Rating: PG - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Sam finds the beauty in the inefficiency of General Motors when faced by a hybrid owning bourgeois.
Sam ran the squeegee across the back windshield and carefully tried to concentrate on making even steady lines.
If he did it flawlessly it would leave no left over minute streaks of dirt between cleared paths of glass. The worst was when he fucked up his own window. If he did that than he was doomed to stare at the thin lines he’d missed for however long it took them to stop again. However, the Zen like squeegee concentration served a purpose beyond fanatical spotlessness. The usual tricks of settling the hectic jumble that was his mind weren’t working and he had a major problem on his hands. Dipping the old rubber tool in filthy water he shook in a few times before reapplying it to even filthier glass. There had to be some way he could get the tune that had been pounding in his head for over five hours to stop.
It wasn’t just any song.
Sam wasn’t even exactly sure when it was he’d even last heard the National Anthem. In fact, he was pretty sure no radio stations ever played it unless a DJ was feeling particularly passionate for the forefathers on a public holiday. For no reason he could explain the inspiring roll of it had been playing in a continuous loop at full volume for the past billion miles of tedious dark road. Trying not to hum ‘the bombs bursting in air’ part he willed other jaunty lyrics to rise over the noise in his head. He even tried repeating a righteously upbeat ditty about Jesus that he had once heard a nun sing on an acoustic guitar. But nothing was doing much to drown out the firework display. It kept on exploding grandly against the backdrop of an imprinted view of the center line running under the stark glare of headlights.
“Nice GTO you got there!”
It wasn’t some watered down muzak version of it either. It was a full blown majestic presentation with canon gun fire and obese opera singers. He dismally considered it might have had something to do with that promotional big rig he had seen parked outside their morning diner. The entire side of it had been tricked out with a surreal paint job to make it look like it was hauling the head of the statue of liberty. It was probably intended to be mind blowingly patriotic but Sam was only dimly reminded of the mountain pickups they’d pass with bleeding deer carcasses strapped to the back.
“I had one just like it in high school.” Someone was saying. “Had to sell it when I went to college.”
Sam finally realized the guy fueling up opposite him at the deserted gas station wasn’t on some cyborg headset cell phone or just talking to himself. The man was directly addressing him.
“I’m sorry... what?”
“I said nice GTO!” The man gestured to the exposed transmission under the propped up hood. “Is that engine a Ram Air 4 or did you go and find a 5?”
The guy looked like one of those types of people that would start a random conversation with a stranger in the middle of the night. Sam wasn’t exactly sure what it was about the man that immediately made him feel awkward but he just came to recognize the type. Mostly because he knew precisely how a normal human being regarded him when he suddenly appeared in their faces with inexplicable questions. Sam supposed it was a good thing that he had an awareness of how startling his forced presence was to the world at large. However, being on the receiving end of it for a change did make him wonder why he didn’t get more doors slammed in his face more often.
“What you got here is a real beauty.”
Sam considered the cliché compliment while he inspected the person and the automobile sitting behind him. The high end four door family vehicle suggested a higher than average paying job and a below average personal library of best sellers. Brown khaki trousers and rolled up sleeves of a white button work shirt insured an efficient ratio of children to bathrooms in a spacious home.
“Only could get the 5 after production.” The man nodded. “I got mine after production.”
It wasn’t the first time some enthusiastic owner of testosterone struck up a dialogue to share their sacred knowledge of the mechanical. But usually anyone who started pointing under the hood and saying things knew a little bit about what they were talking about. Sam was no devotee to the house of General Motors but he knew there was no Ram Air sitting in there. This pile of parts was composed of eight cylinders packed with three hundred and eighty-five horses banging at a three-speed turbo hydramatic automatic drive. He should know. He’d logged more hours in it than any four walls he’d ever known.
“It actually isn’t a GTO.” Sam heard himself politely explaining. “It’s a—“
“Are you sure? Because I had one in high school.” The man smiled. “Had it all the way up until college.”
Sam studied the guy for second because he wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. The guy might as well just have sincerely suggested that his last name was completely wrong. His exhausted and anthem rattled brain finally caught on that the friendly smile the man was giving him was wrapped up tight in a condescending skeptical lift of a brow. That’s when Sam got the big picture even after less than five minutes of a one way conversation. For lots of reasons, he was suddenly transported back to the west coast where he ran into people like this one all the time on the campus grounds. This was the type of guy that would catch a documentary on PBS about Brazilian railways and then suddenly be an expert on South American social economics at the next dinner party he attended. This dude’s best friend’s neighbor probably had an uncle with a GTO that he got to score a ride in once. Add the happy coincidence of a timely article in a Motor Trends at a doctor’s office yesterday, and Sam was fairly certain he had an explanation of why he was being recited inaccurate technicalities at 4AM in the middle of nowhere.
“The only color they used to come in was ‘Carousel Red’ back then.” The man went on to say. “Yours must have been made after the first run in 69. Mine was a first run. The first run was much better.”
“Look, the GTO is a Pontiac.” Sam flipped the dirty water off the squeegee behind him a little harder than he meant to. “This is a—“
“Those Rams did the trick, huh?” He bent down with his hands on his knees to look at the worn treads like they were the most fascinating things he’d ever seen. “These babies never boiled over in traffic like those old Chevys did.”
Sam shifted uncomfortably in place, his work half done on the back panel glass.
“She doesn’t over heat that often—“
“Those land boats ate sparkplugs too!” He shook his head in amused disbelief at the thought of such bungled engineering. “Couldn’t get through a year without taking all that big-block transmission apart and replacing them all.”
“Well, maybe a year and a couple months—“
“It’s a good thing they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” He gave a pointed nod to his artfully gold toned midsized utility vehicle. “God Bless state emission tests and dual air bags right?”
Sam opened and closed his mouth. His gaze fell back reluctantly onto the gigantic eco menace of the muscle car that was looming obtrusively amongst the gas pumps. The thing had been such a fixture in his life that it had become practically invisible to him. The teenaged shame he experienced at its thundering muffler and oversized chassis had long since faded away to vague apathy. He felt as much ownership over it as he did his brother’s toothbrush and about as much pride as he had for any other implement that got him through the day.
“Got a tape player in there.” The man observed with mild wonder. “Do they even make cassettes anymore?”
Sam wasn’t sure why he was quite so utterly relieved at the sight of his brother emerging from the doors of the rest stop.
Dean had a bottle of the most expensive high grade motor oil in one hand and perfectly stacked cups of the cheapest coffee in the other. He didn’t bother checking his yawn as he approached them, wearily taking note that an unknown was standing in touching distance of the paint job and grinning at him in greeting like an old pal.
“I was just admiring your car.” The man said genially.
His brother looked at the guy and then at the sleek shiny ride parked behind him. Sam could tell that Dean felt obligated to return the favor but didn’t particularly feel like going through the motions he’d have to perform to do it. However, he managed to muster a halfhearted effort despite himself.
“Thanks, uh, that’s a nice minivan you’ve got there.”
“It’s a Toyota Highlander.” He corrected. “Hybrid.”
“Oh.” Dean attempted to modify his expression into something like renewed appreciation and failed. “What’s that uh, 250 hp?”
“Must be awesome in traffic.”
The exchange inelegantly dropped into midair as his brother’s attention shifted back to the plastic container in his hand. Sam moved to the next window and kept his head down so no one would see the look on his face.
Dean never needed a funnel to pour in a couple quarts of fresh oil. The viscous flow met perfectly with the small target, the measured steady stream not overflowing even slightly onto the threaded rim. He tipped the bottle slowly up it emptied, not allowing a drop to land misplaced on the meticulously cleaned crankcase. Grabbing up a rag, he wiped down the immaculate cap before it was screwed firmly back into place. Sam knew there would be no cursory start up to recheck the filters and the level. His brother had been taking care of that engine way before Sam had even known how to handle her on the freeway. The hood came down with a reverberating thud that echoed across the empty station and snapped everyone present back to attention.
“Well, good night fellas.” The man abruptly concluded with a glimpse at his watch. “You take it easy.”
“Yeah, you too.” Dean responded absently as he tossed the rag in the trash.
Sam summoned a decent facsimile of a smile and even a wave so he wouldn’t have to formulate some parting phrase. While the finest in modern day manufacturing pulled away, he noted with some petty satisfaction that the guy had left his fuel door open. Knowing his time was now limited due to his brother’s return, he hurriedly returned back on what little was left of his work.
Arriving around the car to where he had gotten started, Sam caught a faint streak that he’d somehow left on his first pass. He frowned and looked uncertainly back at the bucket of cloudy soap water sitting on the cement.
“It looks magnificent Sam, now let’s go.”
With a sigh, he tossed the squeegee into the slosh of water and gave the drying imperfection one last regretful glance. The thick metal handle groaned in its old familiar way, the heavy door creaking on the frame as it always had. He slid into the comfortable groove of the vinyl and settled his legs under the dash in the best position for his cramped knees. The sight of the ashen dashboard reminded him that it needed to be treated again soon before it got another full season of getting to sit unsheltered out in the sun.
He had never minded tending to the mostly reliable heap that had shown him the world through the frame of its windows.
It might not have been his car, but it sure as hell was his seat.