Pacific

My mom taught me how to drive in her manual transmission ’89 Ford Festiva just as I was wincing my way through puberty at age 13. And in two years, I’d know how it feels to commit vehicular homicide.

We would go to large empty lots, usually schools abandoned for the weekend, and she would patiently guide me through the gears. I’d have to start the car over and over and over after stalling out, mumbling foul language under my Pepsi soaked breath the whole time. My mom would sigh, “Try again.”

She heard me cursing, but never cared—this lady exposed me to more foul language and obscenities than my friends, punk rock, and television combined. I was 11 when she accompanied me to the David Lee Roth concert. I wanted to go see this new glam metal band named Poison, and she was all in for Diamond Dave. That night I sat next to my 50-year-old mother as Bret Michaels humped the stage, telling a story about the groupies he and the boys violated the night before.

A couple years later, she drove my friends and I to see The Dead Milkmen—because she wanted to see them too! The whole ride down to Jacksonville Beach, we listened to, “Fucked up world! We’re all veterans of a fucked up world!” and “It’s a beach party Vietnam, surfin’ with the Viet Cong. Cookin’ hot dogs with napalm…”

She loved it! And she had no complaints when Rodney Anonymous went on a colorful tirade about George H. W. Bush. She even got the drummer, Dean Clean, to autograph a shirt for me.

We had that car for six or seven years until someone rear-ended her on Colerain Rd. in Saint Marys, GA. But before that we heard Metallica’s And Justice For All, Minor Threat’s first album (and Out of Step), and even Butthole Surfers’ Locust Abortion Technician. We listened to other stuff, too. We loved Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown—we’d listen to anything from the annals of rock. Except Elvis… she wasn’t a fan of how he shook his hips.

Anytime I was allowed to drive the car alone, I leapt at the opportunity with my latest favorite cassette in hand. I could listen to my music with her in the car, but never loud enough for my taste. Alone at the helm, I had the chance to blast the stereo in all its hi-fi, crackled glory.

Our trailer was parked on an acre of land we shared with the Thompsons (fake, generic name—like their real one). Our dirt driveway was full of potholes you could swim in after a good rain, but I was used to it and knew where all of them were by heart.

At dusk, on my fifteenth birthday, my mom asks me if I’d like to pull the car out in front of the porch to pick her up before we head out to our friends’ house—their mother was making pizza for my birthday. My friends mostly consisted of one large family, but that’s another story.

I grabbed my Subhumans cassette, The Day the Country Died, ran out the door, jumped off the porch, and headed straight for the driver’s seat. The tape was cued to “No,” my favorite song at the time. Mom couldn’t stand it because it says, “No, I don’t believe in Jesus Christ…” at the outset, so this was a rare opportunity to hear it in the car, full volume. I started the car, letting it idle while I air guitared the living shit out of the intro. Then, when the guitars kicked in, I slammed it into reverse and took off, knowing there would be no cars out on our little dirt road.

Then I felt a harsh bump. I knew exactly what it was.

Pacific, our retired service dog, had helped a blind woman find her way around for nearly 12 years. She was fourteen when we adopted her, and she had been gassing our living room with most horrendous dog farts for the three years since. She was slow, her hearing was worse than my dad’s (a WWII vet), and she loved to nap in the cool, dirt potholes that riddled our driveway.

I knew this when I went out to move the car. When I wasn’t driving, it was my job to get the nearly blind, and almost totally deaf dog to move out of the way before we could leave.

And that was the thought screaming in my brain as I was lying in the dirt, bursting with tears, trying to pull the poor animal from beneath the car. She was howling in pain.

I didn’t pass out, but I honestly don’t remember how the dog was retrieved from under the running vehicle. My next memory is sitting in the back of the Festiva, with the dog’s head on my lap as we drove for 20 excruciating minutes to the nearest emergency vet. I pet her head and told her she was going to be okay, and begged her to live.

My mother and older sister sat up front, breaking silence only to ensure me that it wasn’t my fault. Pacific just stared up at me, relieved to not have a car on top of her anymore, wincing when we crossed train tracks or hit large bumps.

A couple of exhausted vet assistants came out and lifted Pacific onto a little dog gurney to carry her inside. She was wrapped in the sheet we brought with us the next time I saw her.

I buried her in our front yard that night.

I argued with my mom about it being my fault. She tried to explain that the dog was old and she wasn’t going to be around much longer anyway, “she had a great life,” she said—which was true, but totally didn’t help. Pacific spent her entire life helping people. She had a terrible death because of me.

 

 

 

Comments

Please sign in or sign up to comment.