the incense holder swinging to fill the air with a scent that reminds me of burning pine, and it is over. We file out again, and those of us strong enough move forward to move the casket from its trolley into the hearse.

A ride to the cemetery under gray skies, moving to unload the coffin, the walk to through the sodden grass to the graveside. A final prayer, a blessing, then the holy water is sprinkled and it is done. The hardest part is done, at least emotionally.

The weeks ahead will be filled with events that keep the wound open and the salt renewed. Listening as the will is read. Settling accounts at the bank. Filing claims with the insurance companies. Assuring officialdom and everyone else who seems to need to know that, yes, my mother is dead.

But through it all, there are good moments. Friends and family gathered together to remember a long and eventful life. Laughter as the happy times are shared once again. The joy of seeing old friends. Tonight, we will gather one final time to share supper and memories, then we will go our separate ways once more.

Goodbye, mom, you are remembered, now and always.

The Waiting

Her chest rises and falls in an almost gasping motion. Her eyes are closed. She sleeps, a respite from the grim surroundings.
The news that she was dying was a hammer-blow to my soul. But knowing it, I knew I could not care for her, my heart had not the strength. So here I sit, in a worn-out room, in a facility that has seen better days, and do what I can to make her comfortable. There are moments of clarity, moments of confusion, but mostly there are moments like this. Moments when I can reflect on my own cowardice for not overcoming my weakness. Moments when I wonder what it will be like to no longer have the feeling of being anchored to my parents. Moments when I can wonder if I will even be able to bury her. But most of all, moments filled with memories of past happiness, and the grief that soon, all I will have is memories.
So I sit in this sad room, watching my mother die, and wishing I could awake from this nightmare.

Acre’s Bastard

Acre’s Bastard

Wayne Turmel

Achis Press, 2017

(also available from Amazon)

format: digest

Reviewed by Andrew Reynolds

The subtitle to Wayne Turmel’s Acre’s Bastard is “Part 1 of the Lucca le Puc stories”, and I am looking forward to further stories from this author about his engaging main character.

Lucca is a literal bastard, an orphan living in the orphanage run the Order of the Hospital and St. John in Acre. The product of uncertain parentage, he lives during the chaos and violence of the Crusades, and as the story progresses, things go from bad to much, much worse

The story opens with Lucca doing something he has a long history of doing: getting into trouble. In this case, though, Lucca’s antics bring him to the attention of a newly arrived member of the Hospitalier Order. His attempt to punish Lucca takes a turn familiar to those following modern Catholic problems, and Lucca defends himself rather than submit. He chooses to flee the only home he has known rather than risk the repercussions of that resistance. Lucca fears he will be pursued for what he has done, and what he knows of his assailant, but find refuge with a mysterious beggar.

Lucca soon learns that his benefactor, Marco, is a brother of the Order of St. Lazarus, and far more than just a dirty street beggar. Marco is in fact a knight in that Order, and having been forced to give up the sword by leprosy, he now fights with his wits as a spy. He inducts Lucca into his world, a world the boy soon proves surprisingly adept at navigating.

The story follows Lucca as he journeys from the streets of Acre, which he describes as the most sinful city in the world, to the deserts of what is now Israel. We see him move from playing pranks to witnessing one of the most pivotal battles of the Crusades. Along the way, we meet characters, from Lucca’s band of friends to the lepers inhabiting the hospital run by the Order of Lazarus, and even these supporting characters have none of the cardboard cut-out feel of many adventures. They have the feel of people we might have chanced to meet if we were to be transported to those hectic times. Through it all, the story carries the reader along and keeps them wondering what will come next, and how Lucca will survive it all.

In his postscript, Mr. Turmel speaks of being inspired by adventures he read while growing up, novels like Treasure Island and The Three Musketeers. He has taken those earlier stories to heart, and in this novel has wrought a work that stands on an equal footing with them. Acre’s Bastard is technically classified as ‘Young Adult’ literature, but I think most adults will find it more than engaging enough to make it a worthy read.