The White CarI remember the sun bearing down on my bare back, as I spent another summer day working on the farm. The hot wind dried the sweat from my body as I continued another round of mowing the endless fields of weeds. The smell of the tractors exhaust mixed with the dust and pollen of weeds and grass filled my sinuses.
One day, while riding on the tractor the dust swirling around my head, I saw it: The little white car. It passed my location with a for sale sign in the window. It was love at first sight. I hurriedly scratched the phone number in the collected dust on the hood of my tractor; the remainder of the day I daydreamed of driving the little white car and how I would instantly become a popular person at school.
Later that evening, after all the chores were completed and I had turned the clear cool bath water into a pool of dirty brown water, I called the number that was etched in my mind.
The lady who answered claimed that it was her son’s car and that she was reluctant to sell it, but that he had been killed in the Vietnam War. She could no longer bear, the daily reminder of his absence when walking past the car to get the mail. I told her that I was very sorry for her loss, and I would take very good care of the car if she did decide to sell it. When I asked how much money she wanted for the car, she explained that was not important at this time; I was perplexed with her remark, but agreed to meet with her the next day.
Time passed slowly while I waited for the meeting. I spent a restless night listening to the crickets and tree locusts sing their mating songs, and then endured a long hot day on the tractor mowing yet another field of bitter weed and grass.
As I drove my old rattling squeaky truck down the bumpy road to her home, I became aware of the unkempt condition of her home and yard. I pulled up in front of her son’s car, my old work truck groaned as it stopped.
After I knocked, I heard the sounds of clanking pans and a faint, “just a minute” response. A lovely middle age lady smiled at me as she pushed the door open. She dried her hands on an apron, and then extended her hand in a greeting. We made our introductions and headed to the car.
We strolled toward the car, she told me about her son and his love for the car, as though he was still alive and just away for the moment. Upon reaching the car, she handed me the keys with trembling hands, the tears swelling in her eyes. I reached for her in a hugging manner, before I could utter a word; she burst into tears, sobbing with her head on my chest. The only thing I could do was stand there and embraces her, as words would not have been sufficient.
A moment later, she gathered her emotions and backed away from me obviously embarrassed by her actions. She began an explanation, but with an understanding look, I assured her that there was no explanation required.
She responded with a puzzled glance when I handed the keys back to her. I explained that I could never take her son’s car from her. Providing a resigned smile, she set me at ease, informing me, that it was not the car which caused the collapse of her emotions, but it was a cumulating of all the grief and unhappiness that seemed to swell on my arrival.
She offered a cool drink while we discussed the details of the car, so I walked back to the house with her, asking if she was sure that she wanted to sell the car. She assured me that she was. I stopped and sat on the porch swing as she disappeared in the house. Before long she came back with two large glasses of lemonade and joined me on the swing.
Although she seemed somewhat embarrassed with her earlier actions, she had regained her composure. Soon we were talking like old friends. She provided further detail about her son and how his death had affected her husband, who had become an alcoholic and no longer came home or did any work on the farm.
After an hour of listening, she suddenly exclaimed, “Oh my, will you look at the time, I’m so sorry that I have kept you so long”. It was getting dusk and the sounds of the summer evening creatures were starting. She thanked me for sitting with her and listening to her ramble on about her problems, she then advised that she would like for me to have the car. When, I replied I would be honored to buy the car from her, she laughed and repeated, “I want you to have the car, no money needed”. I shook my head, “No! I cannot do that,” but she kept insisting that she was going to give me the car. After a few minutes going back and forth, I finally said, “Okay, I will take the car on one condition: that I help you with your farm and household chores.”
With tears in her eyes, unable to speak, she nodded her head in agreement. I further added that I would not take the car until the work around the farm was done satisfactory and she was happy with work. We stood up together and I extended my hand to her. Grabbing it weakly, she shook it in agreement. This time there was no stopping of the tears and she hugged me and whispered, “thank you”.
For the next two months, after all my chores and work was done on our family farm, I worked every evening at her house and on the weekends. She always met me at the door with a wonderful warm smile and offered me food and drink; a strong friendship developed between us.
The week that school started back, I was excited about driving my new white car, but also I found myself sad, knowing that I would not be able to spend as much time with my friend. I had become very fond of our relationship and enjoyed the candor that developed over the last few months. As Sunday evening approached, I was finishing up the mowing of her yard and preparing myself on how I was going to tell her how much I had enjoyed these last few months. I was cleaning off the dusty lawn mower and using the hose to rinse the dust and grim off my own body when she came to me and handed me the keys to my new white car. Tucked beneath her arm was a large brown paper bag; she asked me to join her on the porch for a glass of lemonade.
As we sat on the porch, I took a long cool drink of the lemonade, placing the cold glass against my sweating forehead to assist in cooling me off. She broke the silence by telling me about the wonderful job I had done in transforming her run down farm and farm house into a place of beauty, how I had upheld my bargain and had gone way above the call and done so much for her; not only as a handyman, but in filling the void of her loneliness by becoming her friend and so much more.
She leaned over and placed the brown bag on my lap. My confusion was obvious when she said, “I know you do not have much money. I could not have you driving your new car to school without some new clothes.” When I opened the bag I saw new shirts, blue jeans and other sundry items. I found myself speechless. She grabbed me by the hand and led me into the house. “Would you try them on,” she asked. I walked into other room and removed my dirty tattered boots and jeans. As I tried each new outfit on, I would walk out and display the goods for her approval; she would clap and smile at how well they fit and looked.
The sound of the locus and the failing light of day finally ended the fashion show; I carefully repacked the new clothes in the bag, putting back on my old tattered belongings. I walked into the room with my head hanging low; she came to me and asked what was wrong. I looked at her, tears in my eyes, and said, “I’m going to miss you”. She hugged me and told me that she still wanted me to come visit her. She explained that without a man in the house, I was the only one that could do the work. She then turned me toward the door, and told me to go home and to have a wonderful day at school tomorrow.
The first day of my sophomore year was great, I was proud of my new white car, and my new clothes fit me perfectly. I enjoyed meeting my old friends and made many new ones that year. Every football and basketball game throughout my high school years, without fail, I would see Mrs. Rapp sitting in the bleachers, cheering me on. I worked the weekends at her home, and in the evenings during the summers to come. However, as my dating and social life started getting busy, my time with her began to get shorter. She never complained, always encouraging me to get out and have fun, that I worked too hard and was missing my youth. I always felt guilty, leaving her alone in that old farm house, to toil around alone.
Mrs. Rapp was present when I graduated from high school in May and then my wedding to my high school sweet heart in July. I maintained my promise to her; I kept that new white car in good repair and always clean.
While attending college, I received the news of Mrs. Rapp’s murder. An escaped convict, broke into her home and murder her, then stole her car. He was captured later that week, and sentenced to death a after a lengthy court trial.
The white new car that brought us together for that short period of time held more than just sentimental value. It allowed me to become friends with the nicest lady I have ever had the pleasure to meet. A lady that showed me how love is a blessed emotion that can be shared with almost anyone; I loved that lady.
As far as the white car, although the motor went many years ago, I could never bring myself to sell it. I parked it in our barn and placed a tarp over it to protect it from the critters and creatures. To this day, it sits in the corner of that barn. Sometimes I think about getting it out and rebuilding it to it glory days. But, then I think about Mrs. Rapp and then decide that maybe it is better to let the car rest in peace like her and her son.