“Peggy, this is Bert. What did you do to Betty Blue?”
He knew she had been on vacation, but hadn’t known where she was going. These kinds of details were left out now, the steady wearing away of the need to inform each other of their comings and goings and plans. It had taken awhile for this to happen, their years of loyalty to each other gradually being replaced with new allegiances, little by little, like a long, slow dissolve in a movie.
He could think of nothing else to say over the phone. He was so distraught when he had walked out to the carport to assess the damage that he had lost his voice. It wasn’t just Betty Blue’s left side that had been vandalized, it was her right side too, the whole of that magnificent ’59 T-Bird, the container of all his pride and joy, the protector of his youth and vigor, violated in one unspeakable act. He felt like she had been raped. The creamy sky blue paint he had worked so hard to get just right, the soft curves of her fenders, the long sleek smoothness of her rear end, all had become old and used up over night.
He had talked with Peggy the day before, an uncomfortable discussion about which one of them would file the divorce papers, something she herself was pushing for. She had been so secretive about the trip she was taking the next day, he hadn’t known even if it would be in the country or out. He calculated just how long it would have taken her to get to the Missoula airport, fly into the San Francisco airport, rent a car and drive over the bridge to Walnut Creek. Maybe five, six hours in all? Plenty of time to get here, plenty of remaining night hours to accomplish the deed.
Why hadn’t he woken up? Betty Blue’s smashed fenders and shattered windshield, you don’t make that kind of ruckus without someone waking up. He knew his hearing was going a bit – “I can hear just fine” he had told her when she had commented on this – but he was vigilant about everything to do with Betty Blue. How could this have happened?
“Yoouu, whooo, Mr. Grunwald!” Bert jerked his hand off of Betty Blue’s taillight and looked up. It was Mrs. Chapin, Wanda Chapin, coming down the street with her chitsu Beastie. He was straining on the leash as if he couldn’t wait to get there.