1996 Volvo 850R wagon

I tossed him the keys. Looking back, this was a mistake. In fact, pretty much everything about this was a mistake.

“Get in!” the Generalissimo cried. I did as instructed. I vaguely remembered my last test drive with him, which meant I had my seat belt on before I even shut my door.

We’d decided to do the first few tests in cars we had easy access to. The first, obviously, was the Generalissimo’s Lamborghini LM002. The second was in my car, a 1996 Volvo 850R wagon. She had 72,000 miles on the clock and I’d just gotten her back from the dealer after two grand in engine mounts, struts, and sway bar installation. On the upside, she was driving like a dream. Then I gave a crazy man my keys.

He had on his dress uniform, the green one with all the shiny buttons and ribbons and the gold braids hanging from the epaulets. He looked like something out of a bad eighties movie, ready to conquer a neighboring country. He cranked up the Volvo. The turbocharged five cylinder engine wasn’t as smooth as you might expect. Less of a kitten’s purr and more of an adult cat trying to purr while you’re standing on it. Not that I’ve done this before. Not that they can prove.

“Hold on!” he said. He put the gear selector in Drive and dropped the e-brake. I closed my eyes and said a prayer. Not sure if the Big Guy was listening.

The front wheels clawed at the asphalt. The screeching scared a man out walking his dog. I waved. He dove behind a tree. I think we had a real connection.

I bought the Volvo to replace our previous Volvo wagon, which was destroyed in an accident not long after we moved to town. Its carrying capacity in volume is quite high, but in weight is quite low, owing to its sport suspension and lowered stance. The handling is nimble if a little disconnected at anything under twenty miles an hour. Above that, and it comes into its element.

“Gate! Open!” he yelled.

“It’s not voice activated!” I said.

He slammed on the brakes. Very good brakes, even if the rear rotors were warped.

“I must have a word with your building superintendant! How can one dash away to fight villainy if the gate does not open on command?!”

“I don’t spend much time fighting villainy.”



“Come! Let us commence!” He bashed the throttle into the floor. The tires spun and we bounced out of the driveway, narrowly missing an oncoming municipal bus.

“Please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me—”

“I would never injure you intentionally! How is your concussion?!”


“I salute your healing powers!” He let go of the wheel and tried to salute me. I grabbed the wheel as we went around a curve. The sign said it was a twenty-five zone. A quick glance at the speedometer told me we were well over twice that. But the wagon held on. Its understeer was excessive, but so was our speed. We ended up in the opposing lanes, slipping and sliding like we’d gone dancing on black ice.

“I must insist on doing my own test drive, if you do not mind! But I salute your enthusiasm!” He saluted, again. Thank God we were on a straight section of road.

I liked my car. It was not the fastest, nor was it the prettiest. The red paint was fading in spots from being parked outside, and the interior was starting to smell. The Alcantara in the seats has lost some of its fluff, one of the headlights was cracked, and my fuel gauge was off by about two gallons, but it was mine. Well, it was.

We ended up in the valley, cruising at ninety in a school zone. It was a Sunday, but still. He passed cars on the right and the left, even on twisting two lane roads. He didn’t say much until we reached out designated turn around point. He pulled to the side and parked.

“Your conveyance is to be applauded. While not a wagon man myself, I understand the allure. It would be, if you chose, a fine vehicle in which to fight crime and deliver justice. I give it four mustaches.”

“Four mustaches?”

“Indeed!” He was back to yelling.

“Out of how many?”

“As many as necessary!”

He spun the wheel and got us back on the road. He got us up to some excessive amount of speed, then his cell pone rang.

“Hello! You have reached the Generalissimo! Please state your business in ten words or less!”

Even over the roar of the engine I could hear the other person. It was his counterpart, the Generalissima.

“Greetings, my love!” she said.

“My pet!”

“How goes your adventure!?”


“I have begun preparations for our nourishment!”

“Outstanding! Twenty steps!”

“Steps?” I ventured.

He put his hand over the phone. “Her work on dinner has put her twenty steps ahead of me. Would you like to say hello?” He held out the phone.

I looked up. “Tree!”

“You could have simply said no!” he said.


As the smoke cleared and I regained my bearings, I felt my upper lip. The blood was mine. So was the headache.

“Well!” he said. “The airbags work!” He looked like a million bucks. Not so much as a scratch on him. I couldn’t say the same thing for the car.

I liked that car.

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