Greta slammed the door on her 1952 GMC pickup and then kicked it for good measure.
“Stupid truck!” she yelled. “What’s the matter with you, anyway? It’s only 35 below!”
She walked back up the trail to the cabin and slammed that door as well. She threw her beaver fur hat on the couch and kicked off the heavy white Army surplus bunny boots. Leaving her jacket on, she walked to the kitchen sink and turned on the hot water faucet.
Greta waited until hot water ran from the tap, then grabbed the bar of Lava soap from its dish and started washing the oil stains from her hands. “Darn truck won’t start even after I drained its oil and kept it warm inside all night,” she complained, as if the coarse Lava soap could do anything about it.
She dried her hands on a towel, then poured another cup of coffee from the drip pot on the pot-bellied wood stove. Setting the mug on the top flat surface of the stove, she added a couple sticks of split birch to the fire. She took her mug of steaming coffee and stood at the front window, making sure the truck could she her.
Once again she set down the mug, this time on the wide window sill. She slowly took off her wool jacket, making a show of the process so the truck would notice her short-sleeved shirt. She picked up the mug and took a sip of coffee.
Fifteen minutes later, she donned all the cold weather gear and trudged down to the truck. She pried open the frozen door, fingered the latching mechanism on the door so it would close instead of banging against the latch, and got in the truck. She pulled the choke out three feet (or so), slipped off the right bunny boot so her foot would fit on the throttle pedal, and pumped the pedal five or six times.
Then she turned the key.
“Ernfff,” said the truck.
Greta mumbled under her breath. She turned the key again.
“You’re gonna make me late for work,” she said. By this time, her breath had frosted up the windows inside so she couldn’t see out. She turned the key again, pumping the throttle pedal four more times.
“Click,” said the starter.
Greta got out of the Jimmy and grabbed the battery cables from behind the seat. She opened the hood and hooked up the cables, then headed back to the cabin for the spare battery. She glanced at the 1947 Studebaker pickup her dad had given her.
Nah, she thought. I haven’t started it for two years.
She went back to the cabin, doffed the boots and hat, and poured another mug of coffee. This time she added a healthy dollop of Borden’s canned milk to take the edge off the strong coffee.
Once again she stood in the big front window so the truck could she her while she drank her Sourdough latte. Ten minutes later, once again clad in fur and wool and rubber, she lugged the heavy battery down the path to the waiting truck.
She thought she heard a snicker from the dog lot. No, said thought. Dogs can’t laugh. Must have been a raven or a magpie. She hooked up the other ends of the battery jumper cables to the proper anodes and got in the truck.
Choke out? Check. Gas? Check. Key? Check.
“NNNNNNNNRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrr…rrr…..rrr…rr..nn….n,” said the truck but it still wouldn’t start. She pumped the throttle a few more times and turned the key. “Click,” said the truck.
Greta got out and slammed the truck’s door again. This time she kicked it twice.
She walked over to the old Studebaker, pried open the frozen door, and got it. Again with the choke, again with the throttle pedal, again with key.
”VVVVROOOOMMMM!!” said the Studebaker.
“Oh, for Pete’s sakes,” said Greta. She got out and judged how much time it would take to shovel all the snow away from the truck so she could get out of the driveway. Then she walked back to the wood shed beside the cabin, grabbed a pile of harnesses, and walked to the dog lot.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHWOOOOOOOOOOOO,” howled the dogs, which translated into Husky meant “We’re going for a run!”
(The irony here is that I brought a 1964 GMC pickup to my marriage in 1980. My husband hated that truck as it rusted away before our eyes.. It never failed to start, no matter how cold it was, so he never had a legitimate excuse for us to get rid of it.)
To Gullie: How I love a talking truck. You captured it just right. It is truly a wonderful story and I enjoyed every word of it. Bravo! I’ll have to go look at your photos.–Ann
I rewrote this somewhat, illustrated it with a few photos, and posted it at my blog.
You just miss your old truck.
It was like nothing else.
You stomped on a knob on the floor to start it.
It had a first gear so low, it seemed to walk, one step at a time.
Curved side/rear windows made you proud
As if they were unique works of art, yours alone.
That floor shift and high cab made you feel so mighty.
You were poor and young,
But you had an old green truck that ran.
You’d hide one joint under the rubber floor mat
To smoke on the long ride home from work at midnight.
Along the curves of the river by the dark, wood-covered hills
Singing at the top of your lungs with the window cranked down
Dreaming about songs and spot lights and
Wishing your voice didn’t crack so much.
The seat had a fine bounce when those lousy shocks hit a bump
And you went up and down, up and down, giggling
Having no idea
Had in store
Ha ha ha!
But I DO know what came next
I know all the episodes after those night rides
When I had to trade the truck for two baby calves
And a Buick with a cracked head–
Bump starting only, but no matter: I lived on a hill.
Two kids, three husbands, ten moves and decades later
I bounce on different seats.
But still giggle in the dark alone
With the window open
And sing at the top of my lungs
Keeping an eye out for signs of what’s to come.
Death weighs in:
I’m waiting and watching too.
Not that I’m bouncing or giggling much
That’s not my style.
But joints under floor mats—that’s appealing
Since I have to ponder eternity, infinity,
And the unfathomable possibility of being.
I know what’s in store, what’s to come.
Think any of this would be any good if I weren’t?
And yet, one more, unidentified speaker has a say:
If babies can giggle as well as cry
Perhaps that’s enough of a path to follow
As we try to approach from an unsuspected direction.
So before you slam the door on the truck, Greta,
Pick up those stray candy wrappers, plastic spoons, bits of gravel
And paper clips off the floor mat,
Toss them into a plastic bag,
Shake and then pour out onto the page.
Now kick the door shut for luck.
Yeah, that felt good.
That did indeed feel good.
“Shake them and pour them out onto the page.” Love it. And yes, I remember very well where those items came from. In fact, I had just looked up my paper clip story a few days before.
Great Stuff Lady Linquist, really great. How is your BWW class going? Texas Belle, Tweeter and I are taking Writing your life story…Tweet is still Sweet and Belle is crazy as ever. We miss you!
Greta slammed the door on her 1952 GMC pickup and then kicked it for good measure. Her feet slipped out from under her on the icy driveway and she landed flat on her back. “For crying out loud,” she mumbled as she staggered to her feet, using the side of her truck for stability.
“Hey, Greta. Are you alright?” Eugene called from across the road.
“I’ve been better, Gene. I’ll be stiff tomorrow but nothing’s broken, thank God.”
“If you need help getting out of bed tomorrow, I’d be glad to come over,” Eugene said.
Greta and Eugene were both single. Greta had no desire to get into a relationship and had told Eugene that, time and time again. She laughed and said, “Come a little closer and I’ll do the same thing to you as I did to my truck.”
“Oh, goody. I’ll be right there. I’ll sweep you off your feet before you can slip and fall again.”
Greta laughed good-naturedly, turned and went in the side door of her house. He just won’t give up, she thought. He’s good-looking enough and I enjoy his sense of humor. I wonder if he knows where I can get a good trade-in on my old truck. For the first time, she considered letting her guard down. She opened her front door and called out, “Hey, Gene. Coffee here tomorrow at 8:00?”
And the thot plickens….
I’ve often read that capturing a turning point moment is a good way to make a strong story. You do that here. I had no trouble climbing into this moment, but what was so good was to watch Greta change and grow into this new risk.
Your take on Greta is wonderful. I don’t know how you came up with the format for your narrative but I like it alot.
You continue to teach us creativity outside of the classroom.
After Greta closed the door behind her, she held onto the door knob for a brief moment in complete and utter shock. “Did I just invite that man over for coffee?” She asked herself as her eyes wandered around the room looking for a crazy person?” “I must have also hit my head on that ice,” as she felt for bumps. “What am I going to do?” “What am I going to wear?” She sounded like a teenager after being asked out on her first date. At that moment, Greta’s eyes were drawn to the antique mirror that her late husband had given her on their 25th Wedding Anniversary. It was a stately mirror that hung slightly crooked on the other side of the room. Her natural instinct was to go right over and straighten it – But this time she felt different. In a queer little way, Greta decided that she was going to leave the mirror just the way it was. Many years have passed since her husband’s death and for many years now, she has also been alone. Not realizing it, Greta was ready for a change. And then in a split second, a slip on the ice, a handsome neighbor, and a coffee invite. “I’m ready to really live!” Great said, with a sly smile on her face.
(Oops) I meant…Greta said, with a sly smile on her face.
Kitten, how fun and sweet! I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. Greta…YOU GO GIRL !
I love your continuation of my Greta narrative. I can see her struggling exactly as you described her. Way to go, Cali!!!!!
Good next episode! You show us that life can be full of surprises when you open up a door. I like that idea.
Greta slammed the door on her 1952 GMC pickup and then kicked it for good measure. “This car is as sturdy – “ The bumper creaked and listed slightly. She glanced over her shoulder at the potential buyer and smiled, “He-he. Don’t worry, sir, we will, of course, fix that. We do a final inspection of all our classics before they leave our lot.”
The customer raised an eyebrow and she noticed him staring at a dull faded spot on the door. She saw Lou, hands on the hips of his large frame, glaring at the exchange. She stepped in front of the door. “Mr. Kentworth, This is a rare model. I assure you this is a classic worth the money.”
“I’m not prepared to pay $35K for a car that needs a paint job, body work and an patchwork interior. I was assured you were the best. Now that you know my expectations, please call me if you get another ’52 GMC.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Kentworth. I will not insult you by trying to sell you something you’re not looking for. Classic Restoratives’ goal is 100% satisfaction. If there is anything else I can do for you please don’t hesitate to call.” She handed him her card and extended her arm. He grabbed her hand, gave it a single pump and turned to leave.
Greta entered the showroom and skulked to the break room. She felt a hand on her shoulder. As she turned she tensed.
“Greta, I can’t keep your cars on the books. You’ve got to move them or I have to send them to auction.”
“Just another month, Lou. Please. I just need one more month,” she gave him a droopy-eyed half smile.
He looked away, “It’s been “just another month” for the past six months, Greta. If I don’t clear a profit I’ll lose the shop then you’ll never have the chance to buy back the pickup.”
“Lou, I can’t lose the pickup.” She closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Her attempt to contain the moisture building behind her lids failed and a tear rolled down her cheek. She swiped at it and looked out into the lot.
She stared at her babies – a 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe, a 1969 Pontiac GTO and a 1952 GMC pickup that had belonged to her mother’s father. She inherited the vehicles as well as her love of cars from her grandfather. She first fell in love with cars when her grandfather took her for a ride in the coupe. She remembered being mesmerized by the shiny chrome bumpers and the garnet-maroon paint job. The smooth cool feeling of the leather seats never faded from her memories. The car had been fifteen years old at the time but her grandfather had kept it in mint condition. The pickup and GTO held many fond memories as well — joy riding with friends, watching the stars with boys, and cross-country road trips. Her grandfather kept them all in excellent condition but when he fell ill the cars had also deteriorated. After his death she retrieved them from his garage and restored them to their former beauty. She hated the idea of ever letting them go but when she ran into money problems she was forced to give them up one by one. The pickup was the last and also her favorite.
Lou put an arm around her shoulder, “I’m going to mark down the pickup as well as the others. Let’s give it another week and see what happens.”
She shirked off his arm, “Ok, Lou. Thanks.” She trudged in the direction of her car. As she opened the door she looked back at the shop and saw Lou watching her. He waved and then turned toward his office.
She slid into the pickup. The corners of her mouth turned upward and she began to whistle as she removed the faux patch from the leather seat next to her. She placed the key into the ignition and turned it. The low rumble of the v6 comforted her. She maneuvered out of the lot and drove away.
When she reached her destination she opened the glove compartment and groped for the screw driver. She hopped out of the truck, stepped to its rear and knelt by the bumper. She tightened the screws she had loosened earlier in the week. Then she stepped to the side and used her skirt to buff the faded spot on the door – shiny as new.
She caressed the hood, “Don’t worry, baby, no one’s taking you away from me.” She opened the door, reached behind the seat and removed a satchel. She opened it, reached in and pulled out $5,000. “Only another $25K and I should be able to buy you back. Cars aren’t the only thing I learned from Granddaddy.” She placed the money in her purse and entered the casino.
Who knew that so many women were car/truck lovers! Gullie has her old Studebaker, Greta has her ’52 GMC and you name a number of classics. I love the way you show how she’s determined to keep her precious baby.
I have to confess, Ann. I read with a dictionary next to me and I write with a google browser on next to me. I look up info as needed including classic cars. I admire them greatly when I see them on the road but have little expertise.
Have you ever considered having a class for strictly critiquing former BWW students’ work? I’d sign up in a heartbeat. I learn so much from your in depth critiques. I know you’re extremely busy with your other classes but you could limit enrollment and then see how your students grow in their writing. If it seems like I’m trying to sell you on the idea, I am.
Lisa, I think you found your forte. This story is a delight. Greta’s Granddaddy certainly taught her what to value and how to get it. Fun read! Hope to read more like this. Thanks for posting. 🙂 ~LJ
I’m glad you liked it. I had reservations about posting it. Thanks for the praise. You’re always everyone’s supportive best friend here. And I’m so glad you’ve started joining in.
I have a love of cars having grown up with four brothers. I enjoyed your take on this prompt and obviously you did too. There’s nothing like a good excuse to be creative!!!
Lisa, This is priceless ! You packed so much plot and feeling into such a short piece, unbelievable. I loved every minute of the “Joy Ride” through your story.
Your stories are always such wonderful entertainment I’m glad I could return the favor. You’re the other supportive best friend to all here. Thanks for the encouraging words. Looking forward to your next posting.
Hey, Peanut Beranski (aka Becca) ~
May I call you PB? It would be so much easier. Just wondering if you’ve given up on your Bible studies already. Thirty-six weeks of the Old Testament . . . not sure if I should express admiration or condolences. Just kidding. Hope all goes well in both your theological studies and your creative studies. We’d miss your stories if you quit posting them here.
LJ, you most certainly can call me PB and I am still going to do my Bible Study. I actually enjoy these “intense” studies and it is good for me to get back to the Basics every once and a while. I will continue to let my brain spill out here with you guys. I love all the friends here and that Ann is so generous to keep this site up and running. This is just “GOOD CLEAN FUN” and I can’t do without it. Thanks for your kind words LJ>
I took Ann’s Writing Essentials course a few months back. When I started writing my version of Greta’s story, I knew I had to revise my course material. I still gave it a shot. Please feel free to provide me any kind of feedback.
Here is my Greta….
Greta slammed the door on her 1952 GMC pickup and then kicked it for good measure.
She is stranded on the highway 50 – famously known as ‘The Loneliest Road in America’. Though she kicked the truck in a rage, tears rolled down her cheeks. After being there for her for so many years, her vehicle, her true friend, gave up on her now… when she needed it the most of all the times.
An hour back, she got a call from ER in St.Thomas hospital saying her husband Vincent, who is on a two day business trip to Austin is seriously injured in an accident. She dashed into her reliable friend of 35 years and drove off. She couldn’t believe that of all times, her loyal friend is giving up on her now.
She reminisced all the wonderful years she had with it. Her father got it for her when she got accepted in to college. When she dropped out of high school, her father was so disappointed in her. She was lucky she realized her mistake soon and decided to continue her education. She still remembers what her dad said the day she got accepted into college – “Greta, I am so proud of you”. She named it ‘Gummy Bear’
She met Vincent in college. They had so many wonderful moments in that car. They used drive to the mountains to watch sun set. She still remembers the day it had the first flat tire. She planned a big date with Vincent and they made reservations at a fancy restaurant. She was already late for her exciting date and she wasn’t paying attention to the road. She made a sharp turn and she hit the pavement. The tire was damaged. She tried to change the tire but it was too strong for her. She waited for somebody to show up and call for help. While she was waiting, a car stopped near her and it was Vincent. He was worried that she didn’t show up and was bringing dinner to her place. That was the first of many moonlit dinners they had in her truck.
She still remembers the day of her wedding. All of her friends teased her that she is the only bride who would come in a truck. She could not dream of leaving her Gummy Bear back at home while she was having one of the happiest moments in her life.
Many more happy memories were rushing through her mind. The time they bought a new house, got new furniture and how much she was hurt when Gummy got its first scratch. The many impromptu parties they had with their friends in the back of their truck. There were so many happy memories.
Her Gummy was always there for her whenever she needed it. When her father passed away, she was devastated. The only thing that brought her back to normal was the many long rides she took in her truck. She found comfort driving in it for hours. She used to feel her father was sitting right next to her in the truck.
A cool breeze brought her back into the present. She looked around to see if she can spot somebody who can help her. It was a lone road indeed, there wasn’t another human anywhere in the vicinity. She couldn’t see another human nearby.
She leaned on her truck helplessly. When she touched her Gummy, a strange bold strength took over her. She said to herself, “I can’t wait for somebody to come and help. I have to fix it myself.” She knew it wouldn’t give up on her. With renewed energy, she opened the hood of the truck. She didn’t know what is in there. Though she had it for all these years, she never looked into what was under the hood. She never learned how to fix an old truck. She just hoped her Gummy would understand her problem and would help her somehow.
Tears were dripping on the engine. It seemed as if the car understood. Greta didn’t know what was wrong with her truck or how to fix it. She just wanted to give it another try. She went back to the car and started it. After a little sputtering, the truck started. Yes! Gummy does understand her. It will always be there for her.
Now her attitude has changed. She is more optimistic of her situation now. She is now hoping Vincent would be fine instead of just wishing he would be fine.
Greta reached the hospital in another hour. Doctors told her Vincent is going to be back to normal in 2 months.
Her 1952 GMC pickup is her friend indeed!
Hi, SC. I’m LJ. My good friend Lisa says that I’m “everyone’s supportive best friend here.” To some degree that’s true, but the real truth is that I see Ann’s Blog as a place to enjoy one another’s writing efforts; a place to comment–and, yes, offer encouragement–to our friends on pieces we truly enjoy reading. That said, I’ll leave any grammatical critiquing of your “Greta’s Story” to Ann or to others who feel they have the expertise.
I’d just like to say that I truly–honestly–enjoyed reading your version of Greta’s story. I think your writing expressed true heart. I have no way of knowing if your story is based on reality or if it’s totally fictional, but I felt like I was on the journey with Greta and her beloved truck. I like how your Greta drew from her inner strength to take care of a difficult situation and how “Gummy” was there for her in her time of need. And, I like that Vincent will be fine.
Thank you for sharing your fine story.
Thanks LJ. Your feedback is very supportive. My story of Greta is total fiction 🙂 When I showed my piece to my husband he said, I am watching too much TV. I did a teeny tiny bit of research to find out if there are any roads in America where there is not much traffic. I found this highway in NV. Don’t know if it is like that in real.
I also checked with a few friends at my work about how people used to manage without cell phones when they were stuck on the road before cell phones were invented.
Hi, SC ~
I’m glad to know your story is fictional. 🙂 Research is a good thing when we write. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t need to research the “days of no cell phones.” I lived them. There were times it could be a bit scary to have car (truck in this case) trouble on a dark, lonely road. But, somehow we survived. That said, I’m grateful for my iPhone, which is never far from my side! Keep writing. ~LJ
SC…STUNNING…I have never cried over someone Dripping tears onto the engine of an old truck. You need to send this in to a Flash Fiction contest and see what this 1952 Gummy can do. Great Work kiddo.
Peanut, Your feedback was very supportive. I had the grin extending from east to west for whole five minutes 🙂 and it comes back again and again whenever I think about yout comment 🙂
I think I need some more time to enter a contest. I need to work on my writing skills some more.
Thanks for your feedback.
SC, I’m glad to see you here! Have you taken the Beginning Writers Workshop yet? You’d like it. If you thought Writing Essentials was okay, the BWW course is far more fun. I love the idea of a faithful truck. May we all have one in our lives.
Ann, Is the Writing Essentials course one that would be beneficial to fiction writers? I’m looking for a class that will help me be more cognizant of cliches, etc. I didn’t realize I use so many of them. –Thank you, Pamela
Hello Ann, How are you? Yes, I was considering taking Beginning Writers Workshop and also Business Writing workshop. With my current schedule, I am hoping I will get some time in July to pursue my interests. Until then, I will continue to post on your blog whenever possible.
The Writing Essentials course is a back-to-basics set of lessons that begin with word usage and go through spelling, punctuation, word choices, sentence writing, paragraphing, and formatting. It’s a good review of those kinds of basics plus some writing practice as well. It doesn’t focus much on cliches, but if you’d like a skill review, it would be helpful. –Ann
Ann, Do you think I should sign up for the current class? Or, should I wait for the next class to start? I know the current class started days ago?
Thank you, Pamela
Either way. The Writing Essentials course does not have a hugely active discussion area, so you could start now and go at your own pace. But you can wait for the February session too. Think about your schedule during these winter months. –Ann
Hi SC, Your story really did have a lot of emotional impact. It’s a great read. If you decide to enter it into a flash fiction contest I would first have someone proof it for any errors. I can revise again and again and still find some grammatical error or tense change that I didn’t catch. Ann’s BWW is a great class and so much fun. I may take it again because her advice is so valuable and she really gives in depth critiques. Check out the postings in “Yes, We’re a Writers’ Group” to get an idea of what it’s like. Have fun posting!
Lisa, Your feedback is helpful.
I will check the postings in “Yes, We’re a Writers’ Group”
Thank you, SC
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by Ann Linquist
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