Sirin Jitklongsub

     I suppose it is going to rain all afternoon.

     Normally on a day like this (gray days, Mary calls them), I’d grab an umbrella, Mary’d button the children’s raincoats, and we’d go to the park. Timmy would jump in the puddles, thoroughly soaking and upsetting Lois, who would cry because her delicate blonde curls had been “ruined”. I would grab hold of a lamppost and pretend I was Gene Kelly while Mary shook her head and said that I had a face for radio and a voice for silent films. And we’d go home soaking wet.

     Today the children are at school, and Mary is at home, probably talking to Linda From Next Door about last night’s episode of I Love Lucy.

     There haven’t been many customers today. I’ve filled two Crosley station wagons and one Studebaker sedan. But then the rain started pouring and I suppose people don’t take their cars out when it’s pouring. If I had a car, I would take it out in the rain. I’d take Mary and the children to a different park every week and we’d jump in all the puddles and swing from all the lampposts.

     Well, there was one car that pulled into the station just as it was starting to drizzle.

     It was a Cadillac, an azure blue Eldorado Biarritz. Sleek from her protruding headlights to her jutting bumpers. She was gleaming, impossibly, blindingly, under the station’s harsh lighting. Her top was down, which meant a few drops of rain had tainted her otherwise spotless blue seats. The blue! An ocean of it, a bright cyan magnet that fixed itself to your eyes and wouldn’t let go. And floating in that sea, a singular golden plank to which a drowning man could cling: Eldorado. The Gilded One.

     “No, don’t bother.”

     I looked down at the fuel nozzle in my hand.

     “I just needed a place to park her while the rain stops,” the man continued. He was getting something out of the dashboard, his slicked back helmet of brown black hair glinting in the light. “Hope that’s alright with you.”

     “Sure it is.” I placed the nozzle back in its unit. “You want to come into the store and wait it out there?”

     He hesitated. “Eh, why not?”

     Slipping his keys into the pocket of his green tweed jacket, the man pushed the car door open in one fluid motion—easily, like he had done it a million times before. But he couldn’t have, since the Eldorado looked so new. Maybe cars like this simply never aged. I could see now that he had a box of Pall Mall cigarettes in his hand.

     “I’m Don, by the way,” he offered. “Don Williams.”

     “Sam. Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Don. Right this way.”

     We sat down in the back of the store, where it’s usually reserved for employees only. I thought it was only fitting to give Don the one ‘proper’ chair we had: a wooden one with four sturdy legs and a cushioned back. Well, half-cushioned. Johnson tore out the other half when he thought there was a rat crawling around in there. Turned out to be a mothball one of the other guys had sewn in there to scare him.

     “You know, most people call me Mister-Williams-Sir.” The man blew another puff of smoke.

     “I’m sorry. Should I?”

     “No, Don is good.”

     Don leaned back slightly, probably used to one of those big reclining chairs that leaned back with you. Even in that pose, with his feet stretched out in front of him, he was taller than me. I shifted on my three-legged stool, straightening my back.

     “Where’re you headed after, Don?”

     Don adjusted the pin on his tie. Golden, like the Eldorado nameplate.

     “Out of town, for a conference. I’ve got about an hour’s journey left but I didn’t want to drive in the rain. Accidents happen so easily these days, you know.”

     “Mm. Wouldn’t want to crash your chariot.”

     “Yeah, I saw you ogling her out there,” Don chuckled. I felt a rush in my cheeks. “Well, she’s one heck of a car,” I replied.

     “Beautiful, isn’t she? And she’s more than a classy chassis. You should see how she handles on the road! Doesn’t miss a beat. Engine purrs like a kitten. I’ve been everywhere in this car. To Daytona Beach, down Central Avenue, halfway across Arizona…I took her down to the lake last weekend and oh boy, is she a magnet for the dollies. Have you got a girl, Sam?”

     “I’ve a wife and two children.”

     “Well, aren’t you a lucky son of a gun.”

     I shifted again in my seat. “I’ve never been to Daytona Beach. What’s it like?”

     “Oh, it’s a swell spot for a vacation! Sunny all year round, lots of things to do, especially for the kids. You should take them there sometime, Sam.”


     “Your family! Who else? Why, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed an ice cream stand on that beach and wished I had a little girl I could buy a cone for.”

     I shook my head and laughed. It was pouring buckets outside now, and I imagined Daytona Beach, with its sunny weather and its swimsuit-clad dollies.

     “If I had your car, Don, I wouldn’t wish for anything else.”

     It has been about an hour since Don left. He decided he was going to risk it and drive in the rain after all. He’ll probably be arriving at his destination soon. Wouldn’t it be just swell, to get in that perfect blue rocket and shoot off to a business meeting halfway across the country? And you’d be put up in a nice hotel somewhere, in a big room with chocolate on the pillows and a stately bureau in one corner with a gigantic leather chair that leaned back as far as you wanted it to. You could go down to the lobby and read a newspaper while listening to some classical piece by some European composer. Or you might talk to someone at the hotel bar, and they’d say, “Do you see that beautiful blue Cadillac parked outside there?” and you could say back, “Yes, the Eldorado. She happens to be mine, actually. Do you want to go have a look at her?”

     The rain has stopped. Just in time to leave the station and let Tom take over for the evening. Got to get home to the wife and children. I’ve been sitting in this convenience store for the better part of an afternoon, just looking out the window.

     I run a hand along the store’s countertop as I leave. It’s dusty. A few crumbs of something scattered along the edges. I can’t help but imagine how the glossy finish of the Eldorado would feel against my calloused fingers. When Don comes back—he promised he’d stop by here on his way back from the conference, in two or three days—I’ll ask to open the door for him. Or better yet, I should just do it, in case he says no, she’s just been cleaned and I’d rather not get out of the car this time, Sam. Just fill ‘er up, please.

     No, I’ll be waiting right here next to the pump as he pulls her in so that I can lean against the hood as I’m saying hello, tap on the windshield and say “no smoking near the gas pump” as he’s lighting a cigarette, maybe. And maybe I’ll even say:

     “Hey, she made a strange noise as you were pulling her in just now. My father was a mechanic. Why don’t you jump out and let me take a look at her real quick?”

     Then all of a sudden it would be me sitting in that plush ocean of blue, handling that steering wheel, one foot poised at the gas pedal (is it the one on the right or the left? Or center? I’d know instantly, I’m sure). I could ask for the keys. How would I do that, though? Maybe tell Don I’m taking her for a test drive to see how she handles. And we’d be off! I’d coast down the lane, take her for a spin around the block. I’d pull her white top up so there’d be no prying eyes peeking at her.

     And then I’d have to bring her back.

     Well, what if I didn’t bring her back? What if I went all the way home with her? What could Don do? What would he do?

     Probably call the cops. The guys at the station have been to my place before, so it’d be a simple matter of going down there and towing my magnificent azure dream away within minutes. I can see that golden plate, gleaming at me as it gets smaller and smaller in the growing distance. Taunting me. Calling me. Eldorado.

     It’s been two days since Don’s left, so he should be back any day now. I feel a jolt in my chest whenever someone rounds the corner into the station. Every time, I believe for a second that I can see a glint of blue or a shimmer of gold. Then it’s just another sedan or a truck.

     I’ve come up with a solution. It’s simple, really. In the back of the convenience store there’s a storage room that we never use. It’s about 28 inches deep, and big enough for me to fit in pretty comfortably. We’ve never used it, but I went and found the key in the back of a drawer behind the store counter yesterday. The lock is so rusted you can barely turn it, but that’s good. That means once it’s locked it’ll stay locked.

     When Don gets here, we’ll come into the store to catch up. He’ll put the car keys in his tweed jacket pocket and I’ll say,

     “Hey, why don’t I take that and hang it up in the closet for you? That way you don’t have to be holding it while you’re smoking and risk burning it with the cigarette.”

     He’ll agree, and I’ll strike up a conversation so he has to walk with me to the closet. And once he’s good and locked in there in one way or another, I’ll have the jacket with the keys in my hand and he’ll be angry at first but I can explain. I’ll come back for him in a week or two. That’ll be enough time for me to have the Eldorado safely hidden away somewhere in Canada or Florida or something. That’s the plan for now, at least.

     I can see blue coming up the street. Real blue this time. Blue I’d recognize anywhere. I’m blinking fast. Or am I not blinking at all? As I make my way out to the pumps, I realize my plan would never work. If Don starts shouting and screaming in the closet, sooner or later someone’s bound to hear him. All he’d have to do is bang on the door when Tom gets here for the evening shift and I’m done for.

     I stare at the car’s plate, that gilded golden word I haven’t been able to stop thinking about floating up the road, approaching fast. No, I know what I have to do. I run back inside the store and grab a wrench from the shelves. Don must be turning into the station now, and I don’t have time to hide it anywhere. I just pray he doesn’t notice it in my hands. I rush outside, sweat pouring from every pore, my breaths coming in shallow huffs, my vision blurry. And I can just make out that brilliant word: Eldorado, The Gilded One, as it whisks past the station and streaks down the road in a blur of blue and gold.

Sirin is a first-year Psychology major from Bangkok, Thailand. She really likes rock climbing.