Short Story

"Lady Boss"
Jeni Booker Senter
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Charles McDonald adores his car. He doesn't just love it; he is in love with her. Not a single person in his entire thirty-four years of life has ever meant as much to him as the '71 Grabber Blue Boss Mustang. He has spent countless mornings searching for the perfect exhaust headers to boost the already monstrous 330 horses under the hood.  He lies awake nights fantasizing about finding a rare set of the original Magnum 500 15x7-inch wheels for her. He loves the sound of the perfectly tuned solid-lifter 351 Cleveland engine. The deep rumble always starts in his ears, and it ends in his pants. This car gives him a hard-on.  He has spent so many years pampering the car that he cannot imagine life without her.
When he met his wife four years ago, she told him she loved the sharp-looking Mustang. She always wanted to drive her, but he wouldn't let Sheila even sit in the driver's seat. He couldn't bear the thought of someone else touching her, fondling her shifter, placing their body in the driver's seat; it was the same way another man might feel imagining someone else fucking his wife; but in all truth he would rather let a stranger fuck his wife than let his wife drive his car.
After they were married two years ago, she began to complain about how much time he spent with the car. She was jealous of the tender way he rubbed warm wax onto her body, then buffing it off with thousands of caresses.  She knew he was obsessed: no sane person would talk about a car as if it were a person. She thought she might distract him one Saturday by painting herself up like a cheap whore and dressing herself in flimsy lace panties. She even had the nerve to hide his keys and tell him she would give them up when he made love to her the way a husband ought to. It took all his self-control not to strangle her. She had finally left him alone when he told her that she looked like a cheap-ass Nova compared to his Lady Boss. She had cried for hours while he spent the rest of the afternoon polishing the aluminum wheels of the Boss.

Charles walks slowly across the driveway, keys in his hand, and climbs gingerly into the smooth leather driver's seat. He eases the key into the ignition, pushing into her like a lover. He turns the key and she lets out a low growl. He is never disappointed by her sound. She always makes him feel like a man should feel. He reaches with a trembling hand to push back a lock of sun-bleached hair from his muddy brown eyes. As if unclasping a bra, he tenderly opens the glove compartment, takes out his tinted aviators, and slides them onto his face. He adjusts the rear view mirror while revving the engine, warming her up for their run. He takes a deep breath and tries to calm his thumping heart.

Last week, Sheila told him she was pregnant. It felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach. They had spent the last year arguing over his car, and now she wanted him to sell the car and get some counseling. She was convinced that he had some sort of mental illness that made him obsess over the Mustang. A couple months ago, he had finally given in to her demands for attention, just to get her to leave him alone about the car. He took her out for dinner and when they got home, he hadn't even stopped to rinse the road dust from the car. Instead he took Sheila upstairs and screwed her while he imagined himself sliding under the sleek body of the Boss. As he stroked her body, he had pictured his hands making long strokes along the body of the Mustang as he waxed her until he could see the reflection of his swarthy face in the blue paint. When he pumped his seed into his wife, she had called out his name, and the sound of her voice had jolted him out of the fantasy. "Damn it, Sheila, you made me forget to put the car cover on the Mustang!" As he rolled off her and pulled on his boxers, she turned onto her side and said, "You're pathetic." Now, two months later, she was telling him that she has missed her period twice; she was pregnant...

As he makes preparations to take his lovely lady for her final laps, he savors the slick feel of the leather- wrapped steering wheel. He strokes the wheel a few times and brings his right hand up to his nose to breath in the musky, sexy scent of the leather. He reaches down to grasp the stick shift firmly. He pushes in the clutch, and in one quick, perfectly choreographed motion, he thrusts the knob into reverse and stomps on the gas. Yanking the wheel sharply to the left, he spins out of the driveway. Sometimes, he thinks, she likes it rough.
Charles pushes the shifter into first, and with another smooth clutching, he spins the tires until black smoke surrounds the car like a shroud. The tires finally gain enough traction and heat that a bit of rubber melts onto the road. And as the rubber makes contact with the still-smoking rubber left behind on the pavement, the car shoots forward with rocket-like speed. Charles feels his own weight sink into the leather seat as he is pushed back by the powerful forward thrust of the car.

After catching his breath, he'd tried to make some sense of the sounds that were coming from Sheila's mouth. He hadn't heard a fucking thing she'd said since the word 'pregnant'. She'd continued flapping her jaws but the only sound that had come out sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher in "Peanuts". He had shaken his head a couple of times and said, "Wait... You're what?"
"Pregnant. I am having your baby, Charles."
"But how, I mean when, I… Oh shit!"
"You don't have to sound so excited, Charles," she said sarcastically as she rolled her eyes at him.
"I don't know what to say. I mean, we haven't exactly been getting along so great, you know," he mumbled as he fell back onto the couch. "I don't know what you want me to say."
Sheila had looked hurt. She always looked hurt. As annoying as she was, Charles couldn't help thinking that maybe he would have a son - someone to help him with the Mustang...
"Let's talk about it. I'm sorry; I am just a little shocked is all." He looked at Sheila and tried to understand what had made him marry her in the first place.
"You mean you really care?" she said.
"Sure I do. I mean, it's kind of exciting. If we have a boy, he can help me work on the Lady Boss."
Sheila glared at him like some dog she had caught eating shit. "Surely, you can't be serious..."

Sheila had told him then and there that she planned on them selling the Mustang and use the money to build a nursery and to pay the hospital bills. After three hours of arguing, she'd told him she'd had enough. She said she wouldn't play second fiddle to a goddamned car anymore. This was it; it was the fucking car or her. Charles only wished it were that easy. He would have chosen the Lady Boss over Sheila any day of the week. But now, there was the baby. Fuck! If the hag went, she'd take his baby with her.
"Okay, Sheila. You win. We will sell the car."

Now, he speeds past the Quick-Mart on 9nth Avenue and screeches through the yellow light to take a quick left on Shoreline Drive. The sharp turn pushes the 9-inch rear-end with staggered shocks to the limit. He rolls down the window and the moist ocean air rushes past his face and swirls inside the car. As he stomps her accelerator, he smells the hot scent of her rods pistoning in and out as the speedometer reaches 113 miles per hour. He doesn't realize he is biting his lip and crying until a combination of coppery blood and salty tears pools at the corner of his mouth and he touches the solution with the tip of his tongue. "I can't believe it's going to end like this," he says to the Mustang. Showing her indignation, she does not answer. Does she know he has chosen someone else over her?  "At least it isn't another woman," he tells the Mustang. He turns on the radio; he has to have some noise to drown out the whine of the engine. The 351's scream reminds him of what he is about to lose. Nearing the end of town, he slows the car a little as he reaches the end of Shoreline Drive, where the Mustang collector's dealership is located. He feels a sense of impending doom; nothing should ever hurt this bad.
As he steers the love of his life under the gaudy red, blue, and yellow flags stretched above the driveway, he winces at the sign proclaiming SAL’S STANGS. He pulls the Boss into the parking space next to an '89 Mustang GT convertible. Such a gaudy piece of shit compared to his elegant Lady. He rubs his stinging eyes with the palms of his hands, but as he starts to tear himself away from the seat, he hears a loud shrieking from the passenger seat. He almost shits his pants until he realizes it is only his cell ringing.
Good, he thinks. At least this will give me an excuse to sit in her a little while longer. He grabs the cell and flips it open. "Hello," he says into the phone.
"Charles," shouts a familiar voice.
He hears a choking sob, and then Sheila's strangled voice say, "Charles, I am at the clinic. I felt sick and I went to the clinic to see if I could get something to help with my vomiting, but they wanted to give me a check up first. They said the baby is dead, Charles. There isn't a heartbeat anymore. The doctor said it has probably been dead for a while and I just haven't passed the embryo yet. They want to give me something to make me pass it. Where are you? You were supposed to come home after you took that stupid car to the dealer."
Charles can almost picture her flabby chin flapping up and down, her mouth opening and closing as she carries on about what can't be undone. He begins to weep. At first just a few tears come from his tightly squeezed eyelids, and then, as he pushes his palms, still stained with the musky sexiness of the steering wheel leather smell, against his eyes, he begins to cry in big gulping sobs. He doesn't care that the salesman in the greasy-looking green leisure suit is watching him. He doesn't care that the cow of a secretary with the wobbly flap underneath her upper arm is shaking her stiffly sprayed beehive to and fro as she watches him. After he'd spent himself, he sits with his head thrown back against the leather headrest, almost motionless except for a sob that comes into his throat and shakes him. When he finally stops sobbing, he looks at the warm, familiar interior of the Lady Boss. And as his pulse begins to race, and his blood begins to warm, he whispers to himself, almost imperceptibly, "I am free."

Charles takes one last look at the dealer, who by now is staring quite rudely at him through the front window. He reaches for the keys and gives them a smooth turn. The car purrs to life again, the engine smooth and sexy. It is almost as if he had never decided to sell her. She responds to his ministrations beautifully and faithfully. He spins her tires on the pebbly gravel driveway leading out of SAL’S STANGS and pulls back onto Shoreline Drive. He grasps the leather-wrapped steering wheel firmly and presses his foot gently onto the accelerator while slowly letting out the clutch. He glances toward the green sign at the side of the highway that reads: "Miami - 1,112 miles." He shifts the Lady Boss's stick and turns south onto the Freeway heading out of town.
"Sometimes," he says, "she likes it soft and slow."

Director & Animator
Aaron Quinn
explores the macabre
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Coming in October 2010
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Open Books

Open Book Adventure

Animated interpretations of some of literature's
more gruesome stories:

"The Tell Tail Heart"

The Strange Case of Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

A Picture of
Dorian Grey

Release Date:
October 31, 2010

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About the author:
Jeni Booker Senter is a poet, essayist, and journalist devoted to the advancement of women. She is a member of NOW and AAUW. Her writing has earned awards in the Duque Wilson Essay Contest and the LaRoche Memorial Poetry Contest, and she is a contributor to NW Florida Business Climate, Blackwater Review Literary Journal, Journal of South Texas Studies, Socialist Women Magazine: International Women’s Day Edition, A & U Magazine, and Troubadour.