We discovered a small cache of drawings in one of the old closets in this house. The artist is apparently "Mackenzie Jennings." I love this one. It looks like Julianne Moore to me...except, you know, a little bit cross-eyed. But nevermind. Last night I had a strange memory from earlier in the summer, when we were down at my mom & dad's, in Manchester, Georgia.
My parents live on a sharp curve and one night we heard a fast car careening around the bend, then a terrific roar followed by a loud metallic thud. My dad and I went out to see what was up: Yes, indeed, someone had lost control of their car and run off the road, into a deserted dirt lot across the street. We walked over and saw the driver clambering around inside. The car, a Honda or whatever, was beached on a big piece of concrete, which it had unearthed when it slammed into a small steel post presumably protecting an ancient old penile fire hydrant. The driver's side door was dented in considerably. Stuck, the driver was gunning the accelerator, trying to get off the island of rock and steel. I thought of a trapped coyote. My dad and I hung back.
Within about a minute, Nefertiti emerged from the passenger door of her chrysalis, lithe and wobbly, and as she did, an empty Seagram's bottle rolled onto the ground. Her up-do was a glistening leaning tower of Pisa. Hoop earrings. Stiletto heels on gravel, now. I heard a man's voice, quite loud. It was a deejay, on another planet - Atlanta - recounting, in static, the past fifteen minutes worth of R&B and soul songs. Nefertiti didn't straighten her skirt or do anything cinematic like that. She just looked down at the car, still running, and said, "Man, shit!" She was a tall drink of water.
The next ten minutes happened fast- I asked her if she was okay. She said she was. "You live around here?" No, she said she was from Atlanta, visiting her cousins. "Have you, uh, been drinking?" She said nah, uh-uh, no way, not at all. She then asked for my dad's cellphone. He handed it over. She called, in rapid succession, five or six people - all of whom refused to help her. (Some damn cousins, I thought.) I felt bad for Nefertiti and her moment of non-glory on the side of the road, stuck with two generations of random, unknown White men to help her. And what happened next surprised me.
My dad said "We'd better get you out of here before the cops come." And so that, then, became The Plan. He ran to the shed and came back with a massive pry bar. And by the time he had returned, another random dude had stopped to help get Nefertiti back to the realm of the Gods. This dude was three times my size and pretty damn cinematic, actually. His biceps were pythons and, you know, he could've been John Henry - easy. Especially when he and I lifted up on the chassis, Nefertiti at the wheel, and my dad working that pry bar under the axle, working it to beat the band, working it like no damn tomorrow for Nefertiti or any of us. And in the distance we all heard the sirens...
Later on, Dad told me a story I had never heard before, about being a drunk teenager wrecked on the side of the road. And did a beneficent country roads stranger help him elude the flashing lights and get back home safe? Of course. "Why, though?" I kept asking. And he kept deflecting. "They just decided to help me, I guess," which is really no answer at all. "Man, I was stupid back then." He shook his head. There's more to this story, I thought. Maybe. Maybe not. You never know with dads.
By the time the cops arrived, Nefertiti was gone. John Henry was gone. And so were Bo and Uncle Jessie, the two ofays with the pry bar and cell phone. The only thing there was a sideways steel post and the ancient old penile fire hydrant, the landscape's erect fuck you to Johnny Law. We settled in for the night and in a few minutes all Nefertiti's cousins started calling on the phone, wanting to know did she make it out all right, did she make it back to Celestial, did she get back to her throne and ambrosia?