A work of fiction where a bygone infatuation takes an enamored lover on an ill conceived journey from Vermont to Queens, on the run from the law…
by: Carolynn Mireault
Stealing cars isn’t that hard, it turns out. You can slide a screwdriver in the ignition, hit it with a hammer, and turn the screwdriver like a key. Or, you access the ignition switch, which turns off the steering lock (of course, this only applies to vehicles manufactured before 2000). Also, you can break open the plastic cover of the steering column, use the ignition wires to start the car, manually break the steering lock with your weight, and drive away. Remarkably, all you need to steal a Saturn is a pair of kitchen scissors. These things I never knew, as the idea of stealing cars had never occurred to me, and cars were seldom stolen where I lived.
I loved Eddie Beaumont before I knew anything about stealing cars, back when he was on the hockey team and didn’t know my name. I watched him, massive with padding, slash up the ice while I sat with my friends on the clanging, metal stands with our donuts and books. This was high school, when he was an honors student and I was a stoner, and he came from a beautiful family. They were all over six feet tall with black hair and blue eyes, and each so brilliant and kind that being around them brought out within me an inner sense of failure. I thought the best thing anybody could do was end up with one of the Beaumont boys.
There were three Beaumont children — two sons and a daughter — each as stunning as the last. In time, things began to unravel for the family. Their oldest son, John, Eddie’s older brother, had a little mishap with drunk driving followed by an incident where he was caught carrying a loaded gun on a trip to Atlantic City. Soon after, the parents divorced, (something to do with a woman in Georgia), and these downfalls seemed to prop the whole town up, as the perfect family no longer stood proud.
When Eddie and I did become friends, our relationship was mostly based on having sex at his mother’s house, which overlooked a cornfield on the edge of Swanton. I fell deeply in love while he was oblivious. Years passed where I didn’t see or hear from him. I knew he’d gotten into Harvard and assumed that’s where he’d gone. I moved to the North End of Burlington where I worked at a mid-range jewelry store and dated a street musician named Henry who wore his Rogue Starter like a backpack even at bistro tables or on hikes.
Henry made spinach omelettes with goat cheese, guitar still on his back, while I sat on the couch under a blanket with an Italian dictionary.
“Do you want pepper flakes in yours?” Henry asked.
“You already know,” I said.
“Your body is a wonderland!”
His kindness was off-putting. He had a wide tan line from strapping his guitar to his shoulder. It rained despite the forecast. The weather, hating meteorologists as much as the next person, seemed to spite them with the unpredictability of nature.
“Is there any more coffee?” I asked.
“That’s what gives you the problem, Megan,” he said.
“That’s because of my glands,” I said. “I have overactive glands.”
“Because of coffee, Megan,” said Henry.
“I’m trying to focus.”
My phone rang and it was an unknown number, so I didn’t pick up. The number called again, and I didn’t pick up. Two or so minutes passed and there was a knock on the door, which at first was delicate, and before I rose, grew urgent.
“Who’s that?” asked Henry.
“I don’t know,” I said, “it’s Saturday.”
I opened the door and Eddie Beaumont stood towering on the threshold, looking agitated but just as handsome as he’d been in school, although he had gained a little weight. He saw me and his face changed, forming an expression I’d always longed for, his eyes filling with romantic love and his mouth tilting at the corners like he’d been waiting a long time for this reunion.
“Is this it?” I asked, thinking for a moment that he was proposing.
“Hey, man!” Henry called from the kitchen. Eddie didn’t acknowledge him.
“I’ve gotta go somewhere,” said Eddie.
“Where?” I asked.
“Do you wanna come?” he asked.
“I have work,” I said.
“New York probably,” he said. “Queens.”
Henry came to the door, wiping his hands on a green dishcloth and said, “What’s up, man?” I turned and looked at Henry and he wasn’t a Beaumont. His copper chin hairs stuck out like cut wires, and his far-apart eyes scanned Eddie for a clue.
“Yeah,” I said to Eddie, then to Henry, “this is over.”
While I packed a bag, Henry sulked on the couch with his guitar between his legs, tapping his red Chuck Taylors to the tempo of Toto’s “Africa.” Eddie waited in his car, parked with a back tire on the curb, and I kept an eye through the open door, afraid that he’d change his mind and leave. In a hurry, I packed only necessities — underwear and jeans — then all the makeup I planned he’d never see me without.
“So, you’ve been having an affair with this guy?” asked Henry.
“An affair? Nuh-uh.”
I pulled the zipper closed while looking around the room for anything else I might need. I glanced at the vacant pet carrier where Henry’s adopted housecat slept before she slipped out the window to start a new life, or death, on her own.
“I just don’t get it,” he said. I rolled my eyes. “I was making us omelettes and then he showed up.”
“Right,” I said.
“I was putting the spinach in,” he said, “and I asked if you wanted pepper flakes.”
“And then this guy just shows up,” he said, then went quiet and shook his head. “You were sitting on the couch with your Italian, and I was making omelettes.”
“Mm-hmm.” I stuffed a pair of nude heels into the side pocket of my backpack, sole to sole.
“You asked if there was any more coffee,” he said, “and I said that’s what gives you the problem.”
“Because of the coffee,” he said. “And then this guy—”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m headed out.”
I set my backpack down by the couch, looked out the door to make sure Eddie was still there, then to be kind, turned and extended my arms to hug Henry. It took him a long time to stand up, moving his guitar to one of the couch cushions, then came in slow, hunching to put his face in my shoulder. Limply with his fingers, he stroked my flanks, and I said, “Okay,” before I picked up my bag, and left.
Eddie drove us hastily through downtown Burlington toward I-89 South. The rain had stopped, and although it was summer, the flower boxes that lined the bars were empty, absent of their poppies and bursting geraniums.
“What happened there?” I asked, pointing at the ignition.
“Bought it cheap. It came that way,” he said. “I remembered you being cool,” Eddie said while looking at me the way a friend looks at a friend, and I had the sensation that I should jump from the car and run back to Henry and surrender to a life of spinach omelettes and busking.
We drove south on I-89 toward I-91 and the exits grew farther and farther apart. Eddie’s driving was sporadic, terrifying then slow. He didn’t have a window on his side, and I rolled mine down. The farmlands smelled of honeydew, and lamblike clouds hovered over them. Solar panels gleamed on the roofs, and warblers, fat with suet, landed on branches of trees. On the side of the highway sat a large, dead buck on his back with his legs in the air. Two men with hoes waited for cars to pass, then ran to the middle of I-89, scraping up the muted red innards, like marrow from a bone.
“What’s in Queens?” I asked.
“My Aunt Pattie,” said Eddie. “She’s cool. You’ll like her.”
“I haven’t been to Queens,” I said.
“It’s okay,” he said. “Greek food.”
“Cool,” I said.
“To tell you the truth,” said Eddie, “I’ve been having dreams about you.”
“About me doing what?”
“All kinds of things,” he said. “From behind, from the side. And other dreams about marrying you, about us settling down and stuff like that.”
“Is that something you’d want?” I asked. He reached over the console and placed his hand on my thigh, as if it were a gearshift. He gave me the same look he’d given me in the doorway, full of romantic love.
Eddie pulled over at Lebanon right before I-89 turned into I-91. A bus was pulling out of the park and ride, leaving it almost vacant, and he pulled in beside the benches, parked, and started kissing me. I took off my sneakers, which caused a delay, and then my shorts, climbing on top of Eddie when he pushed me against the horn. He held me by the throat and looked both ways before working his hips out of his jeans and spitting on his hand. I kept trying to kiss him or look down, but he held me by the throat then by the chin, and when he thrust into me for the final time, groaning over the sound of the suspension, my face pressed into the sun visor.
“I should find somewhere to pee,” I said.
“That’s cool,” said Eddie. “We should probably change cars anyway.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “We need gas?”
“Why don’t you just go behind those bushes?” he asked while stepping out of the car and zipping his jeans.
I squatted in the bushes and watched as Eddie scanned the parking lot then took a hammer out of the trunk, walked up to a light blue Saturn L-Series parked a few spaces away, and smashed the driver’s side window, running the claw along the border of the door to clear all the glass.
“What are you doing?” I called out. He didn’t look at me or answer.
He reached into the Saturn to unlock it and opened its door, then ran back to the other car for a pair of red kitchen scissors. I pulled up my shorts and went back to the car.
“Grab your stuff,” he said.
I watched him as he worked, pushing the closed scissor blades into the ignition and turning them like a key. The engine started.
“I said get your stuff, babe,” he said.
Eddie Beaumont just called me babe. I grabbed my bag out of the trunk and brought it with me to the passenger side, holding it on my lap as he sped out of the lot.
“Throw that in the back,” he said.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“They’re after me,” said Eddie.
“Who’s after you?”
“The cops,” he said.
“Grand theft auto,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Grand theft auto.”
“I heard you.”
“So,” I said, “if we get pulled over, we’re both fucked.”
“I don’t know.”
“Even if we don’t get pulled over,” I said, “we’re fucked.”
“Well, not you. You didn’t do anything.”
“Wouldn’t I be an accessory?” I asked.
“No,” said Eddie, “I think that’s just in murder.”
“Pretty sure I’m an accessory.”
“You didn’t do anything,” he said.
“I know I didn’t do anything.”
“So, what are you worried about?”
“Jesus, Eddie,” I said, “we’ve been crossing state lines.”
“Assault,” he said.
“Who’d you assault?”
“I hit my mom,” he said.
“You hit Ann?”
“Oh, right. Sorry. Lisa. You hit Lisa?”
“And I called her a cunt,” he said.
“Jesus,” I said. “What the fuck, Eddie?”
“She was being one.”
“Why would you do that?”
“She was being a cunt,” he said.
“So, you hit her?”
“And called her a cunt.”
“You used a credit card at the gas station,” I said.
“Then I stole the car.”
“This one,” I said.
“No,” he said. “I took my mom’s car to South Burlington, left it there and boosted the other one.”
“Then this one,” I said.
Things between Eddie and I became silent for awhile, as we drove down all of I-93 and onto I-95 until I found a Simple Plan CD in the glove compartment, and Eddie made comments every now and then like, “Skip this one,” or “Pierre Bouvier, you son of a bitch.”
In Astoria, two blue and white buses squealed around the corner. An orange cat slinked along the chain-link fence of a community garden. A mural of Mr. Potato Head eating an overstuffed hamburger was graffitied on the garage door of an auto body shop. Two men leaned over the open hood of a dark blue 80s Cadillac. On the neighboring door in red and yellow block letters, it read: DO OR DO NOT THERE IS NO TRY. Neon yellow scorpions were spray-painted on a wooden fence, above them in blue it read: #911FUN; ANXIETY IS NORMAL IN AN UNJUST SOCIETY; OKAY; NOT OKAY. Beside it, an art wall that had been professionally done depicted watermelon slices with blue eyes, surrounded by floating paper lanterns. These walls enclosed a flock of school buses. Eddie parked around the corner.
“We’ll just leave it here,” he said. “My aunt lives over on that street.”
He pointed at the traffic light about nine hundred feet away and pulled the kitchen scissors out of the ignition. At the foot of the stairs of his aunt’s building was the remains of a pumpkin left over from Halloween, which having been left undisturbed, seemed like a neighborhood effort of preservation. Its pulp and skin had perished into a hill of gray soil. Its peduncle lie curved in the center like the ashes of a dagger. Pattie Beaumont answered the door in green leopard print pajamas and a pink neck pillow and gave Eddie a cautious hug.
“Watch my back,” she said. “I pinched a nerve.”
Pattie had the whole floor of the building. She walked us by the beige sleeper couch and linoleum kitchen that smelled like garbage to the gated backdoor to show us the private yard. She had planted a garden, red with failing cockscomb and peonies, dotted with catmint and two black-eyed Susans. Fountain grass reached out of planters toward the pixelated globes of white hydrangeas.
“It’s been hard,” she said, “taking care of my plants. I think that’s how I got hurt. I felt a pain when I was out there leaning over, then woke up in the morning and couldn’t turn my head.”
“Sucks,” said Eddie. “I’m gonna take a shower.”
He went back into the apartment and Pattie gestured for me to sit in a black wire chair at a bistro table in the middle of the flowers. She sat opposite me, easing into the chair as not to further injure herself, removed the neck pillow, and held it in her lap. She didn’t look like the other Beaumonts. She didn’t have much of a neck separating her face from her chest, so she looked almost like a puppet, stiff on its string.
“You know, we’re part Finnish,” she said. “That’s the blue eyes.”
“Oh,” I said.
“We went years ago at Christmas,” said Pattie. “We did a walking tour of Tampere over these little bridges that looked like the Tappan Zee.”
“Wow,” I said.
I imagined her in Finland eating unsmoked bacon and blodpalt, a dumpling made with reindeer blood, alongside a cup of sparkling sima. It dawned on me that Pattie didn’t know why we were there, what Eddie had done to his mother’s face, then to the ignition of the Saturn, and I felt like a criminal for being along for the ride. Henry had been calling me over and over, so I turned off my phone.
“Is Eddie still into vinyl?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“There are some great little shops around here for that.”
Pattie touched her neck and winced, then became distracted by her blooms, stunning even in mediocrity. Through the windows, I could faintly hear the shower, and the soft bleating of commotion on the surrounding streets. A robin landed on the fence, cocked its head, then startled at the rustling of a bush, flying away.
“That’s a rat,” said Pattie. “Pick your feet up for a second.”
We both put our feet on the wire X stretcher of the table, and a brown rat ran under us, stirring the pebbles so they sounded like rolling die. It went straight through the peonies, upsetting their stems, so their anemic petals flounced around their bright yellow stigmas.
“So, what brings you guys down?” she asked. “Eddie hasn’t been to visit me since he was in high school.”
“Uh,” I said, “just wanted to get away.”
“Just wanted to get away,” she said. “How long have you been together?”
“I’ve known him since school,” I said. “We grew up together.”
“Good family,” she said. “Good parents. His mom and dad.”
“Right,” I said. “I know.”
“I’m sure you know them,” said Pattie. “I’m sure they know you.”
Eddie, hair wet, came out dressed in a set of Pattie’s pajamas, which were aqua blue with pink dots. He thrust both fists in the air and gyrated his hips. Pattie laughed so hard she choked, and cried out, “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!”
At dinner, Pattie toiled away in the kitchen while me and him sat on the couch holding hands. I still loved him, but he’d begun to look different, although I couldn’t be sure if these changes were real or if they were just my perceptions. For some reason, his eyes appeared wider and haircut worse. The bathroom reeked of bleach over the weak scent of a linen candle on top of the toilet tank, and we could smell it from the living room.
Pattie set three salmon on parchment paper and stuck them in the oven. She dumped arugula into a red mixing bowl, halved an avocado and spooned out its mesocarp. She cut the peel off a pink grapefruit, stripped the excess pith, segmented the fruit as close to the membrane as she could, and added it to the salad. Light from the exposed bulbs glinted off her ruby ring, which she wore on her middle finger as not to leave anyone guessing. She whisked together honey, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, peanut oil, salt, and drizzled it over the salad, mixing it with a slotted spoon. I didn’t mention that I’d never had salmon and Eddie stared at my face with that same expression, full of what I wanted to be love, then leaned in and said something I couldn’t make out.
“Dinner!” said Pattie.
We sat around the kitchen table and passed the bowl of salad twice, from which Eddie picked out all the avocado, then squeezed half a lemon over his piece of salmon. He still wore Pattie’s blue and pink pajamas and somehow pulled them off.
“Nice salmon,” said Eddie.
“Thanks, Eddie,” said Pattie. “You wouldn’t believe the salmon we had in Tampere, Megan.”
“So good,” said Eddie.
“We went to this place,” she said, “rated the best salmon in Tampere.”
I noticed Eddie’s knuckles, red at the sesamoids and metacarpals, which I imagined made contact with his mother’s cheek. He held his fork and knife with a drummer grip, having grown up proper with manners and money.
“So, you’re Finnish,” I said. “What’s the other part?”
“The other part?” asked Pattie.
“Yeah,” I said, “like, I’m part French and part German.”
“Don’t know,” said Eddie.
“You’ve got Hebrew on your mother’s side.”
“You mean Israeli,” said Eddie. Pattie looked at me.
“I think I have—”
“Eddie,” said Pattie, “do you think you could look at the front door for me after?”
“After dinner?” he asked. “What’s wrong with it?”
“It feels loose,” she said.
“The handle,” she said.
I didn’t like the salmon, so I covered it with salad and forced it down paired together. The thought of having dinner with Eddie Beaumont and his aunt in New York City would have put me on my back in high school. I offered to do the dishes and Pattie took me up on it. I held my breath while scrubbing the dinner plates, then couldn’t get the smell of salmon out of the sponge, running its nylon along the rims of our drinking glasses.
I leaned against the fridge, listening to its hum, looking out the open front door to the street, which was quieter than I thought New York would be. Pattie, with her pinched nerve, navigated the apartment almost like a chimp would, using her toes for things like turning on the power strip. She settled on the couch to make a call and Eddie worked on the door. He used an Allen key to unbolt the set screw on the side and removed the door handle.
“Oh, love,” Pattie said into the phone, “I miss you, love. Come over.”
Eddie used a flat head screwdriver to pop the cover plate, exposing two screws, then used a Phillips screwdriver to tighten them. He put the cover plate back on, then the handle, and tightened the set screw on the side with the Allen key.
“Wish you were here,” she said. “Wish I was in your arms, love.”
Before Eddie could close the door, I saw two police officers walking up the front steps, one holding papers and saying to the other, “First floor, right here. Three-eight-seven.”
Eddie didn’t say anything, nor did he seem surprised. He tested the door handle, putting weight on it twice to evaluate his work.
“Detective Washer from the sheriff’s office,” said the first one. “Looking for Edison Beaumont.”
“Yep,” said Eddie. “Eddie.”
“That’s you?” asked the second officer.
“What’s going on?” Pattie called out, placing her phone on the coffee table.
“Alright, Edison,” said the first one, “we have a warrant for your arrest. Grand theft and misdemeanor assault. Turn around and put your hands together. Hands together if you can please, palms together.”
Over Eddie’s shoulder on the street, I could see an Indian man outside of a Greek restaurant who’d rolled his newspaper into a scroll and looked through it like a telescope at Eddie being arrested. I didn’t say anything or move, but Pattie ran to the door.
“Eddie, what did you do?”
“Sorry to bother you, ma’am,” said the second officer.
“I’m coming with you!” she said like it was her idea.
“Ma’am—” said the first one.
“Miss,” said Pattie, stepping into a pair of white leather moccasins with green-beaded fringe. “I’ll be right behind you, Eddie.”
The door shut and the apartment went quiet. Eddie’s screwdrivers were left by the baseboard heater. I stood for a moment watching the door, certain that Pattie would come huffing back through it, but she didn’t. Now the fridge sounded louder, even aggravated in its humming.
I went out to the garden and sat in the black wire chair among the catmint and peonies. A starving bee softened on the disc florets of a black-eyed Susan. A cellar spider made its timid way out from under a planter of fountain grass. I heard the same brown rat upsetting the hydrangeas, put my feet on the opposite chair, and turned my head to see their pistils and stamen bobbing.
“I’ve gotta get out of here,” I said low, and stood, careful to avoid the cellar spider on the pebbles.
I went into the guest room and picked up my bag, then Eddie’s kitchen scissors. I opened the front door and gave the apartment a final look as if it were mine, then went down the steps by the disintegrated pumpkin and down the street toward the old Saturn. The man outside the restaurant watched through his newspaper. Names were written on the sidewalk — Briceson, Andre, Alyssa. A white bus whistled to a halt across the street; I considered taking it, then continued to the car. A green-eyed cat was all shoulders in a deli’s open doorway, staring out with grace and precision.
Carolynn Mireault is a fiction writer from Waterbury Center, Vermont. She is a rising Leslie Epstein Fellow and the Senior Teaching Fellow in the Fiction MFA program at Boston University. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and reads fiction for Green Mountains Review. Her work has recently appeared in The South Shore Review.