by David Niall Wilson
She pulled back the curtains and glanced into the backyard. He was out there again. All she could see was his dirty jeans and one arm, the rest of Artie was tucked up under the hood of what had once been a lime-green AMC Gremlin. He’d picked it up ten years back for a hundred bucks from a hungry college kid who could no longer afford the duct tape and prayer it took to keep the thing rolling. Ten years.
Ginny rolled her eyes and let the curtain drop back into place, returning to the small pile of dishes she was washing. She wondered if he’d ever wake up.
Artie was a dreamer. When they were younger, she’d loved that about him. He could sit at a table and tell you about how the world was going to change. He’d talk about Science Fiction writers as if they were prophets, and scientists as if they were gods. His life hadn’t gone exactly as planned, but to his credit, that never slowed him down. Artie never got a degree…he dropped out and became a mechanic when Ginny got pregnant. He never complained…and he never quit dreaming.
He had t-shirts lining a drawer in his dresser. They ran the gamut of scientific geekery – but the one he’d had the longest, and the one that she regretted ever buying for him, hung on the wall over their couch. It was his mantra. It was her particular corner of lower heck. She couldn’t say hell. He was a good man, a good mechanic, and he paid the bills. He was gentle, and took care of her…but that damned GREMLIN — he was obsessed with it…sometimes she thought it was more important to him than she was.
The door opened, and Artie stepped inside grinning.
“What?” Ginny asked.
“It’s done,” he said.
Artie had said this before. For the second time in less than five minutes, Ginny rolled her eyes and turned back to her dishes. Artie watched her for a moment, and then he ran into the living room, as he’d done a hundred times before, grabbed the t-shirt from the wall over the couch, and traded the old “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” shirt he’d been wearing for the only one that mattered. Then he rushed back out into the back yard, the door slamming behind him, and Ginny sighed.
A moment later, she heard the engine on the Gremlin fire. She’d heard that sound so many times she thought she could make out separate pistons. It was a very smooth, purring sound. He was a very good mechanic. Maybe he should put the thing on eBay – it was probably an antique.
She waited for him to come slamming back in, pouting, and scratching his head. She waited for him to groan and grumble and return to his tools. The engine kept running. She fought the urge, then lost the fight. She pulled the curtains back again and glanced out.
Facing her, hovering at window level, Artie grinned through the windshield of the Gremlin, waving madly. She dropped the plate she’d been drying and it shattered. She tried to meet his gaze, but she couldn’t. Her eyes were locked on that t-shirt. That amazing freaking wonderful t-shirt.
It read. “Where the hell is my flying car?”
Artie turned, arced up over the back fence, and headed for the open sky.