Your Way, Right Away

Mmm… Juicy!

One morning last winter, walking to the train just a few blocks from my apartment, I became aware that people walking on the other side of the street were all sooner or later becoming transfixed by something on my side of the street. Whatever it was, it lay in front of me. As I approached the corner, it came within view. In front of a car parked a few yards ahead of me was the blackened, shrunken, charred husk of what was — until very recently — someone’s car.

The fire must have burned very hot, because across the sidewalk the bush against the apartment building was brittle and leafless. The screen in the window of the ground-floor apartment was burned away. The sidewalk near the wreckage was black. The asphalt around the car was covered with melted bits and pieces and something that looked like black-and-gray foam. Where the tires were the day before were now masses of something looking more like lava rock.

This is not something you see every day in my neighborhood. Understandably, it will draw some attention. It must have stunk to heaven. It must have lit the whole block. I wondered if the the gas tank exploded, if anyone was hurt. Was it revenge, a stray cigarette, insurance fraud, an unfortunately positioned magnifying glass on a sunny day?

The situation became more tragic when I noticed something more.

There was no car parked in front of the burned heap, but the car parked directly behind it … well, from the front seat forward, it looked remarkably similar. The paint was gone; the seats were good and melted; the dashboard was half missing; shattered glass lie all around.

I wonder what’s worse: owning the car that was completely consumed in flames, or owning the car that, by the luck of the draw, was parked behind it and consumed only half-way in flames? What is worth more: A half-destroyed car or a completely destroyed car?


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the untallied hours

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