“The truck is unpainted, punched with dents, and runs heavy to rust. I've had it for just short of twenty years. Last time I got it running, maybe six years ago, the gas tank sprung a leak and all the fuel ran out. I have an abiding affection for the truck. During several lean years, it was the only vehicle I owned. My relationship with the truck has outlasted four of my most enduring romances combined, an observation the parties now departed deserve to claim as a key element in their exoneration. I have watched that truck rust in a heap for far too long, and long to hear it run again. I want to back it out the driveway, clunk the shifter into first gear, and double-clutch my way through the gears until I'm blasting down Five Mile Road like the old days. The truck is on my to-do list. I have a busted screen door on that list. It's been flapping in the breeze since the Clinton administration.”
Michael Perry, author of Population: 485 (reviewed in an earlier edition of this publication) outdoes himself with Truck. Subtitled “A Love Story”, it recounts a year during which Perry struggles to sort out his love life, grow his own food, and live peaceably with his neighbors. The truck in question is an International Harvester L-120, a vehicle Perry acquired during his college days for the grand sum of $150; it is, by his own admission, an ugly truck. However,
“Those of us who covet International pickups nurture a perverse sort of pride. Open the cab and you will catch a whiff of geek. As trucks go, Internationals lack the pop culture resonance of a Ford or Chevy, not do they have the arcane appeal of the rarities – say, a Studebaker Champ. Internationals reside somewhere in the dull middle, associated more with plowed fields than the open road. The heritage of the International Harvester Company is strictly agricultural. Have you heard an International owner make affectionate reference to his truck as a binder? Binder is shorthand for corn binder. How hip can you be, driving a truck nicknamed after an obsolete piece of horse-drawn farm equipment? This is like nicknaming your laptop the slide rule. One feels the geek factor giving way to dork factor.”
In another passage, Perry relates:
“I am a sucker for the idea of a time machine, and sometimes I look at my unmoving truck and quite unoriginally wish that I could have been guy to whom the salesman handed the keys in 1951. I'd like to get a look at the country back then, the big changes coming on, but still a lot of dirt roads over which to roll. I imagine myself bumping down a set of sun-dappled washboards, giving the truck its first coat of dust. Maybe I'd be coming home to a wife, and maybe she'd hear me coming and be waiting on the porch in an apron, waving a dish rag, and I would roll in there guilt-free and anticipating beef roast and green beans, having not yet learned I was a chauvinist piggy. Alternatively, my wife may have been planning to gag me with the dish rag, bind me in the apron, and take my spanking-new truck on the lam.”
Whether musing about love found and lost, the perils of being attacked by wild turkeys, or setting his hair on fire, Perry is a first-rate writer who never takes himself too seriously. Truck doesn't, either – be sure to read all about it!
Copyright © 2007, S. Halversen.
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