Monday, March 07, 2005

The Story of Sherman

“Auntie Spike?”

“Yes, Mungojerrie? Yes, Rumpleteaser? Yes, o my charming niece and nephew, whom I can deny nothing to?”

“Tell us the story of Sherman the Car, and how he came to live with you.”

“Again? How about Cuthbert the Concupiscent Koala’s Crusty Curse instead?”

“Mom downloaded that to us last night.”

“Something light and uplifting, with moral values at the end? Othello, or maybe Peyton Place?”

“Don’t tease! We want Sherrrrrrman the Carrrrrrr!”

“Very well. Back in the previous century, when it was all combustible engines and runcible spoons, Auntie Spike and Uncle First Consort Gareth realized that Auntie Spike’s car was getting old and tired, and needed to go where all the old cars go. So they went shopping, which is when people go out—“

“Into the air? Into the wide world??”

“Yes, people could actually do that back then, in the olden days. People would go out and look at merchandise, and sometimes they would interact with it, to see if it was something they wanted.”

“Why didn’t they just put on the bodyglove in their living room to try it out?”

“This was back in the longago, Mungojerrie. They didn’t have bodygloves, did they, Auntie Spike?”

“No, indeed. No bodygloves, and faxes only transmitted data.”

“You couldn’t fax for a pizza?”

“You could fax an order, but the pizza would have to be brought by a person.”

Rumpleteaser bristled and licked her nose. Strangers at the door, maybe even coming into the house. What dark ages in the longago.

“So Auntie Spike made a long long list of cars she wanted to look at, and they went out shopping. They played with little bitty Miatas, with great stately Sebrings, and just for fun, with a convertible pickup truck with a hard top that looked like a lobster shell.” Mungojerrie sighed and curled his toes. Lobster! He loved this part.

“And so, at the end of a long day of shopping, Auntie Spike decided that what she really, really wanted was a Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible—with turbo. And a stick shift, because half the fun of driving is interacting with the machine. Not like today, where you type in your destination in the peoplemover pod, and it calculates the route for you and takes you there.” Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser shuddered as one. They’d been sent to the doctor via ‘pod before, and it was bad enough to watch the scenery scroll past as the ‘pod shifted gears and whirred softly as it drifted along like a soap bubble, always choosing the path that got it to its destination most effectively. You could ‘get lost’ or ‘break down’ or ‘run out of gas’ if you were in charge of all the choices to make!

“The problem was that Auntie Spike and Uncle Gareth really wanted a used car, not a brand new one. They taught you about equity and depreciation, right?” Brother and sister nodded. “Then you understand how Auntie Spike thought it was silly to pay $5,000 in depreciation for the handful of minutes between buying a new car and actually driving it off the lot, right?” They nodded again, topknots bobbing in unison.

“But alas! The only cars of that type in the city where Auntie Spike and Uncle Gareth lived were new cars! And the dealers told us that since that model had just come out the fall before (for this was back in the neverwhen, when the year had seasons, my darlings) that our chances of finding one used were not good.

“So Uncle Gareth searched and searched for a car, and finally found one far far away in Texas. It was lightly used, had a turbo engine, a stick shift, and was PURPLE. It was Sherman the Car, and he was just right. So on Monday morning, we told the dealership we wanted Sherman, and we got the bank to send some earnest money to hold the deal down.

“Ah, but how to get Sherman from Texas to Arizona? Auntie Spike and Uncle Gareth put their heads together and thought for a long long time.”

“Minutes?” asked Rumpleteaser.

“Minutes and minutes and minutes.” Spike agreed. “Almost as long as this story.

“We could fly out and drive Sherman back, but that would have just added miles to the engine and wear and tear to the frame and tires. Plus of course, we would have had to take time off work, and it’s a long flat drive with nothing much to look at.

“Having someone else drive Sherman was an option, but the only savings was in terms of our time and energy. There was still wear and tear on the car to consider.

“So we looked into having someone load Sherman onto a truck and drive the truck out. Once we compared it to air fare, meals on the road, and a night at a motel, the costs were about the same. The nice dealership set up the deal with the trucking company, who said they would have it to us on Wednesday. No problem! Wednesday was fine. We told them to take it to Uncle Gareth’s work, figuring that he’d be there to sign the papers to tell the bank to send the dealership the rest of the money.

“Wednesday came, and the trucking company called. They wanted to send a full truck out to Arizona, could we wait until Friday? Well . . . yes, we could wait until Friday. We were disappointed, but we COULD wait.

“Friday morning came, and the trucking company called. There would be somebody at that address Sunday night, yes? Well, actually, no. That was a business address. What happened to the plan to have Sherman out TODAY? It seems that the other stuff the trucking company was waiting on hadn’t come yet, but was due any minute now, so the truck would be loaded and then head out our way sometime Saturday. So, Sherman would be in town Sunday evening some time.

“Uncle Gareth told them politely that that wasn’t acceptable; that he was not going to wait at work Sunday evening for them to drop by, especially as they were supposed to have had Sherman to us two days ago. The gentleman from the trucking company then told him that in that case, he’d have to offload Sherman, and get him out to Arizona in a couple of weeks with the next scheduled shipment. Uncle Gareth said that that was simply not an option in his firmest gruffest polite voice—and the other fella hung up on him!

“So Uncle Gareth called the dealership, who told him that this was the first they’d heard that Sherman wasn’t home safe! They told Gareth they’d call the trucking company and see what was going on, then be right back to him. A few minutes later, the dealership called, and explained the trucking company had hung up on THEM, their customer!

“What to do, what to do. It was decided that the dealership would load Sherman onto one of their very own trucks, and have an employee drive it from Texas to Arizona. They promised to have it to us sometime on Monday. Gareth told them that would work, but to please be certain Sherman got there by 6:00 p.m. Arizona time.

“Sunday evening, we received a call. Sherman was in town! Why was the office all dark? Where was Gareth? Gareth explained that he had been told that Sherman was arriving MONDAY sometime, and while he appreciated the dealership’s promptness, he was not driving for an hour to get to them RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE and sign papers.

“So Sherman the Car was finally delivered Monday morning at 8:15. Gareth took him around the corner to the car doctor, where he checked out just fine, and then to the car wash to get scrubbed all shiny clean and sparkly. Auntie Spike and Sherman the Car loved each other very very much and had all sorts of wonderful adventures with their friends Uncle Gareth and Mischief Ann Mayhem.”

Mungojerrie wiped a tear from his eye, and Rumpleteaser sniffled, wiping her nose on her tail. The story was over. Again.

“Tell us more,” said Mungojerrie. “Tell us about the trip to Mexico to look at the ruins; about the o’dark thirty trips to California to play on the beaches, about the marathon drive to Galveston to build sand castles on Spike’s birthday.”

But just then, a grinding whir sounded in the kitchen. “Nothing doing,” said Spike, firmly. “You’ve been up for over an hour already! It’s time for you to have Third Snack, and then off for your pre-dinner nap! Now, off with you!”

The kits clambered down off the Knead-a-Lap (with optional heated pads) and scampered to the kitchen in answer to the alarm. The reason for that particular rhythmic noise was lost in antiquity, but somehow it was just so . . . compelling, driving feline Furpeople to drop whatever they were doing and run to find out what the servos had heated this time. The Knead-a-Lap sat quietly humming for a moment, reviewing the memories of the human it had been programmed with.

Cats, it thought. They may have evolved thumbs and re-ordered the world, but they still haven’t lost their fascination with cars. And then it shut down.

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