Eric Neuenfeldt

Pop didn't want to buy Dutch's crippled Caravan, even if he was unloading it for a song. I followed Pop as he paced around the van. He dragged his hand along the warped plastic of the fake wood panels, the spots of Bondo on the gold body. The Caravan was a crasher. Dutch had hauled it out of a boneyard and several of the salvaged parts didn't function. He had poached a pair of round taillights off a homemade pontoon trailer, glued them on the lift gate, and rigged them to glow during braking. You couldn't let anyone ride your ass because there was a ten second delay from brake pedal to light. The sliding door, gray finish sun-bleached almost white, was forever shut with a crude weld bead.
Pop tapped the toe of his boot against one of the bald whitewalls. "Where'd you even find these here tires?"
"You ask too many questions," Dutch said. "A man looking for a deal shouldn't ask so many goddamn questions."
Dutch was a mean old Kraut. The previous winter he had crushed both his hips on a fall while shuffling across the lake after ice fishing. After rehab, Dutch's kids forced him to sell out. They imprisoned him in assisted living at the Lutheran home down the highway, the home where a bunch of old world weirdoes spent their days silent, arms folded. The Lutheran home's shuttle had dumped Dutch back at his old house because Pop inquired about the van. But one got the sense Dutch was plotting an escape from the Lutheran home after the appointment. Rumor was the staff there confiscated his chew so he had reason to be pissed off.
"I'll pick up extra shifts, George," my mother said. She sat in the driver's seat and pretended to turn the steering wheel. Dutch had wrapped the wheel in padded tape as elderly Germans tended to do. My mother was tired of the long hike along the highway's limestone-graveled shoulder to the Brownberry Ovens outlet where she worked.
Pop opened the passenger side door. The ceiling liner sagged down to the top of the headrest, and something had slashed open the seat's fabric. "Looks like a raccoon nested in here."
"Squirrels. Whole mess of them."
"Damn," my father said. "Linda, we need a car that'll get you to work. I'm guessing this thing doesn't run well."
"Terrible," Dutch said without hesitation. "Just terrible."

"Is this a heaper?" I asked Pop. I'd culled heaper from drunken conversations he had with fellow machinists at cookouts. They always gathered around the quarter barrel of Blatz. They would complain about the more unique symptoms of their junkers since that was all any of them drove.
"Jeep," my mother scolded.
"No, no, Linda. Boy needs to know," Pop said. "Yes, Jeep. Sure is."
"Heaper, heaper," I repeated. I pushed my fingers through the hubcap's spokes and twisted around to see Pop shaking his head. My mother picked at the fresh dandelions on the lawn. "Our heaper."