God Will Protect
Lulled by a Rolls-Royce far from home, our new American correspondent comes face to face with that most American of garden tools: a rifle.
Words and pictures: Nickolas Kulczak
“It’s like finding an eagle in a chicken coop,” said the portly trucker to my right, whose name I never learned. We stood in the Rutter’s convenience store parking lot, our noses nearly touching the chain-link fence at the edge of the property, as we stared at the truly ironic: thirty yards away, in front of a dilapidated trailer home, perched proudly on flat tires beside a weathered Monte Carlo SS, was an 80s vintage Rolls-Royce. It was misplaced architecture, a solid piece of Old World permanence amid the corrosion of the New World temporary.
You could almost hear the rust from where I stood.
The trucker shook his head at the scene in disgust as I flipped my camera from side to side, trying to capture the gravity of the situation with my lousy point-and-shoot. Behind me hummed my Toyota, the rolling briefcase, reminding me that I had about five minutes to wrap up my reverie and fly my khaki-clad self to the office to catch shift-change report. Meanwhile, behind the lens, time was slowing down.
How could this have happened? Did the owner hit the lotto back in ‘87? Did he gamble himself from the penthouse to the poor house?
My brain spun with sociological nightmares, easily drowning out the idling logic behind me with a screaming need to know. In that moment I clocked out of real life and acted without thought, climbing like a primate and landing, moments later, on the other side of the fence.
Crouching. Trespassing in a crooked tie. I approached the object of my fascination like a paparazzo would approach Britney Spears, looking away from the camera only to blank-stare at the headlights then to get lost in all that grille. This was celebrity, opulence, up close and all wrong. Its flanks were within striking distance of the flapping metal of the trailer home! A fear swept over me—a fear that the structure might, at any moment, collapse—and scratch the Rolls. The weather was disconcertingly windy. Destruction could be imminent. Should I protect the Rolls with my body? Prostrate myself over the roof in case some corrugated badness slid toward it?
No, I decided, God himself would protect the Rolls. Forces beyond my control had put it here, some time ago, and only stronger forces would move it again.
Gathering my wits, I finally read its front license plate for the first time, and my sense of cosmic wonder dropped right out of my ear, replaced by that of cold injustice: the Rolls was owned by a limo company located somewhere near the property, and it had become a glorified lawn ornament. Whoever owned it had the twisted credibility of a jeweler living in a tent.
He’d have to be a pretty protective fella, I thought, examining the grounds for any sign of a security device.
A few seconds later, I remembered that “security device” in the trailer park means “distrustfully-angry, disabled male with a hunting rifle.”
Forty feet away, he gargled: “I wanna check you out and I’m gonna take that camera.” The gun pointed toward the ground, dangling askew in his right hand as he loped toward me. He was a tall man, about 60, white-haired and with the complexion of a football. His tone was matter-of-fact, if he’d planned to shoot me, he’d have already done so. At this point he wanted an in-depth explanation, to know what clandestine government agenda had placed me on his property to undermine him with my wicked lens. I’m sure he fully expected me to be scooped up by a black helicopter at any moment.
Meanwhile, I was faced with the full absurdity of the situation. I turned my back to him and got out of sight as quickly as I could without visibily panicking, striding around the long fence I’d scaled, then jogging to the Toyota and barely shutting the door before throwing it in reverse and scooting backward around the side of the convenience store. So much for stopping at the redneck Rutters for cheap coffee and donuts, I thought, screwing the gas pedal to the floor on the way out of town.
Over the next twenty minutes I had to ask myself what I’d gained through this experience. I should have known before I got closer that no explanation would have justified what I’d seen through the fence. Logic had failed and I could feel the Carpocalypse nearing. Images of the Rolls haunt me whenever the wind comes.
And I can still hear the rust.
∞ Published on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009