Joy Ride

71gmc

Jessie wanted to steal a 1973 GMC truck, like the one her father talked about before he died.  A kid at school drove one, John Michael—yeah, two first names, dumb right?  It was baby blue and he parked at the far end of the student lot.  He seemed like a nice guy.  A senior.  Jessie had never spoken with him, but she started watching him since she decided she wanted to steal his truck.  He took all honors classes.  After school he drove to work at Dunkin Donuts where he parked at the far end of that lot.  He drank ice coffee with lots of cream.  He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would harm her or her younger brother if he found out that Jessie stole his truck.

Two weeks was all it took to figure out John Michael’s habits.  She followed John Michael around during the day, and at night she watched internet videos on how to wire a car.  Turns out, cars from the ‘70’s are easy to hot wire.  Two wires, touch ‘em and the car fires up.  She tried once on her mother’s ’95 Honda Civic, and it worked.  Hammer, flat head screwdriver, wire cutters and a deep desire—that’s all it took.

It was spring and the snow banks along the roads were receding, so Jessie figured it was high time she stole that 1973, baby blue GMC dream.  Jessie discovered that the school cameras didn’t cover the far end of the student parking lot.  In her sixth period study hall, she stared at her geometry textbook absently, while her mind worked over the job.  Unscrew the lower steering column.  Locate the necessary wires—she knew the ones from reading a GMC truck owner’s manual she found on line—cut the wires, strip the casing, twist, then drive away singing to the country music station.

When there was fifteen minutes left, Jessie put the textbook in her bag, careful not to let the tools spill out in front of everyone.  She went to the front of the room to Mr. Underwood, the study hall monitor.

“Can I use the bathroom,” she said.

“There’s only fifteen minutes left of this study hall,” Mr. Underwood said over the top of his sports magazine.

“But there were sloppy joes for lunch,” Jessie said.  She jumped up and down.

“Ok, ok, I don’t need to know all of this.”  He waved her towards the door.

When she hit the student lot, she started running.  Two students she didn’t recognize sat in a Pontiac Grand Am listening to Zeppelin and smoking cigarettes.  They didn’t look up at her.

John Michael’s doors weren’t locked.  She knew they wouldn’t be.  Tossing her bag in his front seat, she grabbed the screwdriver.  She loosened the two screws holding in the lower steering column revealing the four wires.  Two connected to the starter, the other two to the battery.  The battery wires were bad news.  She chose the red wires she remembered from the internet video.  The bell was going to ring any minute, which meant the student lot would start seeing action.  With the needle nosed pliers she cut the wires.  No sparks.  That was a good sign.  She started stripping the casing off when she heard a voice behind her say, “What are you doing?”

Jessie turned and saw John Michael.  He looked bigger than she remembered.  “Um, honestly?”

“Yeah,” John Michael said.  “Honestly.”

“I’m trying to hot wire your truck.”  She flashed the pliers in his direction and smiled.

“Why?”

“My dad loved these trucks.  The boxy shape.  The way they float when you drive ‘em.”

“Ok,” John Michael said.  He was confused, but he wasn’t angry.

“Well, he died in January, and I thought it would be a nice gesture to ride around in your truck.  It’s exactly like the one he wanted.”

“Stealing my truck would be a nice gesture?  Why didn’t you just ask me to borrow it?”  The sun shined off his Red Sox hat; his bag hung from his shoulder.

“Yeah, stupid right?”

“No, I get it.”

“Really?”

“Kind of.  My grandfather died a year ago.  This was his truck.  Look,” he began, “I have a dentist appointment, that’s why I’m leaving early.  You want to go for a ride?  I’ll let you drive.”

“Is this a trick?”

“No,” John Michael said.  “I’m just glad someone else gets this truck like I do.  Most of my friends pick on me for having such an old truck.”

Jessie laughed.  “Really?”

John Michael nodded.  “How about that ride?” he said.

“Sure,” she said.  Jessie turned and connected the two starter wires and the truck engine turned over.  She jumped into the driver’s seat and looked at John Michael.  “Hop in,” she said.

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