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SPARK » Vita Sims andMeghan MacNamara

Vita Sims and
Meghan MacNamara

Vita Sims
Dreamscape 1

Mixed Media, 16 by 20 inches
Response

Just Past the Driveway
By Meghan MacNamara

Inspiration piece

My parents kept a mail Jeep in the backyard, just past the driveway.  It sat there for years, the grass underneath it turned into yellowy straw, before disintegrating into a patch of dirt and stones.  An acre away, kitty corner to the Jeep was the tree fort – those ancient trees that we nailed particleboard to as flooring, plywood for a roof and two-by-fours across the sides as walls.  They acted more as safety rails than walls, wide open, vulnerable like those who dared to climb the decaying wooden ladder.  Like all of us.  I was ten, and I loved sitting in the driver’s seat, staring out at the tree fort; it soothed me.  I’d watch the fragile uppermost twigs twirl to the ground and crash against the pile of rocks we stacked below the tree fort.

That Jeep sat there forever, it seemed.  I begged my father to buy white spray paint so I could touch-up the chipped gray exterior.  He taped newspapers over the windows and mirrors – the Jeep still had windows and mirrors then – and showed me how to hold the paint can about four inches away from the Jeep.  And I went at it, spraying that dilapidated piece of shit white as though it would make the engine run again.  I thought we might use it someday, so I wanted to fix it, single-handedly.  Always, I wanted to fix things:  people, places, stupid white mail Jeeps that rusted away in the backyard.  Usually I failed to fix anything.  If I did succeed, it just broke again in short order.  So instead of fixing, I created new things…birdhouses made of scrap wood and rusty used nails collected from the garage floor.  They stuck out the sides and bottom of the birdhouse, more likely to skewer a bird than feed it.  Or I wrote series after series of clichéd kid’s stories about the girl who swam off with the dolphins and lived peacefully ever after.  All the while, I stayed home trying to fix a busted up heap of metal and building unintentional death-traps for the birds.

But that Jeep was my project for as long as it rusted away in the yard.  I needed projects, direction and purpose.  I vacuumed the carpets.  I secured the collapsed felt ceiling with thumbtacks.  I scrubbed the smudges and bird shit from the windows, cleaned and spray-painted the exterior and duct taped the torn fabric and vinyl of the seats, crisscrossing the duct tape like a butterfly bandage on a wound.

One day I went to the Jeep with Brillo pads and pungent sealant for the rust on the bumpers and along the edges of the hood.  My father showed me how to apply the toxins and gave me gloves so the chemicals didn’t touch my skin.  But the small side triangle window – the kind that swung out rather than rolled down and had the chrome handle to lock and unlock it – was shot out.  There was glass all over the driver’s seat, floor, and dashboard.  I picked up the big chunks of glass with one hand and cupped them in the other.  My fingers shone with the almost iridescent shimmer that broken glass leaves – the little shards that have to be gently washed off but even then cling to the skin.  I retrieved the battery-powered Dirt Devil from the garage.  Those mini-vacs are loud, though, and I had it close to my face, kneeling down trying to find all of those glimmering pieces.  So loud, I didn’t hear when my brother and whatever band of his friends drove up on quads and two-wheelers, bee-bee guns in hand.  I felt them firing, though, felt big chunks of glass land in my hair and down the back of my shirt.  I crouched under the cracked steering wheel and waited, listened to the pings and zips of the bullets.

There were a few things that I took pride in as a child.  And there were even fewer places where I felt safe.  One of those places was that Jeep.  I felt as though I did something important by fixing it.  It never occurred to me that I could make myself run smoother and faster than that damned mail Jeep, the one that got towed away after all its windows were shot out, its engine still dead.  The ceiling remained tacked up, though, and it was white, bright white and clean when they towed it away.


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