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Emily Toder

the red sedan of all things


To the bus it looked like a car being towed. To the car it looked like a bus in motion. To the bus the car was moving, to the car the bus was moving. Which was moving more? The bus thought the car was moving more, because it was moving backwards, on an incline, and that was eye-catching, and movement was a good catch of the eye; the car thought, however, that the bus was moving more, as it was moving in healthy transit and trudging as buses will. Will buses always trudge? thought the car while being pulled trunk-up by some pulleys. The car thought buses would be in working order for some time. Buses have broken down, too, it recognized, and it was proud to recognize, but then could not think of any time ever having seen a bus being towed and certainly not from the rear on an incline in the snow. No, the car had never seen that.

The bus, however, had seen many cars towed before, indeed many times. The bus often reflected on how many towed cars there were around it, how many cars around it there were being towed around it, and how many of the many cars around it had at one point been towed, or towed around it. How the cars did it to one another. It trudged past them mostly callously as buses will. Are buses really callous in their trudging past, though? it wondered, and decided that not and it was proud to have decided that not, because it knew from itself and from other buses that there was really nothing callous about the trudging. After all, trudging past or just plainly being in motion, and being in motion inevitably loudly most times, most times in something of a trudging way, was the bus’ role and maybe sole function, and in fulfilling it, it was not at all callous but rather functional and maybe a role model. The bus was feeling good.

The car was being hauled up by pulleys and was not feeling good. It was, for the first time, a little jealous of the bus, the big trudgy and trudging mechanism it so often whizzed by in its going exactly where it wanted, though most times it did not have a good sense of what or where this was. Whether in the whizzing it was callous or not it did not pose itself, as the question of callousness was not at issue for the car. It was experiencing an altogether new and heartfelt desire to be a bus, or better, to be on a bus and be moving along, albeit trudgingly, among other cars and buses or even among cars and other buses, which it could now conceive of. It realized, however, this would not be a possibility for some time, and it was glad to realize it, because it showed that its head was intact and it was a cognitive sort of means of transport, capable of longing and then capable of correcting longing with rationale, and it would be all right. It knew when it was all hauled up and upright it would be let down and worked on and then made mobile once again. But this would take days. While it had no idea what day it was, it still could perceive time quite reliably and was happy it could perceive time even somewhat reliably because it constituted another one of those faculties it could be proud of amidst this hauling, and it would be all right. It began to drizzle.

The bus was far away by now and it was not drizzling around it, but it would probably begin rather soon, seeing as the bus, in its trudging, could not have gotten very far. The bus was about a mile to the west now, by the bus’ calculations, which were for the most part accurate, which is one of the bus’ finest qualities, the bus reflected gladly, and the rain probably moved in the opposite direction. Upon this conjecture, the bus realized this was beyond the scope of its knowledge, really, this attention to wind, this sort of pattern-tracking, and was almost a little glad for it to be beyond its scope of knowledge, for it felt content to know so purely all it needed to know for now, which was that it was about one mile to the west and headed even more westward, where rain in its wind would or would not be waiting for it. To say the bus was indifferent to the presence or not of rain is not to say that the bus was in any way callous to rain or any elements or any aspects of its surroundings. To be sure, the bus was most certainly quite involved in what was going on around it. It was a mile and a half to the west and what was around it was not altogether exciting right now, but it would be quite soon, perhaps a couple more miles westward, so long as it kept up its motion and its motion in its health.

The car was still in the same spot, being set down a bit, that is to say, parallel to the ground to which it was so accustomed, but was now standing several feet above and feeling funny. It knew, and it was glad it knew, that the fact that it was upright, that is to say, set out flat and not slanted, meant that it was in for a long haul, and that maybe its condition was more serious than it had thought, and that maybe it would be going on the freeway. From however many feet up it was, and it was not its job to know it, things looked quite different, which was enjoyable and conveniently distracting. Of course the car with no eyes was not forced to look at anything in particular, but rather could observe a bit of the bird’s eye view it had read so much about. Most people think a car’s eyes are in its hood but they are gravely mistaken, thought the car. People are sweet in their little errors, it went on thinking, even the error of losing control of the car a half an hour ago and doing all that unintended ricocheting with the siderails. Even that was kind of sweet. The car observed several sweetly errant, erroneous people, erred, What was the word? the car asked itself. it decided not to think of the word it was thinking of and instead use the word flawed. Flawed was a word that had been told to it often, unfortunately, due to some factory mishaps that were, in turn, the cute fruits of more understandable, forever-forgiven human errors.

The car resumed its watching and spotted a small family of three porting huge shopping bags and thought about how big the people were, and how big the bags were, and whether they would get on a bus, and whether they would have fit in the car, were it on the ground and available to them, they with all their packages, and that if the bus limits packages per passenger, a car must too, somehow, though not so explicitly, and yet somehow. How many cubic feet were inside the car? How much air could those cubic feet contain? By how many and in how many swirls could that air be traded? In its useless and exhaustive calculations, the car lost sight of the people and their packages and looked for another spectacle to watch. It sensed a rumble beneath it, which was unusual for it, of course, as most rumbles were within it, and sensed the beginning of motion, which was usual, as rumbles within it. It reflected on how it itself could cause that sensation, itself have caused that sensation in so many things in its life, though it had never been under anything, really. Was that really true? It did have a rack. A rack could sense a rumble. A bike had been above it. The bike for the child.

Suddenly the car was moving. The car was moving and yet it was not exactly moving. It meditated on this. Yes, it was moving past things or things were moving past it, but it in itself was in a state of complete stillness. That kind of motionless passing things might constitute movement in some other things, it thought, but not so much in a car whose sole or primary function is to move itself alone. It realized as well itself that the strange sense of movement it sensed perhaps derived from knowing that it was moving in the wrong direction. For although it had some time ago discarded the notion of having any sort of eyes, it still recognized, and was happy to recognize, for it meant that it was still somewhat intact, that it did have a designated front and back, and that its movement now was not in line with that conception. The movement, it concluded, was defying all its notions of the principles of its movement. Newton has a name for these different kinds of movement, it vaguely recalled, one deriving from inertia and the other from force, and this neatly marked and proven distinction came as a relief to it, and it felt intact, and it did some more reflecting.

Now it was reflecting on the looks of other cars from whatever height it was upon, and it was not its job to know it, and how the tops of the cars looked rather vulnerable to it. It conceived of a vast automotive vulnerability it had previously not cared to think about. To say that it had not previously cared to think about it is not to suggest that it did not care at all about the matter, but rather that it was just not what it usually reflected on. But being kind of a noble car, it welcomed the change in perspective figuratively that the change in perspective literally was giving it, and it was feeling ok slowly, and felt that it was going to be ok. It stopped for what it imagined was a light.

Behind it pulled up a red sedan with a hood that resembled a painted fingernail, glisteny and a bit broken, the nail of a professional woman. It knew this woman from somewhere. The car moved forward again with the traffic and the red sedan stayed behind trying to make a left, ah, how troublesome that was in that intersection, the car recalled, moving away, and the beautiful broken nail began to resemble a red bead and then a red speck, the tipmark of a red pen, and then in its turning, eventually vanished or perhaps vanished before its turning. The car thought perhaps this brand of vanishing was also a brand of abandonment and wondered if something or most things abandon by their stillness or by their movement. It became unsure if it itself had just now abandoned or been abandoned, and if so, if it was still doing so; if abandonment means retiring the guiding principles of your movement, if it is as slow as vanishing or if on the contrary it is as abrupt as vanishing. The car realized it was tired.

Just then, or just a few seconds after then, a bus pulled up behind the car. Of course the first question this made the car ask itself was, Is this or is this not the same bus? But it neglected to answer, because it quickly became aware that it didn’t really matter; that buses are made for that question to not matter, as they all look the same and act the same, like sheepdogs. Yes, buses have different numbers on them, and different people handling them, but buses alone, which was how the car thought of them mostly, were made to look identical, and so for all the car cared, which is not to say the car didn’t care, this might as well be the same bus as the bus it had just been strangely jealous of a little while ago. And if all buses were the same and acted the same, like sheepdogs, and the car was feeling the same, would the car then be jealous of this and of all buses? The car would wait and see.

Meanwhile the bus was now in the nice patch of the westward it had been heading towards, and was feeling a bit more freed up because of a little less industry and fewer lights. It had not noticed any changes in the weather patterns, which it was happy with, because it was happy with the current weather pattern, just as it was happy about not worrying about which weather pattern might come next, as it was not its job to know it. Indeed the bus was happy and every car the bus now looked at worked to reinforce this happiness, this primarily bus-founded sense of invulnerability. The bus was feeling confident, and not particularly like a sheepdog, and was growing more confident, and now that it was even more west, it was pretty much the only bus and not sheepdog around, which of course made it feel unique. For of course the bus knew that it was made as a bus and in the image of a bus, and thus resembled all other buses, which was at times discouraging for its sense of self. Indeed the bus noticed it did its best thinking when there were fewer buses around. And in this western part, on the cusp of some county or township line, of course it knew just when and where but was feigning indifference for the appearance of a casual relationship with this landmark, because it was an experienced bus and could sit back, it felt good about itself, and was happy to do whatever trudging or not so trudging it did through this western part, whatever trudging or not so being its movement, its sole purpose, its healthy movement into sunset.

The bus thought of the car. It had a strange sense that the car was thinking of it at that exact moment, thinking that it wished it was it. It could feel it. To be part of a vast team, a network of individuals built to be the same and to be occasionally conflated, and yet to each have different designated routes and  services and schedules to go by, which were all indeed occasionally conflated, although that was so often charming; to be one of many equally robust buses and not to be, in its movement, a negligible superfluous sporty fleck of metal ever ready for a piggyback from a tow, almost asking for it, to be confiscated, a stranger to the warm road, or warm in certain weather patterns; to be an accommodating, sometimes reliable social fixture which daily could head westward, and which daily could take others, total strangers, westward with it. But the car was thinking about the red sedan, ever angled to turn, its fate in the hands of its diverse peers, its hood out in the open, winking anxious, waiting for a cue. And it was glad to be in the pitch dark of the back of the Auto Part King, and it was glad it was glad and it was glad it was half dead and it was.




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