by Christy Effinger

I remember the day our cars
left town without us.
We came out of the office
at five o’clock
to find them gone.
No note, no goodbye,
just gone.

How many times had they driven us
to work and back again?
How many times had they carried home
groceries and housewares and children?
They took us where we needed to go—
not wanted, but needed to go—
the drugstore, the dry cleaner’s,
the bank;
a child’s cello lesson or
track meet;
the in-laws’ house on Sunday.
Every Sunday.
Every blessed Sunday.

We used to joke
those cars could drive our routes
without us,
but when they finally got the chance,
they didn’t.
When they finally got the chance,
those cars drove straight out of town,
away from our state in four different directions.

The cops found Maria’s car
1200 miles south on a Florida beach,
tires half-buried in sand,
windows down and doors flung open.
There was pelican poop on the windshield,
an empty rum bottle in the backseat.

Ty’s car drove north to Canada,
ran the border and left the road
at the first forest it came to.
It kept going
even when the tires blew out
one by one, even when it was
riding on rims.  And when the rims
bent and the axles broke,
well, then it stopped.
Or so the ranger told us.
He told us, too, of the fox
that claimed the car
for her family—call it Karma,
if you consider Ty’s record of road kill.

Donnie’s car drove itself off a bridge
in Ohio.  We should have seen that coming.
It had been sick for years,
dribbling fluid, sputtering at stoplights,
coughing up white smoke
as it rattled around town.
Workmen hauled its rusted carcass
from the river, gave it a proper burial
in a Cleveland junkyard.  

My car is still missing.
It was last seen
speeding through Kansas,
headed west across the ripening prairie.
But that was years ago,
and I no longer expect
to hear anything.

For a while after my car left me,
I thought about it
each night when I closed the garage door
before bed, wondering if I should
leave the porch light on
just in case.
And I thought about it again
sometimes between dreams:
why the car fled,
where it was going,
and who would find it
when it got there.