The following was written for an event hosted by Edmund Zagorin called “Make It Look Like An Accident.” You bring a piece of writing, and then hand it to someone else to edit it however they please, and then they read it aloud. However, I misunderstood and thought “make it look like an accident” was the writing prompt.
This is the original, pre-edited piece I brought to the event — derived from entirely true events, except for the main character, whose sentience is wholly and utterly made up.
“It’s been a good run, Franco,” I whispered as I patted the steering wheel for one last journey together and started the ignition.
“Wuv…wuvwuvwuvwuvwuvwuv,” purred my red 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid. The sound of Franco starting up always reminded me of the introduction to Black Mirror, and I like to think that it was his way of saying that he too enjoyed dystopian science fiction. “I understand. You did your best to make this work.”
“It’s not your fault,” I tried to reassure, but we both knew I was simply being polite. We took off down I-280, a road we had traveled together dozens of times, in a sad silence that belied the fact that we both knew it would be our last journey together.
After a few minutes, Franco broke the silence. “But…just to be fair, you didn’t exactly set me up for success.”
“What do you mean?
“Well…remember that time we drove to LA during the 4th of July, right after you got me?
“Yeah, that was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”
“When we drove back, the sides of the road were on fire.”
“I mean…that wasn’t my fault. Fireworks were landing in the dry grass. Besides, what else do you expect from Bakersfield?”
“You literally drove me through fire. You knew when you got me that I had really bad paint oxidation on my trunk. That definitely didn’t help.”
“Come on, I couldn’t have predicted that was going to happen. It was an accident.”
“What about the time you got me stuck in a pile of sand? Who gets stuck in sand?”
“That’s not fair — that was completely an accident. It looked like it was stable ground, and we had to either try to drive through the sand to get under the bridge, or we had to follow the other cars that were driving off into the desert. Who knows what happened to them.”
“Really? You think there were no alternatives? None whatsoever? Zero other options?”
“What were we going to do? Drive all the way back down the access road and sit in all that traffic again?”
“Your girlfriend thought we were going to die in the Mojave Desert and she was never going to see civilization again.”
“The cave was pretty cool though, right? I wish you could have come inside to see it with us.”
Franco replied with silence, ending his baseless guilt trip. But I could tell that he was displeased. His silence was always a sign that I had either crossed a line and offended his mechanical sensibilities, or that I had briefly crossed back into a reality where cars can’t talk.
“You know…” I countered. “You haven’t exactly made things easy for me either. Remember when you got that flat tire in Petaluma on our anniversary trip?”
“You mean the time that you put Fix-A-Flat in the wrong tire and destroyed my tire pressure system?
“That was an accident and you know it!” I was indignant. Franco knew that was a painful memory, especially because I still hadn’t told my girlfriend that the incorrect application of Fix-A-Flat (and not popping two separate tires) was the reason we celebrated several hours of our first anniversary in a gas station parking lot.
Franco went back to the silent treatment for a few more minutes before finally responding: “Was it an accident when you let those tweakers rent me for a week and go on a meth binge robbing convenience stores?”
“Okay come on. You know I can’t choose who rents you on Turo. And I apologized for that. Plus we got you back, didn’t we?”
“And it was definitely an accident when you pocketed the insurance money instead of fixing my side paneling?”
“It wasn’t all negative…they left those weird Vietnamese rap CDs in there that we got to listen to on the way to that cool mountain winery with my friends.”
“You mean the time that you took the ‘shortcut’ through the dirt road with the jagged rocks that turned out to basically be a hiking trail? Yeah, that’s why my front axle is cracked, you piece of shit, which you also still haven’t repaired.”
“Well…” I started to stammer, taken aback by Franco’s uncharacteristically vindictive and incensed tone.
“How about on the way back from the Grand Canyon, when we stopped at the Area 51 gas station, cafe, and brothel? I probably contracted hepatitis in the parking lot.”
“Okay, you can’t see that on a billboard and not stop. And maybe we wouldn’t have had to stop there for gas if you really got the mileage that was advertised.”
“When was the last time I got an oil change?”
“Don’t you see how these things contributed to my condition? That they’re not just accidents? You’re the one that didn’t take care of me, and now you’re trying to gaslight me on my way to slaughter.”
“Come on Franco…I didn’t want to have to sell you. It’s just too much money to take care of you, and I don’t have anywhere to put you.”
“I hope someone says that about your firstborn child one day.”
It was clear by this point that Franco was not willing to have a reasonable discourse about his responsibility in the matter of his sale, and we continued the rest of the way in silence to his new home. After I handed over the keys, I looked back at Franco one more time with a mix of nostalgia, regret, and relief and whispered one final message:
It’s not my fault.