The evening Robbie drove up with the Volkswagen Beetle on my rollback, I was just closing the gate to the car lot. It was heading toward winter and my fingers hurt as I pulled the cold metal fencing across the blacktop.

The second his legs swung out the door of the truck, there I stood wondering why this rusted garbage was on my lot when I expected at least five newer models for resale.

“Why in the blue hell did you come back with that thing?” I asked.

“It’s not what it looks like, Dad,” he said. “It’s going to get things rocking and rolling around here. Plus, I got it for fifteen grand. We still have a little left over.”

I eyed the ugly thing, looked for something special, saw nothing, and finished closing the gate.

“Well, I guess you can start telling me why you spent my money on a beat up Beetle,” I said. “And it had better be good or you’re taking a year off from college to hawk used Ford Rangers.”

He pulled a piece of paper out of his back pocket and unfolded it as we walked through the lot and crossed over the ditch and into our yard. We stopped on the front porch of the house and he handed the paper to me.

“That car belonged to Ted Bundy,” he said. “And we both know how much people like to rubberneck at car accidents. Imagine the crowds that would drive to Given just to come to the lot and see Bundy’s Volkswagen Beetle of Death.”

The paper was a generic bill-of-sale that included pictures of the police with the car after Bundy was arrested in Utah. The license plate matched.

I happen to know too damn much about Bundy because Robbie is interested in that crap. He just turned twenty and was working on a degree in psychology. He was considering applying for law school after that, thinking that understanding the criminal mind would give him an upper hand defending them in court.

He helped out here at the lot during the summer and holidays when he wasn’t at school, and I paid him as much as I could so he would have some spending money. The little refund he got from his financial aid check always vanished fast. It’s no surprise that he jumped at the chance to get this car. When I thought about it, I realized he was probably right about it bringing people to the lot. We could charge them to look at the car, maybe start it up. We would be making cash that way and I could also try to get them behind the wheel of a new Toyota Camry while they were there.

I plopped down on the porch glider swing and Robbie leaned back in a lawn chair near the front door. Through the window, Rita, my wife, was sitting Indian style on the couch and watching the nightly news. I knew she wouldn’t care much for the idea, but I thought it could be the start of something that might get us up the ladder here in Given. I wanted us to have opportunities and the money that would allow us real comfort and the chance to leave this area if the time came when we wanted to pack our bags and light out.

“What do you think, old man?” Robbie said. His jogging shoes slid then caught on the small glued stones that make up the floor of the porch.

“We need to start advertising, I guess,” I said.

“Good deal,” he said, and he did his little smirk-smile that has been his sign of contentment since he left the womb.

The next morning we unloaded the car and cleared a space for it in the center of the lot just outside the office. Rita came out with us to get a look at it. My instincts about her possible reaction proved to be spot-on.

“This just doesn’t seem right,” she said. “It can’t be the Christian way of doing things.”

She’d been on a big Bible kick lately, which, among other issues, was cutting down on things in the bedroom. I suspected it was just a phase, like when she took up water color painting, but I felt obligated to explain the plan to her.

“Honey, listen,” I said. “The man upstairs knows there is a different set of rules for businessmen. Anyway, it’s just an old car.”

She walked around the Beetle and stopped from time to time to peer through the finger-smudged windows.

“Where’s the passenger seat?” she asked.

“Bundy always removed them to make room for his victims,” Robbie said, and Rita shook her head and wiped at the window with part of her t-shirt.

“See what I mean?” she said. “This can’t be right.”

After Rita wandered back to the house, Robbie and I popped the hood and checked out the engine. We added some oil and did a quick once over of everything else.

“I can’t believe they had this thing at the auction,” I said.

“Well, it wasn’t actually there,” Robbie said. “A guy came up to me after it was over, real sketchy like he was a meth head or something, and asked if I was interested in a collector’s item.”

“Good thing that doesn’t sound like you just bought a stolen car with my money,” I said, and he laughed. “How’d he know to come up to you?”

“I was wearing my John Wayne Gacy t-shirt, so that must have tipped him off,” he said. “You saw the papers. The Bundy-mobile has to be legal.”

“Sure it does,” I said. “I mean, they came from what you say was a real classy, trustworthy guy. Good thing you were dressed for the occasion.”

That shirt, with the image of Gacy painted up as a fat, disturbing clown, had been thrown in the trash by his mother multiple times the past few years. It always finds its way back on his body.

“You think we should wash it?” he asked.

“Hell, no. We don’t want to scrub away history,” I said.

When I looked at the Beetle, it made me think about how older cars always hold more meaning. Not because this was the car of some crazy killer, but by the fact that it had been around longer than other machines that motor by on the road. Selling cars, I have seen people pick shiny newness over character time and time again. You can’t hand down one of these new cars to your kid to become part of the family history. Nor even when they become antiques. They just don’t have the look. I used to own a ‘46 Ford pick-up that I planned to give to Robbie. It’s one of those automobiles that could hold a memory of me when he drove it. But, as a kid, he never seemed excited when we would go for a ride in the truck, or when I would tell him that it would one day be his. He shrugged his shoulders at the whole idea when he turned sixteen, so I decided to sell it to the Mayor who was always on the lookout for classic cars and trucks. It’s something I regret because I wanted Robbie to always have something of his father’s to call his own that stretches out over time, moving from father to child to father to child. Like I said, you can’t do that with these cars today.

Complete story available in the print edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010



Jarrid Deaton lives and writes in eastern Kentucky. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. His work has appeared in Underground Voices, Thieves Jargon, decomP, Pear Noir!, and elsewhere.

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Big Pulp Winter 2010:
Ted Bundy's Beetle

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