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Cars Swing
Air Fish, Cat's Eye Press, 1993

The title comes from a sign near the streetcar turn-abouts here in Toronto, "Caution, Cars Swing." Which always struck me as funny -- cars revving it up at a juke joint, blowing hot licks.

The original publication of this was in Joy Oestricher's small-press Air Fish antho, which got launched at ConFrancisco in 1993, the summer after my Clarion. It feels wonderful to wander around a WorldCon with a fresh publication under your arm.

This was just reprinted in September 1998, in Intangible a small-press surrealist 'zine. I haven't gotten my contrib copy yet (I was out of town for the launch party), but Wendy Yano, the editor, was a treat to deal with.

In the garage, in the engine, awareness glimmers. The car listens carefully, making sure that everyone in the house is asleep, that the street is deserted. Gently, the transmission eases into neutral, and the car begins to roll backwards into the road, the wheel spinning clockwise, aligning the car with the street. Softly, the engine comes to life, anticipation thrilling through the car, and almost silently it begins to ride.

This is the third night running that the K-Car, Jimmy, has rolled silently into the street and then roared to the Gas Bar A-Go-Go. The third night that Jimmy the K has revved and spun to the cool hot licks of Fanbelt Ford and His All-Horn Band. This is the third night that Jimmy, whose upholstery has known baby-puke and ice-cream and rock salt and popcorn crumbs, has gone giddy on high-octane and the creamy fenders of --

At that thought, one of Jimmy the K's cylinders misfires, and Jimmy gives a cough.

Jimmy the K is on the open road now, in high gear, his lights bright and his revs high. He drives past deserted drive-ins, closed gas stations, abandoned wrecks lifeless on the shoulder. He comes to a place where the street lights stop, and, in that land of shadow, Jimmy the K turns off the highway and rides the last half mile to the Gas Bar A-Go-Go.

The joint is jumping when Jimmy makes the scene, and cars are tearing it up, wild and hot and high. Fanbelt Ford is wailing, his tailfins glittering in the headlights, his lovingly-restored leather upholstery catching the shadows, and his horn going.

Fanbelt Ford blew a horn so sweet and so fine and so right that it made your wheels itch. He had a real horn, an old horn, an American horn from the days when cars owned America, when Drive-In and Drive-Thru were prayers to the steel gods, when horns had three tones and all of them deep and rich.

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