A plague of implausible shit

I stood next to my car in a surreal neighboorhood. On one side of the street were small houses with well-manicured lawns. I was parked in a GUEST spot of the dodgy housing complex across the street while Julio, a friend from work who was 10 years younger than me, looked over my 12-year-old car. Both he and his still younger brother Sal seemed to love my model of car, they’d turned some of them into racers. They knew exactly what they were talking about while I, with minimal knowledge, was cartarded.

The Florida sun was its typical gluey asshole self, though there was some nice breeze as both young men admired the engine. They’d already figured out the source of a rattle a mechanic 30 years older than all of us I took it to never found. Sal was still tinkering when Julio left to pick up his kids from school.

An 80K Mercedes pulled into the spot on the other side of the empty space where I stood sipping ice water from a plastic pink tumbler the brothers had brought me earlier. Though the Black woman driving the ‘Cedes did not look like she could afford her ride and took no notice of us, I felt shame at my own car’s beat-up condition, even though, as Sal pointed out, I loved it and had it longer than a marriage.

As I took another swig of this and brought the cup down something crashed into my chest, striking my sternum with the force of a flicked pinkie finger. I looked down, saw the color brown and flinched. throwing the cup’s entire contents into the sky, a momentary crystal geyser.

The brown thing bounced away, hit the pavement and began scuttling–a flying roach!–its ugly carapace shining in the bright summer sun. I wanted to scream but I’d just met Sal and the fat Black woman still sat in her cream-white coupe, bumping low-volumed, noxious R&B.

“Kill it!” Sal hollered playfully. I was too frozen, too in shock to move. Horror and confusion were my world. It was 2 in the afternoon on a hot, sunny day; a roach was as out of place as a bundled Eskimo in Iraq. He skittered away on foot (or leg) while I stood frozen. I couldn’t step on a roach, not even with shoes on, and anyway, similar to George Costanza’s “deal” with the pigeons, I wouldn’t kill any insects out of doors (mosquitos excluded).

Julio returned. His cute kids, a boy and a girl, were munchkin-sized with huge heads and went upstairs before the Ice Cream man drove up the street, the (c)rap from his stereo even
drowning out the ice cream tunes. Julio told us the guy was always at the local park on the 1st and 15th, blasting Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
“On his stereo?”
“No! On the loudspeakers!”
Surreal.

The fat Black woman egressed her German sled and entered one of the duplexes. Julio commented the car was probably a boyfriend’s. Though I didn’t say it aloud, it made cops’ jobs easier to find the drug dealers with cars like that in front of faded duplexes in the ‘hood.

Throughout the day’s ops I snapped digital pics of my beloved car with my Kodak v550, a gift from my editor/webmaster/gifted photographer/longstanding Texan friend. I lifted the cam to take another shot of the disassembled door panel when I noticed the LCD screen mired in shadow. When I held it up to the strong sunlight, the shadow stayed.

I felt my guts sag.

The screen was cracked as if some tiny punk kid inside the camera had hit a home run and a pea-sized baseball had struck the glass, starring it. This morning the cam started out working flawlessly as it had the last 3.5 years. I’d already taken 20 shots (the memory card held a thousand) and there’d been no trauma or anything unusual done to it, in fact, I was holding it most of the afternoon.

I didn’t bother showing Julio the damage. Time ran out. I’d lost a camera but gained a replacement knob for my window crank. More work is to be done tomorrow.

It’s events like those of today that cause one to seriously ponder the sucking undertow under the roiling ocean of life. After years of neglect, I finally take steps to help my poor old car’s infirmities with a too-good-to-be-true honorable guy who enjoys working on my type of car, only to suffer two inexplicable lightning bolts of horror and bizarre bad fortune. Between the roach from nowhere and the undeserving death of my beloved camera, I can’t help but feel screwed, though tomorrow my car may run somewhat better.

More than the big disasters like quakes and cyclones, it’s these little tragedies that enforce the theory of a sinister balance to the universe. Intellectually I understand why shit happens, but I refuse to accept that any shit has to happen to me. How human.

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