I was walking down the middle of the road when I saw a couple of people pushing a car up a hill. There was never a lot of traffic, not with gas rationing. The man on the driver's side had one hand on the steering wheel.
"Help us out," the man said. He had on a greasy cap, and his front bottom teeth were missing.
A girl was behind the car, her shoulder against the spare tire like she had the whole weight of the car on her. She made room for me, and we pushed together. I recognized her from the school bus stop. She was that tall older girl who always had her nose in a book.
"Hi," I said. "I know you. You take the bus to school."
She looked at me through a tangle of hair and nodded.
"Push, Nance," the man said.
"I am pushing, Woody!"
She muttered something girls don't say. I'd never known a girl who said things like that.
"You two kids, push the heck out of it," Woody said. "We're almost to the junkyard."
"Why don't we just push it in the ditch?" Nancy said.
"Oh, don't say that, Nance. I just paid twenty-five bucks for this baby. I love this car."
"That's about all you love," she muttered.
I was trying to figure out who he was. Not her father. You didn't talk to your father like that. Maybe an uncle or a cousin.
We finally reached the top of the rise, and the weight of the car eased. It started rolling, and Woody jumped in behind the wheel. "In like Flynn!" he yelled. "Keep pushing, kids. Faster, faster!"
The girl and I were running and pushing. "Start it," she cried. "Start it, Woody!"
The car coughed, belched black smoke, coughed again, and off it went. "Bakersfield Express," Woody yelled, sticking his head out the window.
We were left standing there in the exhaust. "Pushing this car to the junkyard -- it's a joke, right?" I said to her.
"No, he practically lives in that junkyard." She brushed the hair out of her face. "This isn't the first time I've pushed his stupid car."
At the dairy on River Road I stopped. "I live over there," I said, pointing to the house across the road. "We live upstairs. Second floor."
"Uh-huh," she said, turning down the path to the river.
I watched her for a moment, then called after her, "I'm Adam!"
She raised her arm, fingers sort of waving good-bye to me.
Copyright © 2004 by Harry Mazer