Friday, December 17, 2010

Volvo Joy Ride

      Isn’t any car that starts a pretty good car? Drive like you are in a school zone followed by a patrol car and they will last forever. My driving makes people snarf with distain. I’m the person you tailgate. Currently I’m roommates with a pilot who drives cars as if they are about to takeoff. Paddy hasn’t told me half the things he’s done. Some of his work is still classified and no one will ever weasel the facts out of him. Stunt pilot, spook, dogfighter, blue water sailor, crop duster, commercial pilot, test pilot and crazy off road Volvo driver are titles he could claim. He drives as if he’s attempting to set a record and his sponsors neglected to pay in advance.
    Yesterday I suggested we buy vegetables from a local farm, instead of the overpriced, moldy compost in the stores. We found the farm, then on the way back Paddy veered onto a nameless rutted red dirt road.  He’d purchased his plain beige Volvo because it was cheap, but he hated it for being “A car your Grandmother would drive.” Once the innocuous Volvo was no longer on pavement and invisible to the law it need not endure the insipid rules of highway driving. Apparently, deep inside Grandma’s Volvo lurked a Panzer tank.
     We had a quest. The dirt road traversed intermittent mangrove swamps in fetid washes between swales of thorny mesquite. Ambush sized rock piles barely hid long horned hungry cattle in the tall dead grass. Desert, swamp, cows, desert, swamp. Paddy announced our quest shortly after swerving off the highway.
     “Hey I’ll show you where there’s a locked gate at the end of a road you might not have seen before.” Most days on Molokai there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about. I was genuinely enthused about a locked gate at the end of a long dirt road. The deep ruts didn’t give the Volvo quite enough clearance, but clearly that problem is best resolved (by test pilots) with additional speed. Turning back was never an option, scraping the oil pan didn’t seem to be a problem. I leaned back in my seat, feigning relaxation. The dog half hung out the window yipping with glee and Paddy gripped her tail so she wouldn’t fly out as he powered through turns. I could still walk out of there I told myself. Paddy is nearly 90 years old and he still flies airplanes for fun. He’s hankering to build an ultra light, but until then his old cars will have to do. He forgets things once in awhile, but not often. I asked him something that didn’t immediately come to mind and he sincerely asked in return, “How soon do you need to know?” His eyesight is fine, but he shouted “What?” a few times when the Volvo’s undercarriage collided with chunks of volcanic rock, the disturbing racket effectively smothering my vapid words of caution. 
       “Look at that, the gate’s unlocked! I’ve never seen that before,” Paddy noted as he slowed. I figured any tall fence and big gate still signaled private property, but to Paddy, the open gate was an invitation on a silver platter. He hit the gas and swept through in a cloud of red dust.  We drove through someone’s front yard and on into the facility. The gate was meant to keep people out of a huge shrimp farm, but since we were inside Paddy gave me a tour of the operation. He’d seen it from the air several times over the years. The ponds disappeared out of sight in every direction. So that’s where shrimp came from.
     We never saw anyone. Paddy stopped in front of the house, then backed up for a better look at a lemon tree and I muttered that maybe we should go. Trespassing didn’t faze Paddy like it did me, but then I’ve never stolen military planes from the enemy during a coup and he has.  As if revealing a secret agent’s best kept secret he said with confidence, “If you see someone, just smile and wave.” Then he nudged the Volvo back to light speed.

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