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Maggie: a short story by Ken Wilford

February 23, 2015 6 Comments Fiction Ken Wilford

When I first met Maggie it was a hot summer’s day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had just finished my days work at the local Marriot, parking other people’s cars, when I set out in search of one for myself.

The ’63 Beetle that I had bought as a boy of 16 was on its last legs and not very practical for the kind of trip I was planning.

“Find yourself something you can rely on Jim,” My Uncle Zeb had instructed me. “These darn fore-een cars that you like so much won’t make the trip.”

I was going to try and take my uncle’s advice. I wanted something dependable, something safe, yet something that had a personality all it’s own.

That’s when I first saw Maggie. She was sittin’ there, as pretty as you please, on the side of the road in front of a small house in East Ridge.

Blue bottom with a white top, slightly faded paint that still had a little shine left to it. A small orange lettered “For Sale” sign was in the left bottom corner of the windshield.

She was a VW Transporter, I could tell, even though the front emblem was missing. You could see a shiny, slightly brighter blue outline where the badge had once been.

I pulled over and thought about my uncle and what he would say.

‘Oh well,’ I thought. ‘I don’t have to buy it if it’s a piece of junk.’

As I parked my rusty Bug and got out, an elderly, stoop shouldered, gentleman timidly pushed open the screen door and started toward me.

“Hello,” I hailed him. We met right next the vehicle.

“Howdy young feller,” the old man clasped my hand and gave me a surprisingly firm handshake.

“I suppose your interested in Maggie?”

“No,” I said and blushed a little, thinking that he meant that I was there to see his daughter.

He frowned a little.

“You mean you didn’t stop to ask about Maggie here,” He motioned to the bus next to me.

“Oh, you mean this van? It has a name?”

“Shh! Boy don’t let the old girl hear you call her “it”.” The elderly man had a wry smile on his face. “Why Maggie here has been treated like part of our family since she was new. She has been treated like a person so long, she thinks she is one.”

“OK, what about “Maggie” then?”

We talked for a while about the how Mr. Nelson (that was the old man’s name) had bought Maggie back in 1974 to use in his business as a traveling salesman. He laughed and sighed recalling their adventures up and down the highways and the byways of the southern United Sates.

“She’s been a dependable old girl all those years, and then one day last month she just didn’t want to start. I am an old man now, I retired from my job last year. Since then Maggie hasn’t really seemed like herself. She had just lost her zip and vigor. I figure she’s lonely for the open road, but my traveling days are over. When I came out that morning and she didn’t want to go, I figured it was time for Maggie to move on.”

“Well I don’t know if Maggie is the right vehicle for me,” I said pondering. “I really need something I can depend on. You see my uncle has just passed away a few months ago and my aunt is left all alone up in Maine. The rest of the family is all down here. I am the only one who could possibly go and stay with her, so my uncle Zeb says it’s my duty to go and help out as much as I can. I can’t have a car that’s going to die on me.” I looked over at the van. Was it just me or had it moved closer? Nah, I must just be imagining it.

“I tell you what son, Maggie here needs a good home. You are going to be doin’ a lot of travelin’ which is what she like best. I’ll give Maggie to you, if you promise to take good care of her.”

“What?!?” I couldn’t believe it.

“Like I said son, Maggie and us is family. If she is not happy, like she is now, how can I let her just sit here and rot into the ground. She needs somebody and I think that somebody might just be you son.”

“But I can’t take a van that won’t start on a 1000 mile trip!”

The man smiled a wrinkly smile. “I didn’t say she wouldn’t start son, I said “she didn’t want to”. She’s been dee-pressed lately. Now that she has a chance for the open road again I am sure she’ll fire right up.”

I looked at the man a little funny. ‘This guy is really off his bean.’ I thought. ‘He really thinks this box on wheels is a person.’

“I can see you’re skeptical son. You could at least give her a crank and see what happens.”

Well against my better judgment I climbed into the well-worn drivers seat. Sitting there with that big wheel in front of me I started to feel something.

I felt taller somehow, and more confident. It felt right.

The keys were in the ignition. I reached down and gave the key a turn.

“Vroom!” The motor cranked without hesitation.

“See boy, what did I tell you?” The old man’s features beamed with confidence.

That evening, after visiting with the Nelsons and sharing tea and cookies and stories of our different experiences, I headed home.

Something special had happened today, I could feel it.

This is how my adventures with Maggie began so many years ago.

One day, I know, I too will have to settle down and leave the open road. When that day comes, stop by. Maggie will be waiting for you.

By Ken Wilford Copyright 2015

Comments

Bruce HB Johnson July 10, 2018

My # 5 is Carmelita and while lots of folks do not know my name when I take her in for service - they all know hers....She is pretty special.

Nate Allington May 12, 2017

I had something similar happen to me. I had watched a white bay window drive by our family farm growing up. when I saw it in the field I couldn't resist. I had to throw out some money but when I picked it up he offered up the other two if I wanted them. I'm on my fifth bus now. You were nice to answer my questions on the phone today. I look forward to doing business with you someday soon.

tomibach March 24, 2017

hmmm nice to hear!!!

Ken Wilford March 15, 2017

Yes, I remember Lockhart's very well. I had some work done to my Gold 81 Diesel Jetta there back in the day. Ken

tomibach March 14, 2017

I'm a former Chattanooga people, and used to get my VW worked on at Lockhart's VW back in lathe '80's

Brandon Sweeny December 23, 2015

Yet Again, another well written short.

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