The car looked like a Model T, or what was left of it. It was more rightly, the carcass of a Model T with no wheels or tires, no engine, no seats. Only the body of the old car, rusted, bent, and disheveled, like an old woman with too many miles and too much booze. And booze might have been part of this car’s past since there had definitely been a wreck many years before, maybe a fatal one for that matter since the car was down on the beach near the water’s edge and one could imagine from all that twisted metal that the old car – new then – had fallen from a cliff not too far away. Crashed and burned after someone careened around a corner too fast and too drunk on the ocean road above and saw his or her life flash every so slowly before his/her eyes on the way down to the rocks below. The bench was strewn with other litter, not manmade except for the car, but drift wood and sticks, as if a tide came in routinely and surrounded the rusted old car with frothy waves, then receded leaving whatever detritus the water carried with it. Only a shell or two in the wet sand, and no cigarette butts or tin cans or lost beach gear, just driftwood and this old car, which looked as if it deteriorated a bit more with every tide.
My grandfather died in a Model T accident, not on an ocean road, but a country one instead, though the particulars were the same: a sharp corner and too many beers after a trip into town on a Saturday afternoon. I imagine a horn blaring for a long time after the crash, though the truth is, I don’t even know if Model T’s had horns back then, or at least ones that blared. I can visualize, though, the mangled body of a man whose DNA I carry and I know that his death brought sadness and a change for my grandmother, my father, his brothers and sisters. With my grandfather’s death, my father, who had hoped to go to college and then to medical school, was relegated to supporting his mother and his younger brothers and sisters. In one short moment, my father’s life was changed forever with that Model T, that corner and that beer. My dad never went to college, but instead went into business with his younger brother. They owned a gas station, first, then a car dealership, then a hardware store, then a second, before they split and Uncle Hutch ran the hardware stores and Daddy bought the livestock commission company – the auction barn – that brought him more money than he’d ever made before.
The Model T at the ocean, who was driving it? What effect did his/her death have on family and friends and plans? No doubt people were hurt, sad, disappointed, upset, grief-stricken. Just as in my family. Just as with my grandfather.