I bought a hearse the same year I became self-appointed to the Green River Killer Task Force. She was low and sleek and silver and gorgeous.
I would peek between the blinds to admire her because she was so damn beautiful and all mine. I didn’t live on the safest street in Portland: two blocks down from the Clinton Street Theater, which played The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday and Saturday evening. All the dressed-up show creatures would creep past my window on the way to the movies. They would ogle and stroke my beautiful Lucrezia as she sat parked outside my window. If Facebook had been around then, I’m sure all of them would have posed with her for their death car selfie.
It was meant to be, me and Lucrezia. I was walking in my neighborhood when I saw her roll by. I took notice because she was gorgeous and had beautiful white velvet curtains. A week later I was on my bike and once more saw her whiz by about three blocks down the road, flashing her silver beauty. Even though it was a two-second flash, she was still low and sleek and gorgeous. She was stalking me, or was it the other way around?
Then dumb luck struck, very dumb. At one in the morning coming home from a night shift, I parked outside of Plaid Pantry and dug through my ashtray for some quarters to refill my Super Big Gulp — yes, a refill at one a.m., it’s just how I roll. I spot my sleek and low silver baby pulling in next to me. Two dudes stumble out of the hearse, one hanging onto a guitar case, and into the store. Who exactly drives my baby?
I watch them pluck a twelve-pack of Heineken from the corner cooler and bring it to the register. They dig through their ratty jeans for what I am presuming is money. It could be a gun to rob the place, but my first hunch is probably cash to buy the beer. I size them up easily: obviously stoners who bought a hearse because it’s cool to drive around blasting the stereo and spook their friends jammed inside, rolling around. Three minutes pass while they dig in every pocket to procure some crumpled dollars and large coins.
When the guys come out I meet them in front of the vehicle. They stop in their tracks at the sight of this blonde in a tiny mini dress and spiked heels at one in the morning. They do not know what to make of me when I ask them if they own the hearse. Dude Number One says, “Yeah man, I bought it like a month ago.”
I make my move. “I saw you inside the store digging in your pockets to buy this twelve-pack. Looks like you could use some cash. Want to sell it?”
I am normally passive, and to be so bold at one o’clock in my mini dress and spiked heels in front of a convenience store in Portland is really getting down with my bad self. Dude Number One looks at Dude Number Two. Dude Number Two shrugs his shoulders and looks back at Dude Number One. This dance could go on forever. We might be here till sunrise. I feel they are in my hands. “What do you use this car for?”
I learn that they’re in a band and haul band equipment around to gigs. I laugh — rude, I guess — and ask, “You guys actually have gigs?”
Dude Number One says he’s had offers for the car before, but really, who wants to own a hearse?
“Hang on, boys.” I run in my heels over to my Jeep and come right back with my wallet. “How much?”
“Ah, I don’t know, like maybe, like maybe a thousand bucks?” Number One looks confused as he says the words.
“So what do I get for a thousand dollars? Does it have some sort of a stereo?”
“Yeah, it’s like a Blaupunkt, and it jams.”
Number Two, still holding his guitar case, interjects. “Dude, Jerry totally is gonna want that back if he isn’t gonna be riding shotgun in the hearse, man.”
“I probably need to give my buddy the stereo back,” says his Number One.
“Does it come with jumper cables?”
“Um, no, not really. I’ve got some but they’re my dad’s. But no, it doesn’t come with any sort of cables or anything like that.”
“How ‘bout those curtains in back? Do I get to keep the white curtains or does grandma need those back?”
Number Two nearly wets himself over that.
“Okay, boys. I’m a serious buyer here. I’m actually a mortician and I’ve been watching your car drive through my neighborhood, and every time I see it I say I want to buy that car.” This is my golden moment and I have cash, and I’m going to buy that hearse. Right now.
“Dude! You’re a mortician? Why do you look like such a hooker?”
“Why do you carry a guitar into the Plaid Pantry?” I found out the answer to that question later when I learned my beauty doesn’t have working locks.
Number One keeps trying to raise me, but I’m not having it. If he’s not able to produce crispy ones to buy beer at a convenience store, he is not going to be able to resist seven crispy one hundreds. It’s all I have on me and I am I not going to go any higher. I know I won’t have to.
I normally wouldn’t be carrying that much money in my wallet, but I had just been paid under the table for some cosmetology work by a funeral guy who back-owed me quite a bit of cheddar. So this is my golden moment — the kid hands me the keys and the title.
I take the keys and get in the car and drive it the four blocks home. Since I live on a relatively busy street, I decide to park it on a side inlet a few blocks behind my house. I didn’t want the dudes using a spare set of keys after twelve beers and stealing it back. Pretty clever thinking for that “hooker” they thought they were chatting up. I will call my friend, Cowboy Ken, to come out in the morning and change the locks for me. I know that as soon as he hears I’ve bought this thing he’ll want to come see it pronto. He’s just that kind of guy.
I park the beast brilliantly and walk backward, admiring her all the way down the sidewalk. I could finally call her mine: a 1971 silver Cadillac hearse!
I know that even if she’s a lemon I can strip her down and sell the engine block for about $500 because, hey, it’s a Cadillac, Liz’s fantastic ride.
Morning came, the locks were changed, and I thought I would take her out for an inaugural voyage.
I didn’t feel the need to put on a driving cap or wear bright red lipstick or anything dramatic; I just threw on some sweats and tooled her up and down the street, just to check out my smooth ride. It was like riding around on a sumptuous, velvet couch.
I immediately recognized major problems. I filled her up with gas only to learn I would be pulling up to another gas station in not too long. After I parked at a 7-Eleven for a Gulp refill, I strutted about as people checked my beauty out, but she wouldn’t start up. Nothing. Of course the little bastards took the jumper cables so I was out of luck.
Oh, hell’s bells, Lucrezia Borgia! Her name was so apropos, the Italian in me felt the connection.
I drove the hearse, or the “coach” as we say in the funeral biz, to my job at Portland Memorial overlooking the Willamette River, on Monday morning. Everybody had to come out to the parking lot and see it, including seasoned funeral directors who actually thought it was pretty cool. The funeral home secretary thought I should rent it out for funeral services. I left work that day psyched to take advantage of the sunny day and parade her up and down Milwaukie Avenue. I put the key in the ignition and once again, no dice. The damned starter was super faulty. A guy from the Start Mart came out to install a new one. He also said I needed a new alternator and about ten other things. I decided plunking down $125 for a starter was fine as it would at least get the car started so I could drive it home and park it.
I stared at it outside my window. The week went by and then two weeks went by and then three weeks went by, and I was still lifting the blinds just to sneak a peek several times per hour. As much as I loved this awesome, rockin’ vehicle that people dressed up like Dr. Frank N. Furter, and other Rocky Horror characters got excited about, I had to admit it was a lemon of a rig. Also, Lucrezia got something close to nine miles to the gallon.
One average day, something far-fetched happened. I was outside inspecting the dents and scratches on the silver body when a navy blue pickup screeched to a halt across the street. The driver pulled his truck up on the neighbor’s grass, ran over to me at full speed, and spewed, “How much do you want for that hearse?”
“Why would you think it is mine?” I asked him.
“Because of the way you’re looking at it. I can tell it’s your car because of how you are looking at it.”
“Fair enough. She’s mine.”
He ran across the roadway to his truck and ran back. “I’ll buy it for $3,000. I’m going to go home and return, so please be here, okay? Oh my god, I have always wanted this car. I’ve seen it drive around the neighborhood, oh my god, this is so great. Don’t leave, okay? Do me right, okay? You’re going to be here, okay? Don’t leave, okay, ’cause I’m going right now. I’ll be back, okay, don’t leave, okay?”
I was floored, utterly floored. I thought I’d never get rid of this thing. I loved it and hated it at the same time. She was a beautiful angel and a scary monster all in one. I sat on the grass in front of my house staring at Lucrezia. I started to feel the loss already. My last remaining moments with her — if this guy actually came back.
Sure enough, his truck whipped around the corner. He parked and ran over with a white envelope. Inside I saw a whole bunch of $100 bills. Wow. Right here on this busy street in Portland, a guy came out of nowhere and handed me a white envelope with hundreds of dollars. Thousands, actually. It was all there. I handed over the keys and the title, as they had been handed to me a month ago. The guy was literally shaking, he was so excited. I learned that his name was Monte and that the hearse’s new name was The Silver Bullet.
I bid Monte and my fair-weather friend Lucrezia goodbye. I almost felt like I was going to cry, but then I looked at the envelope. I bought her for $700 and I’m standing here free and clear with $3,000. The universe really has an awesome sense of humor.