For my tenth birthday my father took me to Eddie Jaeger’s Body Shop, to view wrecked cars. A strange thing to see, all that tortured metal and exploded glass. Eddie and I are army buddies, my father said, we can walk around as long as we want.
It was a July evening, 1960. Steely corpses, a Buick here and a Ford there, were scattered around us. They were mostly detritus from the newly opened Interstate nearby. Echoes from a day’s work hung in the air—sanding, drilling, cursing, laughing, paint that fender, straighten that frame, hand me that wrench.
But there must have been other echoes, jagged and anxious like my father. He may have heard the sound of M-1s firing, or the roar of tanks. He might have remembered snowflakes that fell like incendiary bombs in the Battle of the Bulge, as bodies were laid out by the side of a road and sorted, bagged, and carted away by clattering khaki green trucks with white army stars on the doors. My father once told me he had driven one of those trucks, and maybe he still heard their rumble at Jaeger’s.
For my part, I saw only twisted metal shapes that resembled sci-fi monsters. I heard no distant echoes, and barely sensed that my father’s world was sharper, harder, louder. Weeks later, his crippled Olds 88 appeared at Jaeger’s. When I was much older and had learned to connect dots, I guessed he had reopened the door to a history that had been hovering there and pounding, pounding, even as we strolled through a field of auto-corpses. He had followed the logic of a century, and joined the echoes.
Rudy Koshar's short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Corium, Riptide (forthcoming), Prick of the Spindle, Eclectica, Guernica, and numerous other magazines. As a historian, he has written or edited seven books and over a hundred articles, essays, and reviews. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and blogs at rudykoshar.net and Huffington Post.