a Buick, brothers and buried truth

Write about a used car.
January 27 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

He drives a Buick Century, a 1958, Renaldo does. Rennie to his friends, Renaldo to his father and mother, from Mexico, and his coworkers.

It’s a cool machine, he thinks, while admitting he’s not really into cars. Not like his younger brother, Fernando. Freddie to most, except his mother of deep Mexican traditions and culture. Freddie lives and breathes cars. Most machines in fact.

He’s the proverbial tinkerer in the garage. When he’s older, he’ll face a tough time keeping a wife, his mother thinks. Most wives won’t want a man more married to the machines than her. Especially Mexican women.

It’ll take a special woman to stay with Freddie, his mother thinks. Best would be if his wife has a bunch of bambinos and bambinas. Keep her occupied while Freddie’s tuning a carburetor or greasing an engine or whatever it is he does.

Renaldo, on the other hand, he’ll have no trouble getting a woman. And 10 more to top it. Then another 10 on top of that.

Renaldo couldn’t care less about what’s under the hood. Unless that hood’s in a bra. And the bigger the better though he’s hardly picky. He’ll take ’em any way, shape or size. Even a triple AAA cup. That’s right. Take a moment to consider whose boobs are that size, excluding Twiggy and models who stake their careers on anorexia and seemingly gender reassignment.

No one in Renaldo’s huge family knows. Even if they did know — by hunch, by smell, by a courageous willingness to let the truth in — they push the knowing away. Everyone except Freddie.

Freddie, whose whole life from age of 6 to 66 revolved around all things mechanical … Freddie who spent untold joyful hours with his head beneath hoods and blackened greasy hands twisting bolts and body parts … Freddie who seemed oblivious to about everything else in life except machinery though he did manage to produce 3 kids thanks to the wife’s sexy negligees … Freddie whom neighbors and friends called “Freddie the Freak” BECAUSE of his singleminded obsession … it was Freddie who smelled it on his brother.

Scents instinctual not actual. The same olfactory powers that guide a mother to HER baby among a bunch of babies. The same olfactory powers had by good reporters and excellent detectives to smell the truth even when someone’s telling a bold-faced lie.

“Freddie the Freak” smelled the pedophile in his brother Renaldo. Spoke of it a few times to his wife, who adamantly refused to believe. Tested those same waters with another brother or two and their father. Same responses. Total refusal to believe. Renaldo was too nice. Too charming. Too fun. He loved people.

Sure, he loved the women too much. No one argued that. He loved his smokes too. But he was wasn’t THAT kind of a man. No way. No freakin’ way. So “Freddie the Freak” was alone. Completely alone in the truth. His superior gut knowingness and willingness to see the truth were just two more things, in addition to a passion for mechanics, that set him apart from a family of dozens.

Freddie was sickened by Rennie’s attraction to young girls. When once he pictured the actions, he ended up vomiting violently over the toilet.

“Do you have the flu, honey pie?” came the sweet concern from his wife in the other room.

“Could be,” responded Freddie. How could he tell her. No one believed a single word he said about his brother’s … persuasion.

Over time, it ate away at him. Freddie was an honest man. A good man. A superior provider. Loving — enough — to his wife. Had never raised a hand, not once. Not like most husbands in his Mexican culture. “Macho cabrón,” he thought privately. Macho assholes. He’d not once felt even a twinge of an impulse to raise a hand to woman, child or another human being.

But what his brother was doing … it sickened him so deeply and it angered him profoundly. Even novena and prayerful beseechings to Our Lady of Guadalupe and regular Sunday worship at church brought no relief.

In time, Freddie began to feel that he was somehow responsible for Renaldo’s action with the young girls. Not directly responsible. Rather, passively responsible. By doing nothing, he was contributing to Renaldo’s continuation of molesting little girls.

He didn’t get there quickly, Freddie. It took time. It took his suffering years in silence. It took too many months, years, of not only KNOWING what his brother was doing but increasingly seeing the signs. It took his family shaming HIM — Freddie — for even suspecting Renaldo could do such an evil thing, never mind even suggesting it aloud.

However, when he got there, he got there.

So it was on that one hot afternoon in 1961 that he offered a sweet deal that he knew his brother couldn’t resist. A used two-toned two-door Buick Century. Spanking-new shiny and pristinely restored by his own hands.

Renaldo jumped on it. Relegated his old man’s jalopy, as he called it, to the junk heap.

Grabbed the keys dangled before him by his brother, leapt into the front seat like a gazelle and tore off like Ayrton Senna, the famous Brazilian race car driver. Destination: All around town and down every road and side road around to show off HIS new wheels!

He tore off! Metal to the pedal! The roar of the engine just about giving him a hard-on! Ohhhhh, the ladies would love him now!! They’d flock to him! And the small ones, well, they’d never know what kinda hot-shot car he drove now. They didn’t care. Oh well. A minor cost of “doing business” with pubescent girls, he shrugged.

The tires spun hot! The engine roared like a gorilla’s mating call in the forest! He was king of the jungle, Renaldo was! He was the man of the hour! God’s gift to, well, everything at that moment!

Fueled by adrenalin and machismo, he pushed that pedal all the way to the floor out on that road. Dolly Road, it was called, ironically, after the wife of some important town big-wig long ago. He watched the speedometer climb … climb in the Buick Century. His old-man’s jalopy never reached half this speed! He felt it in his pants. Right hand on the wheel, the left on the giant bulge in his lap. Jacked up on his ride, he pictured, for more thrill, one of the faces of a lady he’d banged recently. Then he pictured the naked body of a girl.

Sexual desire bit him roughly, erotically, at the gruff of a neck like a mother cat grabbing her wandering kitten. Arousal intensified, he loosened his one-handed hold on the wheel. Tires jacked. Left. Right. Left. Right. Renaldo jumped alert. Grabbed the wheel. Slammed on the brakes.

The brakes that “Freddie the Freak” had designed not to work. The brakes that Freddie had designed to slip completely. To save all little girls from his brother.

* * *

Truth is often imbued with irony. Truth is, Freddie wasn’t the freak. It was his brother. But no one would believe. Not a one. So mangled was he that even his mother, who was more fractured and broken than the son she was forced to bury in the ground, insisted on a closed casket.

His service was attended by many many. Everyone tearfully called the accident a true tragedy. They eulogized Renaldo as a good man. A fun man. A friend to everyone. The life of the party. He died too young. He loved life. Everyone cried rivers at the service and burial.

Except his brother Freddie. Who wept privately in his safest place and sanctuary, his garage. He wept not for his brother being dead but for every child he had violated.

The Buick Century was tossed onto the pile for eventual fate with a metal crusher. As for the little girls, their lives would never be the same. Their experiences and memories could not be and would never be crushed out of existence like that machine.

His head bowed beneath the hoods, Freddie prayed for those victims every day for the rest of his years. He asked their forgiveness for what his brother had done — and for what he himself hadn’t done soon enough to that used Buick Century, two doors and two tone, white and baby girl pink.

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