Monday, July 19, 2010

Mystery of the Burnt-Out Truck

Parked in the field behind the vacant lot next to our house was an old, rusted, burnt-out truck. It was a pickup truck, purplish brown, with glassless windows and doors that hung open. All around it, yellow mustard flowers grew four or five feet high in the summer.

My brother and sisters and I made tunnels and forts in the mustard or lay back and watched the sky. But that truck was always sitting there like a bloodstain that wouldn’t wash out of lace.

I was convinced the truck was the scene of a crime. I suspected murder, and I thought if we only investigated thoroughly enough, we could uncover the truth. Once, I remember, we found a cigarette butt inside the cab. Aha! Evidence! In this very seat had once sat not only a murderer, but a smoker. I added arson to the list of his crimes. A dropped cigarette butt had started the fire.

Nagging at the back of my mind, quickly suppressed, was the question of how the cigarette butt had survived the conflagration that consumed truck, murderer, and victim.

I still think of that truck brooding there, that dark mystery at the heart of the flowery meadow. The child in me treasures that smudge of evil lurking over the image of paradise.

I try to remember this as a writer. An area of murk and mystery gives the picture depth.

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