A World of Speculation

“Yeah, she runs good,” Steve said. He stroked the door of the 1971 Volkswagen bus with an expression of pride and longing, as if it were a faithful horse too old to work the ranch.

I opened the driver’s door and put my head in, smelling the nostalgic scent of upholstery and motor oil. “Why are you selling it then?”

He pointed with his thumb over his shoulder to the 10-year-old red Toyota truck sitting in the driveway. “I got to maintain my truck.”

I looked back at him with the question. He read it, nodded. I got in and put my hands on the steering wheel. It felt strange and familiar, like hearing a favorite song after thirty years. “I used to drive one of these,” I told him.

“No shit.”

“My dad bought it for me. Brand new. 1971. Man it was cool.”

He gave an exaggerated nod, like he was listening to that same old song. He tossed me the keys. “Crank her up, if you want.”

I put the key in the ignition, but didn’t turn it. I was afraid of losing the mood. I graduated from high school in 1971. My dad gave me money for college, and I spent it on a new bus. He was so mad that I packed my stuff and drove it to San Francisco. I was too late; Haight Ashbury was already full of kids like me, traveling on their daddy’s money and without a clue what the blues were all about. Joplin was dead, and so was Hendrix, and the Summer of Love had faded into the Fall of Discontent.

I turned the key, and the engine gave a game little grunt, turned over once and sighed into silence.

Steve looked offended. “I don’t know what happened, man. She purred like a kitten last time I cranked her.”

“When was that?”

He raised his arm and scratched the back of his head. “Now that you ask, it must have been– Hell, I don’t know when.”

“It doesn’t matter really. I don’t plan to drive it.”

“Yeah? What do you want it for?” He sounded like he wanted to know if my intentions were honorable.

“My seventeen-year-old wants it for a prop for a movie he’s making.” I’ve already decided to buy it. If it doesn’t run, he can’t drive it to San Francisco.