Matters have conspired recently such that my family and I suddenly own four old cars, and while this is unnerving for any number of reasons—mountains of insurance forms, the inexplicable urge to leave old refrigerator parts in the yard, a sudden interest in country music—the especially odd aspect was the next step, which is buying a car for the family dog. It didn’t seem to me that he really needed a car—for one thing, he doesn’t even have his learner’s permit—but no, everyone else has an old car, so he has to have an old car too, and everyone else was busy attending to their old cars, so I was the one to accompany him on the search for old cars, so that’s what we did last weekend. You would think it would be a fairly easy to buy an old car for a dog, but it was not so easy, mostly because someone was inordinately picky about the whole thing. Me, personally, I couldn’t care less about the name of the car I am buying, as much as I care about its utility, safety, efficiency, and music capacity, but this is apparently not a universally held conviction, for someone was very choosy indeed about the name of his car. It could not be a car named for cats (Jaguar, Cougar, Wildcat), he was not thrilled about fish (Barracuda, Marlin, Sting Ray), he sneered audibly at ungulates (Ram, Impala, Mustang), and you should have seen his face when I suggested cars named for insects or snacks, like the Beetle or Rabbit. He did evince more than a passing interest in birds and snakes (Falcon, Cobra, Roadrunner), but after many hours of poring over newspaper advertisements and padding around used-car lots it was patently clear that we were choosing among Foxes and Foxes alone. I made a last play for the Mercury Sable, the sable being a remarkable and lithe predator of the deep wilderness, but no, for some buyers it is canine and canine only when it comes to used cars, so now we are a family with five old cars lined up outside the house like Republican presidential candidates, battered but proud. The other day by pure chance all five of them were ignited at approximately the same time and you wouldn’t believe the cacophony. I also note for the record that someone’s car was roaring and belching at such a shocking decibel level that for a moment we thought a filibuster might break out but it did not for which I think we can all agree we ought to be very grateful indeed.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland and the author, most recently, of a novella, Cat’s Foot.