📬 Want some Southern goodness in your inbox every Friday?
Get Scalawag's latest stories and a run down of what's happening across the South with our weekly newsletter.
Isuzu Pick-Up, Used
Sun-bleached blue, the hood like a cloudy eye, the word, Pup, in chrome on a fender. I was a carpenter, but nights and weekends I wrote stories, sent them out. The next Ray Carver, that was going to be me. Working class terse, everybody's style in 1993. I drove the Pup to my first writers conference, worrying I'd be "the guy from Georgia in the old truck," to the Boston types. They lectured, had tenure, I framed additions. But in our first workshop, the famous author liked that I was "in the trades." Plus the Pup became a hit for late-night drives out to Green's View where Tennessee hayfields stretched to the horizon, the whole workshop and famous author riding in the bed, whooping it up when I side-skidded into the gravel turnaround, bodies thrown together. Flirtations sparked. Safety not yet an obsession. They showed me bruises the next day, wanted more. By night we were family, but around the table they savaged each other's work while going easy on mine. Was it the Pup? Was I their pet? No matter, their Carver knock-offs were better than mine anyway. On the last day the most talented and beautiful Smithie asked for a ride back to my city to visit her sister. By this time the great author had developed such a terrible crush on her he made a grand gesture of seeing us off. A crowd gathered when he sat on the Pup's tail-gate and held court. He said it was a trap to think you could write "what really happened." He said memory can't be trusted. Like this one. It was all for the woman's benefit, but I never lowered that tail-gate again without recalling the way he'd lounged on it like an emperor. I thought it a coup, to drive back down the mountain with the talented woman the famous author desired. But she was exhausted from the late-night parties I'd not heard about. She slept all the way back to Atlanta where my old life resumed as though little had happened, as though the world were in a rush to balance accounts, hand me my tool-belt. I ended up selling the Pup to a mason who abused it with overloads – brick, bags of Portland, wet sand. I'd see the thing groaning around town, bed sagged, springs shot. A fork-lift load of flagstone finally broke the tail-gate right off. Last I heard he'd sold it for parts. My stories never got much better. I switched to poems. Much of this may really have happened.