A man driving a 1963 Rambler Ambassador throws his cigarette onto the road. Speedy runs him down, knowing the butt-flicker is the owner of the newspaper where he works.
After work, Izzy has an important meeting with Juliana.
The maintenance barn was an inheritance from the days when the country club had been somebody’s farm on the edge of town. It was filled with equipment—mowers, tractors, three-wheeled jitneys for getting around—and a small mountain of 70-pound bags of fertilizer sold by the public works department of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and manufactured by the good people of Milwaukee doing what comes natural to them.
I washed up more thoroughly than usual and sauntered down the lane toward the employee parking lot. Juliana was smoking a cigarette in her family’s Fairlane parked under a tree.
She had her waitress uniform on and it was a little tight, which I later found out was by design, and the top two buttons were undone. It was hot, but having been outside all day I was used to it. She ground her cigarette out in the dashboard ashtray, looking at me with a smile in her eyes.
“You were going to throw that out the window, weren’t you?” I said.
“And have the whole goddamn Boy Scouts of America breathing down my neck?” She fired up the Fairlane, and we rolled in a very well-behaved manner out the entrance road of the country club. I studied her thighs beneath the steering wheel.
It was soon clear that we were not going directly home.
Riding home with his mother from work, Izzy spots a butt-flick from a 1964 Volkswagon bus. In Thailand, the air force was dropping flowers and popcorn from airplanes to celebrate the adoption of a new national constitution. When they get home, Speedy is excited about a constitutional argument about the legal standing of trees.
My father was excited because a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a Minnesotan named William O. Douglas, was there to support the protesters.
“Justice Douglas said that trees and paths and waterways should have the same legal protection that people and corporations have,” my father told us over our hamburgers and salad as the sun began to set. “He said the environment and all its parts should have standing to bring lawsuits in court. It was the damnedest thing I ever heard.”
I was trying to picture trees in a courtroom.
“When I was a kid, we used to go fishing over there and no one gave much thought to the barges on the canal. And then one year, they weren’t there. It was funny to have this big-shot Supreme Court justice and his newsmen and photographers and FBI spies making so much noise about preservation.
“Nobody can bring the barges back,” he said.
Then something came to his mind. “I started to interview this guy who didn’t seem like one of the protesters—his shoes just weren’t right—and he started to tell me why he was there and then stopped. He asked me if I was undercover, which is the most bizarre thing anyone has ever asked me.
“I told him I worked for the paper, and he thought about it for a moment and said he didn’t have anything to tell me.”
June 16, 1968, was Father’s Day.
Izzy comes across a woman enjoying a cigarette in the passenger seat of a 1959 Mercury Monterrey. Later, he and his sister visit their uncle at the hospital.
“‘You’ve got untold worlds that empty into thee,’ I said. His eyes flickered with the strain of struggling to command his voice. Then he looked away.”
Izzy and Speedy follow a kid in a 1957 Buick LeSabre who is looking for a way out of the draft. They end up at a Quaker meeting.
“In the Army, my father also met a soldier who told him about Dick Mobius, a mythical apostle of Herman Melville who started an anonymous society with no leadership, no secret handshake, no dues, no organization and no mission statement. The sect is held together only by its oral tradition: memorizing passages from the tale of the white whale and spouting them when it seems appropriate.”
June 7, 1968, is the first day of the AutoFlick story. Izzy and his father see two kids in a 1965 Triumph Spitfire throw cigarette butts into the road. They follow them to a gas station.
While there, a woman driving a 1963 Chevy Malibu comes into the gas station and drops her cigarette on the pavement, crushing it with the toe of her shoe.
“At the time we were riding to our work that June morning, I had no idea that a social science experiment was about to happen to me.”
AutoFlick has a new cover, and I’m happy to say the novel is now available at two actual bookstores in Bucks County, PA: The Doylestown Bookshop and The Lahaska Bookshop. Go there. Buy lots of books. Tell them I sent you.
And I’ve retooled my online sales strategy. For two years, I have watched in frustration as Amazon sellers undercut the $16 retail price. Within a week after the book was first published, someone was selling a “used” copy for $11. Now, there are people offering the book for $2.
I don’t know how they manage to do this, but I think I made a mistake in how I designated sales channels on Amazon’s CreateSpace program. I have turned off all those options, although I suspect the resellers will continue to offer steeply discounted versions of the book.
The only authorized seller (by me) is my Amazon Seller page. It’s the only way you get a copy with the updated cover.