Car as Status – Two References

Thunderbirds had been out for only a year now, since ‘55, and because they were new and there weren’t that many of them they were considered somewhat cooler than Corvettes. It was early evening. The Thunderbird was idling before a red light at the intersection, and from our perch behind the parapet we could hear the song on the radio – “Over the Mountains and across the Seas” – and hear too, just below the music, the full-throated purr of the engine. The black body glistened like obsidian. Blue smoke chugged from the twin exhausts. The top was rolled back. We could see the red leather upholstery and the blond man in the dinner jacket sitting in the driver’s seat. He was young and handsome and fresh. You could almost smell the Listerine on his breath, the Mennen on his cheeks. We were looking right down at him. With the palm of his left hand he kept the beat of the song against the steering wheel. His right arm rested on the back of the empty seat beside him, which would not remain empty for long. He was on his way to pick someone up.

We held no conference. One look was enough to see that he was everything we were not, his life a progress of satisfactions we had no hope of attaining in any future we could seriously propose for ourselves.

The first egg hit the street beside him. The second egg hit the front fender. The third egg hit the trunk and splattered his shoulders and neck and hair. We looked down just long enough to tally the damage before pulling our heads back. A moment passed. Then a howl rose skyward. No words – just one solitary soul cry of disbelief. We could still hear the music coming from his radio. The light must have changed, because a horn honked, and honked again, and someone yelled something, and another voice answered harshly, and the song was suddenly lost in the noise of engines.

This Boy’s Life
Tobias Wolff

I said, What’re you gonna do, man? Get a job up at the mall? Yeah, right, Chappie. The mall. The line forms at the end, man. They got fucking college graduates up there flipping Big Macs and carrying out the garbage. Forget it, man.

Well maybe you could sell your Camaro. You could get eight, nine hundred bucks easy for it. More maybe.

You bet your ass more. A grand and a half easy. But no fucking way, man. That car’s all I got between me and total nothingness.

Rule of the Bone
Russell Banks