Tony vs. the Beast:
A Tale of a Demonic Automobile and a Youth Who Tries, Unsuccessfully, to Reason With it, and, in So Doing, Learns that Violence is, Indeed, The Answer.

      It started like any other day.

       (I see already that I must digress.  When I say "it began like any other day,"  I mean the sun rose, the earth turned, nocturnal animals went to sleep, and people clogged the highways on their way to work.  Business as usual.)

       Tony's alarm forgot to go off.  Also the norm, but still annoying.

       "Stupid piece of crap," he muttered as he crawled out of bed ten minutes later. He dressed quickly (no need to shower, as he lived in the basement and so preferred to bathe at night) and ran upstairs, cursing the clock radio to a fate usually reserved for the more unsavory figures in history.

       He grabbed his books, gulped a cup of coffee his mother had left for him, and was out the door.  And came face to face with The Beast.

       In its present guise, The Beast had taken the form of a 1976 AMC Gremlin which, including repairs and towing to date, had cost Tony $660.67.  The cost, coupled with the car's unfortunate tendency to emit large and evil-smelling flames without warning, accounted for the ferocious-sounding name.

       (Another argument for the name, a friend had added, was that the machine appeared to have spent several years in Hell.  This was, if anything, an understatement.  Not only had it been through The Fires That Burn But Do Not Consume, it had probably spent several unsuccessful seasons on the demolition derby circuit there.)

       Tony climbed into the driver's seat, pumped the gas, jiggled the gearshift, and turned the key.  Nothing.  With a sigh, Tony got out and opened The Beast's duct-tape-gray and Rust-Oleum-red hood.  Other than a family of mice that seemed to have taken up residence in the space where the right headlight had once, presumably, been, everything seemed normal.  Of course, he reflected, "Normal" and "Correct" seldom meant the same thing when applied to The Beast.

       Let's see...the battery cables might be loose, the duct tape's held.  Carburetor?  No--the starter would still work.  The plugs?  No, same reason.  Standard Procedure, then.  Tony picked up the wrench he kept in a rust hole and gave the uncooperative engine a few seconds to see it.

       "See this?" he asked, "This is your worst nightmare."

       No response from the car.

       "Now, as I see it, you have two choices.  You can start when I turn the key, or I can take this--" Tony brandished the wrench,"--and turn you into a big, ugly paperweight."  He didn't know why he bothered to threaten the car.  Tony didn't know the first thing about engines, and The Beast knew it.

       He stowed the wrench in its rust hole, slammed the hood shut, and got back behind the wheel.  He repeated his pedal-pumping-and-gearshift-twiddling routine (which had begun as a prayer to his particular car god but was now mostly habit) and slowly turned the key.  Silence.  The Beast, once again, had called his bluff.  Tony leapt out, threw open the hood, and grabbed the wrench, which he held on high like a mighty Excalibur.

       "Go ahead," he saideth unto The Beast, "Give me an excuse."

       The Beast obliged.  The right rear hubcap, lonely and forlorn since the departure of the other three many years ago, finally decided that its life was no longer worth living.  It flung itself the four inches to the concrete driveway, landing with a wobbly crash that echoed through the quiet neighborhood.

       For an instant, the world seemed to hold its breath.  The trees stopped their whispering, squirrels stood still, and even the wind paused.  For that moment, all was silent, save for the gentle plops of birds that had stopped beating their wings and were now falling as silently as they could.

       And then another crash brought the world back to life as Tony's wrench fell upon the engine.  It felt good, so Tony, the Avenging God, did it again.  Crash!  Lovely.

       Pain can be an effective tool.  When Tony turned the key again the engine coughed, protested, and finally sputtered into life.  He pulled out onto the street and headed for the school, leaving only a dark haze of smoke and the fading echo of a violent backfire to mark his passage.

"Tony vs. the Beast"
©1999 by Dan Frioli
Please do not reproduce this story in whole or in part without my permission.