Sunday, November 13, 2011

Drivers Ed

     Randy was sick and tired of people telling him what he could and couldn’t do.
     You can’t talk during movies. You have to wear pants. You can’t eat squirrels at McDonalds.
     It seemed like everywhere he went, Randy was reprimanded and scolded like a little kid. Well, he was 38-years-old and doggone it, if he wanted to teach his beagle to drive a truck then Sparky was going to get a driving lesson!
     His first challenge came when he tried to strap Sparky into the seatbelt. That darn belt just didn’t want to fit him properly. Randy tried twisting it around the little fellow every which way, but it wouldn’t take. Sparky was a good boy and just sat there, passive as ever. He didn’t seem to mind wearing a seatbelt one way or another, but Randy knew he’d hear no end of it from his nosy neighbors if he didn’t at least give the beagle some basic safety precautions. After all, there were a lot of bad drivers out there and you never knew when one of them would ram into his truck with Sparky behind the wheel.
     The seatbelt problem was resolved with about half a roll of duct tape. Once Randy felt Sparky was adequately adhered to the seat, he made sure the little guy was as comfortable as possible. This involved adjusting all the mirrors, tilting the steering wheel down as low as it would go and presetting the radio to Sparky’s favorite classic rock station. Randy pushed the seat forward, too, to move Sparky closer to the pedals. That’s when he noticed his next challenge: getting Sparky’s feet to reach the brake and accelerator.
     Randy cursed under his breath for a bit, then had an idea. He ran around his house and returned with a couple two-by-fours that were barely needed for his back porch. The two-by-fours were just the right length to connect Sparky’s short legs to the pedals, and with a little more duct tape they were in place. Thank god he didn’t have a clutch! Sparky licked the tape a little, but then lost interest and continued to just sit there, happy as a lark.
     Of course, Sparky couldn’t drive without controlling the wheel, but Randy already had a plan for that. He pulled Sparky’s favorite rawhide bone out of his pocket and used a little more duct tape to secure it to the top of the steering wheel, right at the 12 o’clock position. Sure enough, Sparky went at it and could just reach the bone through his improvised seat belt. He gnawed and gnawed that thing, turning the wheel left and right as he did.
     Randy stepped back and looked at his work with approval. There was still the issue of Sparky operating the windshield wipers and turn signals, but Randy didn’t think those things were really necessary; it wasn’t raining and Randy hardly ever used the turn signals himself. The only times he did use them was when he thought he was being followed. He would turn on the left signal just before turning the truck right, then look in the mirror to see if the car behind him behaved strangely. Sparky probably wouldn’t need to learn that trick, though, because he didn’t have as many enemies as Randy did.
     Yep, he thought for sure that Sparky was ready for his first trip down the road. He clapped three times—Sparky’s signal to start the engine, as they discussed over breakfast—but Sparky just sat there, chewing the bone. That’s when Randy realized there was no way for Sparky to turn the key or shift the truck into drive.
     Randy cursed under his breath again, then kicked an old toaster that was sitting on his lawn. He paced around the yard, still cursing, and imagined all those smug faces saying “I told you so!” He put so much work into this project, very nearly 30 minutes, and it infuriated him to see it all go to waste. He plopped himself down on his front steps and held his head in his hands, feeling like a failure. Once again, he couldn’t do what other people told him he couldn’t do.
     Then Sparky barked.
     Randy knew Sparky wanted to cheer him up, but he didn’t think even his best friend could help.
     Sparky barked again.
     Randy tried to ignore him.
     Sparky barked a third time.
     Randy shot up. Sparky was right, they’ve come all this way together and they couldn’t just give up now. He marched over to the truck and re-examined the situation.
     There was just no simple way for Sparky to move that key or the gearshift. If only those operations could be controlled by buttons on the steering wheel that Sparky could push with his nose... that would solve everything, but it would take a long time to build. While he was thinking about it, Sparky let out a small growl. Randy could tell he was anxious to start driving and he didn’t want to let the little guy down. He decided he’d start working on the buttons later, but for now he’d just have to start the car himself and then let Sparky do the rest. After all, Sparky would still be the one driving, despite who cranked the engine. He explained the situation to Sparky and warned him that he wouldn’t be able to shift into reverse yet, so he had to drive very carefully and only move forward.
     Once he felt Sparky understood, he turned the key and the truck roared to life! Randy told Sparky to be brave, and reminded him to stop for sirens like they talked about earlier. Then he shifted the truck into drive and jumped out of the way.
     Overall, Sparky was a decent driver. He had a little trouble with traffic lights, being colorblind and all, but he was a natural at merging onto the highway.

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