Then the sun rose. And everyone got in their cars and drove to work. At Adorable Motors Carlos was squeegeeing off the windows in preparation for another day. In Montego, Indiana, Adorable Motors competed with Schneider Auto. It was a friendly competition: they had softball games together. Adorable Motors had been around for twenty-three years. Ron Adorable paid his son Tom fifty dollars an hour to make the Adorable website. It was a family business. Ron Adorable had started it right out of high school when he realized that he could make a car look nice and he had accumulated a yard full of them so he paved over the yard and painted prices on the cars. Ron realized that if he could make a car smell better when he sold it than when he bought it he always made money.
This morning Ron had called an emergency meeting of all the sales associates, Linda R., and Steve A., and Barry H., the head of sales, and the two mechanics Jim M. and Jim M., and their assistants (nobody remembered the names of their assistants) and Carlos J. the janitor. Something had gone wrong on a test drive the day before; the test-driver, who had left his credit cards with Barry as collateral on the Ford Focus, had never returned.
"I guess we’ll have to go find him." Said Steve.
"Or we could call the police you jackass." Said Linda to Steve.
Jim and Jim shift and look at each other uncomfortably.
Steve and Linda used to be married but aren’t anymore and it can get kind of awkward when they have to be in the same room. They were high school sweethearts that went to the state school together and then moved back home and both got jobs at Adorable Motors. They never talk about why they broke up.
Ron Adorable stepped in: "I’ve already called Officer Terry and he said he’s going to send someone over right away and I guess that means he’s coming over after coffee." The man who had left his credit cards in exchange for this Ford Focus was named Homer O’Reilly. Ron really hoped that Homer O’Reilly had just kind of forgotten to return the car and that he might just show up at any moment. Adorable Motors was a family business and a Ford Focus sized hole in the financial situation would be an uncomfortable proportion of Ron Adorable’s financial situation as a whole. He thinks he’s got insurance against this kind of thing but he knows they’re always looking to screw you either through premiums or through calling you a liar or saying it’s your fault or whatever.
Barry says, "Maybe Steve is right? I mean, it’s not like there’s a lot of places to hide a car in Montego."
"Well what if the guy just left the state?" says Linda.
"I don’t know. Barry you dealt with this Homer guy, did he seem like he was going to steal the car." Ron says.
"No, he seemed like he was maybe going to buy it. I mean, if you’re going to go to a car dealership with the idea of stealing a car then why are you going to steal a Ford Focus?"
Jim says, "I mean you’re right but ummm, his name is Homer O’Reilly. Seems like an alias or a pseudonym or something."
"I dunno." Barry wipes the sweat off his forehead.
Ron jumps up: "Here’s old Terry Pharrell rolling up with the siren like a jackass!”
Terry parks his Interceptor on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance, which automatically slides the doors open. He jumps out and runs in leaving the car door open and the flashers on. The employees of Adorable Motors gathered around the large desk in the back of the showroom that they call a “conference table” watch Terry from behind the large plate glass windows. "So what’s the problem!” Terry shouts a little out of breath.
"Calm down, nobody’s got murdered." Ron says.
"You don’t know that for sure yet!"
"Ok.” They look at each other uneasily.
Terry and Ron were high school football buddies. Ron was a running back and a tight end. Terry was a safety and a receiver. There weren’t really enough people to have a complete offense and a complete defense. Their relationship was never really the same after Terry got made Captain and Ron wasn’t.
Terry says "Ok. Let me get my coffee."
Everyone is quiet and nervous. Linda keeps adding more sugar to her coffee and checking her phone. Jim has some powdered sugar from his donut in his mustache. It’s one of those Indiana summer days where the blacktop of the used car lot practically glows with heat. Terry comes back with his coffee and sits in the empty chair.
"To tell the truth Ron, whoever made off with your Ford Focus is probably halfway cross the country by now. But I’ll wake up Deputy Jerome and we’ll split up and drive around the county."
"But on the off chance that this Homer guy just fell asleep at the wheel or hit a deer or something maybe it’s a good idea for all of us to drive around and look for anything suspicious."
"Good idea" Ron says.
"Great idea" Steve says.
They all nod.
"Jim, Jim, assistants, Steve, Linda, you should all grab a car and start driving around. Make sure your phones are charged up and give me a call if you see any evidence."
"Now hold on Ron I think we ought to come up with some kind of plan." Says Terry.
“And what do you mean by evidence.” Says Barry.
"You’re probably right about the plan.” Linda says.
"What do you think we should do?”
"Ok well…” Terry’s thinking, “Since the county roads are lettered why don’t we divide the alphabet amongst five of you. Linda you take roads that start with A through E, Steve you take roads that start with F through J, Jim’s you take K through N, and so on. Then you’ve just got to drive down each one of the county roads, fanning out from Adorable Motors. Jerome and me will take any roads that don’t have letters and the numbered highways. Ron you stay here and hold down the fort. I’ll alert the state patrol and the Hemon and De Cotte police departments and we’ll go from there. All right. Go."
Everyone agrees and goes to find their keys.
Terry jogs to the Interceptor and the tires squawk as he pulls away.
The floor of Steve’s Oldsmobile is covered with Styrofoam coffee cups. He’s been just kind of driving around. It took him more or less 30 minutes to forget what the original plan was. Steve just got off the phone with Ron and there’s been no sign of the Ford Focus anywhere. Ron said maybe just finish up what he’s doing and head back to the dealership. He’s by himself and kind of singing along to "Fill Me Up Buttercup" and driving down County Road FU and he sees the sign for Shady Meadows Organic Farm. There’s a woman out front by the road waving. Steve recognizes it as Claire D., who moved out here by herself a couple years ago to start this farm growing things like eggplants and Brussels sprouts and blackberries and selling them at the farmers market next to all that sweet corn most people have. For a month or so she was kind of the talk of the town, with the old men over at Fresh Cup making sexist speculations about how her farm would fail and then people realized she wasn’t in any kind of a cult or anything and just wanted to grow vegetables. Steve has had a crush on her since he first saw her at the Ace Hardware picking up shovels and twine.
Steve slowed down and checked his hair in the mirror and pulled over next to Claire. She talked from the drive into the passenger side window: "You work there at the car dealership right?"
"How are you?" Steve says.
"I’m fine, I think there’s something on my land that you ought to come see."
"Yeah I think you’d better."
"Are you ok?"
Steve pulls the car off the road onto the drive and gets out. They walk back through the gate into the farm past the house and the bar and up a hill into the field. There are rows and rows of tomatoes and squash. "You run this by yourself?”
"Nah, it’s too much to do by myself. I get some high school kids up here to help weed and hoe and things."
When they get over the top of the hill Claire says "It’s just past this little row of apple trees here." And Steve nods.
"What is it?" Steve said.
"I don’t know anything about cars. You tell me."
They had stopped at the edge of a shallow crater maybe fifty feet across and five or six feet deep. In the center of it was a completely flattened Ford Focus and inside a completely flattened Homer O’Reilly. The car and its driver had been compressed to a few inches thick, the tires had popped, the glass had all broken, and the Adorable Motors license plates had rotated up towards
the sky, just like leaves on a sunflower. The bottom of the crater was damp with gas and other liquids.
When Steve had processed what it was he was looking at exactly he said:
"Do you think that it fell from somewhere or that something, like, stepped on it?”
"It ruined my raspberry patch."
They held hands and looked for a while at the Ford Focus.
Leif Haven’s physical presence is recently located in Portland. Some things are forthcoming from Court Green and Hobart. More writing and contact info can be found at www.leifhaven.com.