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Friday, 13 March 2009

Auntie McGasser

[This story is a good reminder that fiction is as welcome at The Elder Storytelling Place as other kinds of writing.]

By Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles

You could hear the old '61 Dodge Dart for several blocks before its ugly tan carcass rolled into view. The locals called it simply, "The Fart" - an apt christening for the deep-bowel rumblings of its bailing-wired tailpipe.

The trademark, heavy overhang of the front hood and wrap-around side moldings gave the two-paired headlights a Neanderthal brow arch, strategic rust streaks looking like old blood streamed from the concave toothy grill and the torsion-aire suspension had long ceased to eliminate front-end dip, acceleration squat and body sway.

The late Mr. McGassick never got around to roofing the wooden framed garage lean-to, and he sure as hell wasn't gonna rise from his dirt nap to make good on his promises now. The years of west Texas sun bronzed the Dart's super enamel skin and cooked the interior; opening the car door on a hot summer's day gave a rush of nasty sweet gases from the decomposing nylon and foam rubber.

Every time Minerva McGassick had to push herself into the driver's seat, crunching the old Kool Kushion into submission beneath her, she remembered her late husband's penchant for ignoring her directives. She couldn't for the life of her figure out where good Scots blood mingled into Mack's DNA. It hid good, that hard-working Highlands gene. Even while playing a game of Forty-two down at the back room of Venus Earl Earp's barber shop, Mack's slack slender fingers made the dominoes appear to weigh 20 pounds apiece. His turn to shuffle the ivories allowed full time to prime up a pipe or roll a fresh Bull Durham smoke.

At least the Dart had held together these past 22 years. Once, some Big Town Hotshot approached her at the corner Allsup's saying he would pay handsomely for the old car. Minerva wouldn't have parted with her beloved Dodge at any price, but $100,000 seemed like a good starting point to haggle. The Hotshot called her a crazy old bitch and spun gravel out of the parking lot on his way back to Big Town.

Manly hair dressing no longer dripped with Macassar oil and housewifery had long since forgotten the need to drape those delicate little doilie-like confections over the backs of sofas and chairs, but Minerva refused to let her good camel-back red chenille divan go naked. In fact, few surfaces in her formal parlor (it was once just a front bedroom in a previous life) were without their fancy coverings.

She had made a couple of them herself, but most were tatted by a great grandmother long ago. So prodigious were these doilies, Minerva had earned her own special nickname that worked perfectly with her lead-footed acceleration treatment of The Fart: "Auntie McGasser.”

The old biddies at Tinsey's (pronounced with a long "i") beauty shop thought their pet name for Minerva had escaped her notice, but she had 20/20 hearing in both ears. However, ignoring them was easier than confrontation; besides, Minerva knew they were jealous of the intricate lace-work heirloom collection.

Being childless, the McGassicks kept to themselves. There was one nephew who lived up near Amarillo, but his last and only visit was as an infant years ago. He was Mack's kin and Minerva didn't even feel a need to include him in the will. The years were piling up and the thought of strange people digging through her house was upsetting. Likely, her treasures and the Dart would be tossed to a rummage sale for the school or the Baptist church. Degrading. Unthinkable.

The back of the old shed hid a large steel drum of kerosene. Typical of anything Mack was once responsible for, bless his lazy heart, it had been there for a coon's age and the weeds were grown up around the barrel like a cheap Hawaiian grass skirt. But the drum was made of the same strong American steel as the Dodge - showed no signs of leakage and Minerva was counting on it when the time was right for disposing of her earthly adornments: automobile, antimacassars, flesh and bone - all would be reduced together, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

It would require some planning and more careful timing than a new Toni hair permanent, but Minerva - the Driver of Darts, Suffering Wife of Mack, the Goddess of Wisdom, Invention, and Small-town Prowess, deserved no less of a funeral pyre than any Viking queen. The townsfolk would stand as close as they could for the best viewing, hands deflecting the fierce heat while the volunteer fire department fumbled with too-short hoses and a lack of water pressure.

Big sooty flakes of Minerva intertwined with tatted smoldering lace, metallic chips of faded tan paint and tiny flecks of old chrome would float twinkling into the night sky. No more perfect departure imaginable, thought Minerva, "Auntie McGasser, indeed.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great story, and it fits with my idea of a great farewell. Thanks!

This was great! I could visualize every dent and blemish on that Dodge Dart - especially the act of Minerva "pushing herself into the driver's seat, crunching the old Kool Kushion into submission beneath her." The description and her derived satisfaction from her grand finale was teriffic!

I wouldn't mind going out that way myself!

Just wonderful. It painted a picture of Minerva and Mack that was very vivid. The old Dodge was easy to see in one's imagination.

Great story telling.

Hey Pattie,

Are you sure you're not Larry McMurtry using a pseudonym??!!!

That was a wonderful story, well written and an ending with a good twist.

That character reminds me of Mrs. Cox, my 8th grade Texas history teacher,at the Devine Jr. High, in Devine, Texas, in 1961.

No matter where you are in Texas, you have a ready made backdrop for just about any good story. Love that place. Keep up the good work.


Chester, I am flat out flattered with the comparison to McMurtry - my hero. Thank yew!

And a big Texas hug to TGB fans who always are the best.

Thanks to Ronni for the opportunity, too!

I loved the story, Pattie, beautifully done. I didn't quite know where you were going with it so the ending had me "yaying."
we should all be so lucky. ;^)

Thanks for a great read.


I really enjoyed this story. It is so well written and held my interest until the very last line and then I was sorry it was over.

It was like turning the last page of a very good book.

Looking forward to your next tale.....

Nice story, you Texans are a crazy bunch.

Gail, the women I eventually married, rode to school with her best friend Judi in Judi's Mom's Dodge Dart. Neither Gail nor Judi liked attending classes and so the Dart would often run out of gas, or wouldn't start, or would get stuck in a muddy field somewhere more often than not.

The Dart it seems is an American institution.


Texans = crazy. True, but ya'll love us that way!

Since writing the story, I have had several emails from friends and readers (aren't they one and the same?) send me great Dart stories. Maybe I'll make it a running blog...


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