In my previous post, I told you about the new writing projects I’ve been working on, and I shared a sneak peek at one of them: the beginning of my Northanger Abbey sequel. Today, I thought I’d give you a little clue about one of the other projects, since I’ve just returned from a week in the place that inspired the story idea: Ashley Lake, near Kallispel, Montanta.
My husband is originally from Kallispel, and his family used to own a cabin on Ashley Lake. Through a serendipitous turn of events, that very same cabin is now back in his extended family, and we’ve generously been invited to use it for our vacation destination the last two summers. The lake itself is beautiful, with some of the clearest turquoise water you’ll ever see outside of the Caribbean. Knowing the history of the cabin makes the spot that much more special for us.
When we were there last summer, someone told us about a sunken car on the far side of the lake. So we paddled our canoe over to take a look. Sure enough, there in about fifteen feet of water was the rusting hulk of a VW bug, the roof and various other parts missing.
I couldn’t help wondering what the story was. Who had owned the car and how had it ended up at the bottom of the lake? It was too far from shore to have been pushed or driven into the water, accidentally or on purpose. VWs used to be reputed pretty air-tight and therefore able to float for several minutes. Had somebody, on a dare or as a prank, rowed it out as far as they could before it sank? The other possibility seemed to be that it had been driven out on the ice in the winter. Was the ice too thin and it had broken through? Or had the car been abandonded there intentionally to sink with the spring thaw? And why?
I’d love to know the answers, but I probably never will. No matter. The wheels were already turning as I began imagining a scenario of my own. Then I got the idea it might be interesting to tell the story from the car’s point of view.
The project sat on the back burner while I finished up The Ladies of Rosings Park, but I kept rolling it over in my mind from time to time. Visiting Ashley Lake and its mysterious sunken VW again this past week has encouraged me to keep working to see what I can make of it. Unfortunately, I haven’t thought of a Jane Austen connection for the story yet!
Here’s the opening. Let me know what you think and if this is the craziest idea I’ve ever come up with. Okay, I know it is, but maybe it’ll work anyway? 🙂
Not all cars have souls. At least that’s what I have concluded after all these years. In fact, I might be the only one. I have looked hundreds – probably thousands – of other vehicles in the face, sending them positive energy and hoping to detect some sign of intelligence in return. But I’m always disappointed. Blank stares; that’s all I ever get. Blank stares and silence.
True communication would be impossible, I realize, even if we all achieved consciousness. Unfortunately our creators haven’t seen fit to give automobiles the ability to speak. Which is very short sighted of them, in my opinion. Think how many accidents could be avoided if one car could simply yell to another, “Hey, watch out! My driver hasn’t seen you, and he’s not going to stop in time!” The real solution, of course, would be self-driving cars. Let’s cut out the middle man and leave the driving to the experts. That’s what I say. Well, maybe someday, but not as of 2007.
Still, I like to think that certain humans possess the ability to connect with beings beyond their own species. Maggie did. I suppose she still does, wherever she is. We had a real connection. I think she might even have loved me, at least enough to give me my own name: Leonard. Maybe that’s how I got my soul too; her love made me worthy of one.
Now look at me. I can hardly believe that a noble VW beetle, especially one who was found soul-worthy, should end in this kind of disgrace. But maybe that’s what happens to us all eventually. I don’t know. We’re used until we show our age and then left to corrode and die somewhere, alone, forgotten, perhaps even stripped of vital parts.
Still, a cold, watery grave seems particularly harsh. In my current predicament, there’s nothing I can do to prevent every passing fish from swimming in and out my open windows and other orifices, nipping at my faded, flaking, powder-blue paint and dropping their filth wherever they please. I try to ignore them… same as I try to ignore the feel of rust eating ever deeper into my steel frame, like some terrible, creeping skin disease. I don’t want to think about what must have happened to my engine by now. And I shudder to imagine what sort of nasty creature has recently made a home for itself in my tailpipe.
What can I say? It’s degrading, and my main consolation is remembering my glory days with Maggie. It was a long time ago now, but I still recall every detail of those few wonderful years. Taking good care of her, especially when danger struck, is what made my whole life worthwhile. Never mind what came afterward. Even knowing the end from the beginning, I would gladly do it all over again.
Now don’t panic! I wouldn’t leave poor Leonard there at the bottom of the lake, fish swimming in and out. Trust me. You know I believe in happy endings!
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth…”Oh, my dear, dear aunt,” she rapturously cried, “what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers… We will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers…” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 27)