That time I blew up a car.
All four of them were sitting in the car. They were parked at the end of the block, next to the Laundromat. Leo was behind the driver’s seat and Candy behind the passenger’s.
A man across the street sat in his blue sedan. He looked in the back seat, realized he had forgotten something, and stepped out of the car. He left the engine on and went back to his house.
Too risky for Leo. He exchanged a glance with Candy—too risky for her too.
“That’s mine! That’s mine!” exclaimed the red-headed girl in the passenger seat. She hopped out of the car, ran across the street, and slipped into the blue sedan.
“Fuck!” Candy exclaimed. “Drive! Drive!”
The driver—whose name both of them didn’t remember, but was distinguishable by his thick glasses and nicknamed (only between them) as four-eyes—pressed the gas pedal. Leo turned around as watched through the back window as the man walked back out of his house and realized his car was missing. For a moment he stood there, shocked, and then saw it disappear around the block. By then their car had turned a corner (opposite way of the blue sedan) and he could no longer see the man.
The red-head is fucked if she’s caught.
“You think she’ll make it?” Candy said.
Four-eyes didn’t respond. Leo shrugged. He’ll tune into the news and find out.
“Where to next?” Four-eyes asked.
“Try behind that drug store in West Adams,” Leo suggested.
Four-eyes looked at Candy. Candy nodded and he drove them to West Adams. Some indie pop songs played on the radio. He stopped the car next to the tall metal fence that looked into the parking lot of the drug store. There were two dumpsters standing against the fence in front of them.
Leo glanced at Candy. She glanced back at him.
“You first,” she said.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
He looked at Four-eyes who abided whatever Candy told him. His lips were pressed in a firm line and he was frowning. Four-eyes didn’t like this shit.
Leo got out of the car and stood next to one of the dumpsters. He lit a cigarette and scanned the parking lot for an older-made Honda in which he would be able to fit his jiggler key. Or perhaps some unlucky idiot who didn’t lock their car, that could work too.
Luck was on his side and a red Honda Brio pulled into the parking lot. He glimpsed at Candy and she smiled at him.
Tonight was going to be a fun night—assuming, of course, that he wouldn’t get caught.
A woman stepped out of the car. She was wearing a pencil skirt and was busy talking to someone on the phone. She closed the door with her ass because she had a Starbucks cup in her hand.
What would someone like her get? Leo wondered. A flat white? Caramel Macchiato with soy milk?
He pushed those thoughts away. Thinking about the person whose car he was going to steal made breaking the law ten times worse. Who the fuck cared what kind of coffee she drank anyway?
He watched as she entered the store. He glanced at his phone: 4:32. He was going to wait one minute before acting—this would allow all possible people who witnessed the car belonging to the Starbucks woman leave.
He finished his cigarette and smudged it into the pavement. What was good about this drug store is that there were no incriminating windows, which meant that folks inside couldn’t see their car being stolen while standing in line. They learned to never approach places with windows after witnessing one of their ‘friends’—same relationship level as with Four-eyes whose name they didn’t know, so calling it friendship is up to interpretation—being caught by the cops after stealing a car in front of a grocery store. The man inside saw the fucker get in his car and started to yell. Four-eyes then quickly sped away. Later that night they saw their ‘friend’ on the news and the brunette reporter told them he was arrested for car theft.
He was looking at probably two years in prison—in other words, he was completely and utterly fucked.
4:34. Leo put the phone back in his pocket. It was go-time.
He flashed one quick glance at Candy and Four-eyes. They both gave him a small nod which meant all-clear for any signs of cops or potential witnesses. He grasped the chain-link fence and pulled himself up. Then, he threw his light body over onto the other side. He had perfected his fence-climbing skill and could do it quickly, without much noise.
He landed on his feet and briskly—but not too briskly, because that’s suspicious—walked to the red Honda. He glanced both ways as if crossing the street and opened the door with his jiggler key that had served him well over the last two years. In a way, it was his lucky charm. If he ever stopped doing this, if he ever “just led a normal fucking life” as his sister would say, he’d make it into a keychain.
He slipped inside (it smelled like coconut hand-cream—maybe she likes coconut milk, he thought), closed the door, and plugged the key into the ignition. This was the part that always made his hands turn cold. It was the moment of truth: would some fucker yell “CAR THIEF!” or “CALL THE COPS!” or would the business continue as usual? In either case, he’d press the gas pedal nonetheless and drive away as if he hadn’t heard anything. Getting caught for speeding was a straight ticket to jail, or maybe even prison if they found out the car was stolen.
It turned out to be the latter—silence! Praise the Lord! He pressed the gas pedal and veered out of the parking lot. He drove out of West Adams and into Mid-City. Candy would be up next—she’d scout for either an idiot or Toyota. Then maybe Four-eyes would test his luck too, but sometimes he was just the chauffeur; sometimes (often) he never actually built up the guts to steal anything.
The hard part was over. Now it was time to sell this hunk of shit.
First, he thought, he’ll drive over to Jerry’s. Jerry often took the majority of the car if not the entire thing. A Honda wasn’t on his shopping list—Leo always thought it was a funny way to call stolen car pieces—but he almost always took any sort of wheels, and took a liking to uncracked headlights. In that case, he was looking at around twenty-two hundred dollars, maybe even more.
That’s why when he called Jerry’s garage (which wasn’t really a garage, but more of a shed on the wrong side of town) he was highly disappointed—Jerry didn’t want his fucking headlights.
“Are you sure?” Leo said. He was parked near some convenience store and watched as two teenagers walked out with sodas.
“Kid,” he said. “I’m not taking your fucking headlights. I’ll take the wheels. Talk to Mark or something.”
Talk to Mark he did. Mark didn’t want his fucking headlights either.
Deciding that staying parked in front of the convenience store wasn’t his brightest idea, he drove to Curtis’s garage (which was more of an underground parking than a garage) in Arlington Heights. Curtis had bought the space under his apartment building complex and used it as a place to pick apart cars. Being one of his close friend’s boyfriend, it was his rightful duty to help take apart Leo’s cars if he wished to remain taken by the lovely lady.
Leo called Curtis and let him know that he was driving over a new car. At first, Leo was almost sure Curtis was going to tell him to go fuck himself, but instead, he said that he’ll be right over. By the time Leo drove behind the apartment building, the metal gate that led underground was open. Curtis was standing next to it, arms crossed and squinting at the sun.
“Nice wheels,” he said when Leo rolled down the window. “Did Jerry want them?”
Leo drove in and Curtis closed the gates behind him. The basement (or as they called it, Cutis’s garage) was really only a small storage area that could fit a maximum of two cars, and even then it would be tight. The rest of the underground was split up into the same kind of storage areas and was available for other tenants to buy or rent. Curtis’s garage was a mess of car parts—Hailey, his girlfriend, always suggested he clean the place up whenever she came by (rarely, and when she did, she tiptoed, as if making less sound was going to make it less illegal).
Leo parked the car in between two crooked yellow lines that Curtis had spray-painted. In total, there were four lines for two cars. The second ‘parking spot’ was empty, waiting to be occupied by Candy’s car.
Leo stepped out and smelled his hands. He grinned—they smelled like coconut.
“What are you doing?” Curtis laughed, sliding a hand on the red metal of the car, feeling it for bumps, scratches, or other ‘injuries’, as he called them.
“Nothing. They just smell like coconut.”
Curtis crouched and examined the wheels. He was a tall, brunette, sturdy, and more than half-a-head taller than Leo. He didn’t smoke, rarely swore, and had a little stubble that he’d occasionally caress with his forefinger.
“These are some fine wheels, make sure he pays well.”
Leo nodded, then realized Curtis’s back was facing him. “Okay.”
“Did he want these?” he pointed at the headlights. “These are a fine pair of headlights. This whole car is a beauty.”
“No, and neither did Mark.”
“Seriously? They have no idea what they’re missing out on.” he touched the headlights and the hood. “You wouldn’t mind if I called dibs on these?”
“Oh go ahead, please.” Leo smiled.
“Does thirteen-hundred sound fair for the headlights and hood?”
More than fair. Fucking amazingly more than fair.
“Thanks,” Leo said. “Sounds more than fair.”
So it was done. Cutis slipped out his wallet and paid Leo in cash.
“Don’t spend it all on drugs,” he said.
Don’t worry, Leo thought, I’ll spend some gambling too.
He knew he didn’t have to recount the cash and simply put it in his wallet. He offered to pay Curtis for taking apart the car, but Curtis put his hand up and said there’s no need.
“Grab yourself a beer,” Curtis offered, gesturing at the cooler by the stack of wheels. “Bud Light.”
Leo didn’t really drink. He only drank when he wanted to get drunk, and today wasn’t one of those days. He glanced at the cooler.
Would it be rude not to take one?
Leo decided that it would be and grabbed two beers. He brought one to Curtis and sat on the floor with the other one. He knew Curtis for almost two years, and he still hadn’t built up the nerve to tell him that he fucking hated beer and the taste of alcohol for that matter.
They talked (which consisted mostly of Curtis talking and Leo asking questions), drank their beer, and called Candy. Apparently, her search ended up being fruitless and Four-eyes ditched her at some park in Culver City.
“Fuck him,” she said over the phone. “And Leo, that means you’re sharing your shit with me.”
By shit she meant blow, and by blow she meant cocaine. Leo chuckled and told her that it wouldn’t be a problem. Curtis didn’t say anything.Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in