The Yellow Car Club
The cars were yellow - the colors of mustard and honey, butterscotch and sunshine, lemons and baby crap - and we parked side-by-side in the designated spaces behind the Creamery Queen. We werenít allowed to park in the front, around the pink plastic cow with rubber udders. That was for customers, not for us.
It smelled like dumpster trash and burned burgers in the back parking lot, and thatís why we had those Christmas tree evergreen air fresheners hanging from the knobs of our eight-track players. Our parents thought it was because we smoked pot.
We were waitresses and cooks, busboys and dishwasher girls. There were a half-dozen of us in The Club, and we chose the membership number Six because it was close to Sex. Some of us had Sex in the backseats of our yellow cars. Here was our roster: one Mustang, a Firebird, one Camaro, a GTO, a Monte Carlo, and one piece-of-shit Pinto. I wonít tell you who drove the Pinto. Some things are private.
Our yellow cars had spoilers and hood scoops, fat mag wheels and thick black racing stripes, Crager hubcaps with shiny silver spokes, Hurst shifters and jet airplane sounds that stayed in the air long after we were gone. They vibrated when you shifted gears, and smelled like power when you drove behind us. We Turtle-Waxed them every Sunday afternoon. If you drove by the restaurant on a Monday summer night, the sight of all that brightness blinded your eyes as you puttered into the sunset. When the moon was full, it lit the cars as if they were gifts dropped from somebody up there. Our yellow cars were loud and they were fast and they were good to look at. Except for the Pinto, of course.
We were good to look at, too, back in 1976. Some girls had shags or Farrah Fawcett wings; others just kept it long and straight as a highway streaming down their Coppertoned, baby-oiled backs. The boys had shags or Afros; some of them competed with the girls by growing their hair. The girls always won, though. Something about the boysí hair didnít make for good highway hair. It grew bumpy and curved, like the back roads of our town.
On our days off work, we wore bellbottoms and clogs, and we never fell. If you were a girl, you had color-coded Day of the Week underwear from Sears. You didnít care if it was the right day or not. Your boyfriend never read your underwear as he yanked it off. Our smell was one of french-fry oil and Noxema. The grease never left. We washed our white uniforms in Clorox, but still they reeked of grease. We threw them away when they became stained. Our parents bought us new ones.
In the swishy pockets of our blue nylon aprons, we stashed stolen items: candy bars and cigarettes and fat packs of Dentyne gum. We needed fresh breath. We needed white teeth. You never knew who might come into the Creamery Queen.
The boss was a Greek, and he couldnít say our names right. We secretly made fun of him behind his back. He never guessed. We ate baklava when he wasnít looking.
Our white shoes squeaked when we sneaked in late at night. They were soft as old baby shoes and slick with spilled grease.
The girls wore tan leg-massaging pantyhose. If you were a girl, your uniform was a mini and you didnít bend over too far or work too hard. The boys got to wear the pants.
We listened to The Stones and The Dead, except at work. There they played The Captain and Tennile, Barry Manilow, Afternoon Delight crap. It was death by Muskrat Susie. We changed stations when the boss went away. We never got in trouble. People thought we looked innocent.
We were Danny and Sandy, Tim and Kim, Greg and Peg. We were meant to be.
We burned rubber when we left work. We squealed. Sparks flew. We left black skids behind. We didnít care. Our parents bought our tires.
We raced on a homemade drag strip behind the motel. People tried to sleep. We didnít care.
If you were a girl, you mostly didnít race. You watched. You didnít clap. You just puffed on Virginia Slims, blowing smoke clouds as you slumped on the ground. You took off your waitress shoes and pantyhose. Your toenails were painted with daisies; your legs shaved and Naired. You smelled like frying grease and toilet water from Avon, but your boyfriend didnít care. Sometimes you put your head in his lap. Your eyes, shadowed with baby blue, were almost closed. Your boyfriend drank Mad Dog or Malt Duck and threw the empty bottles in the ditch. His lips tasted like grapes when he kissed you. The cars raced. The people tried to sleep. Our parents were home in bed. They tried to sleep. We wouldnít wake them. Sneaking in was easy with bare feet.
You must remember us. We were The Yellow Car Club.
Now that the year is in the 2000s and people have forgiven Nixon, our yellow cars are in landfills or scrap metal places, or maybe kept lovingly in somebodyís heated garage. Thatís what we hope. We hope that somebody Turtle Waxes them. We think of the yellow cars sometimes, driving our sad minivans with automatic transmissions and no racing stripes. When we sleep, we dream of the yellow cars. We drive past the Creamery Queen and we remember. Sometimes we cry, but we canít say why. Our kids make fun of us behind our backs.
But we donít care. We think they look innocent.