“You know, you probably should pull over and take a look under the hood,” Crystal said. “You might not want to wait too long.”
There was a knocking sound coming from the engine block of Elias’ ’97 Honda Accord as he drove down the highway. He didn’t acknowledge Crystal’s warnings. Then the car’s engine revved down before shutting down. Plumes of smoke billowed from the hood of the vehicle, carrying along the stench of burning oil. Elias clicked the button in the middle of the dashboard for the emergency blinkers. Crystal let out an exasperated sigh. As they came to a stop, Crystal turned her red face toward Elias, Elias stared at the road in front of him. After a few minutes he looked at Crystal.
Her blond bangs were plastered to her forehead, courtesy of the hot July day. Her typically smiling ruby red lips were now forced into a bloodless grimace of dissatisfaction. Her blue eyes stared at him incredulously. Elias smiled.
“What the hell are you smiling at?” Crystal asked.
“You,” he said. “You’re so cute when you’re angry.”
“Funny,” she said. There was anger in her voice, but her grimace began to fade.
“Your face is red,” Elias said.
“You think,” Crystal said. “Maybe if you had fixed the air conditioning in your car, or better yet, gotten a new car like I’ve been telling you to do for months, I wouldn’t be so goddamn hot. We might not be stuck here in the first place.” Her voice was rising. Elias turned away from her.
“I told you, I haven’t had the money,” he said. His voice was quiet, little more than a whisper. “When I have the money I’ll buy a new car, if nothing else comes up.”
“Yeah,” Crystal said, “like it always seems to.”
They both faced forward staring at the highway in silence. The cloud of smoke from the engine was beginning to dissipate, but the smell wasn’t.
“We’re going to be late,” Crystal said.
“We weren’t exactly running on schedule to begin with,” Elias said. “Maybe if you took a little less time with the war paint...”
Crystal rounded on him. “Maybe if you gave me fair warning that we had to go to your parents’ house we...” she stopped and sighed. She looked for a while out of the side window. “What are we going to do now?” she asked.
“About my parents or about the car?” Elias asked.
She looked back at him unbelieving.
He had a wry grin on his face.
“I’ll give you three guesses,” she said.
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll see if there’s a checkers board in the trunk.”
Crystal scowled at Elias and he laughed. He reached underneath and to the left of the steering column and pulled the latch to open the Honda’s hood. There was a clicking sound and the hood of the Honda popped up a little. Extra smoke billowed out around the edges of the slightly open hood. He opened the driver side door and stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him. Elias looked over his shoulder to watch the traffic. There was none. The opposite lanes were empty too.
“Goddamn, it’s hot out here,” he said to himself. It was 95 degrees outside that day; inside the car it was 80 degrees, even without any coolant to cool the air coming through the vents. There were no trees on either side of the road to provide shade from the sun. When Elias looked around him as he walked to the front of the car he could only see empty fenced-in cow pastures.
When he reached the front of the car he knelt down and looked underneath. There was a persistent dripping of black liquid from the engine block. A puddle had accumulated under the drip, and a stream led back under the car and up the shoulder of the road from where they came.
“Black gold, Texas tea,” he murmured. He stood back up. “Fuck!” he yelled, kicking the car’s bumper.
Crystal opened up her car door and jumped out of the car. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I think the fucking car threw a rod,” Elias said.
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know exactly. It happened to my dad’s car when I was a kid. He said that the car threw a rod and busted a hole in the oil pan. I think that’s what happened here.”
“So now what?” Crystal asked.
“There’s nothing really we can do,” Elias said. “As long as this piece of shit can’t hold oil, it isn’t going anywhere.” Elias gave the car another kick.
“Could we call someone?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, “if you can find someone to call. We’re still about half an hour out from my parents’, and I don’t really know what’s around here; if there is anything around here.”