July 20, 1968

Speedy and Izzy sneak to their neighbor’s house to paste an I Flick Butts bumper sticker on their 1962 Chrysler 300.

I followed his steps to the oak and waited there for his next move. Just beyond the snowball bush was our neighbor’s red 1962 Chrysler 300 glowing under the light over the garage door. I bent low and stole up behind him, leaning on the small of his back.

Window air-conditioning units churned relentlessly, the only noise coming from the house. We would have no warning if someone came out.

He pointed me to a holly tree at the entrance to their driveway. “You can see the front door and the garage door from there,” he whispered. I slinked passed the Chrysler to my lookout near the curb.

Evolution had winnowed away the fins on the 1962 Chrysler 300, but it still had the long, low-slung body and exaggerated rear end of its ancestors. There was a run of chrome that started under the rear window and bracketed what was left of the caudal fin and then returned toward the front of the car over the wheel. There was a tricolor badge where the dorsal fin had been. And a small fortune in chrome slathered all over.

Speedy crawled on all fours to the back of the car. He pulled a length of tape from the roll and pressed it to the fat chrome bumper and then inscribed it: I FLICK BUTTS.

He scampered to join me behind the holly tree. For a moment, we both tried to squeeze into its shadow, which was barely adequate to hide one person.

I thought we were going to reverse the whole procedure and melt back into the woods like good guerrillas, but my father simply stepped into the street and stared up at the stars.

It occurred to me that a better hiding place than the holly tree would have been in plain sight, at the end of our neighbor’s driveway, listening for owls.

As we walked home, I was craning my neck and trying to put together the rest of Ursa Major from the Big Dipper, a puzzle I never really sorted out. People have been seeing a bear up there for over 10,000 years, I thought to myself, but I’m darned if I can see it. And in another 50,000 years, they say, the Big Dipper won’t be there at all. You can doubt planet change all you want, but the universe is moving on no matter what you believe.

 

 

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