Black Tulip

Fiction Feature

Later she wondered if she’d heard the thump before or after she looked out the window.  Not that it mattered—what mattered was she’d heard it.  If she’d gone to work, she wouldn’t have heard it, nor would she be gazing out the window now.  He was down below, exactly where she’d seen him earlier, legs protruding from underneath his ’73 MGB.

He loved his MGB.  The car hovered on the brink of decay when he bought it years ago, just after they got married.  The MGB would be a summer car, he said, something to run around in with the top down while heads swivelled in envy.  In all these years not once had they driven the car in summer, nor at any other time.  It became a project car—an endless project, perpetually requiring just a few months’ more work to get it on the road.

Last year he finished the body work and had the car painted.  Black Tulip.  Not the original colour of that car yet still on MG’s paint palette.  An elusive, changing colour—in one light moody black, in another light appearing purple, like a bruise.

He loved that car as much as he loved his wife.  Despite the disappointment of not yet parading the MGB up the street, he often rolled it to the front yard.  In the shade of the maple tree, he washed and buffed the car.  The neighbours smiled at each other, eyebrows raised, seeing him crouched at the fender, rubbing at imaginary specks in the metallic paint and caressing the chrome.

Never did he show his frustration with the car until he’d rolled out of sight behind the house.  She’d often watched him from the window as he swore at the car if his wrench slipped or a part wouldn’t go on the way he thought it should.  She’d seen him pound the car with his fists or throw a tool at it.   Even in those moments when he lost control of his temper, he would—usually—remember not to strike the car on its glossy Black Tulip body.

Temper spent, he’d walk away for a while.  But his love for the MGB drew him back, and he’d croon and caress it and promise himself he’d buy a new side mirror or some other chrome trinket to assuage his soul.  Then he’d get back to work.  To the endless task of making the car perfect.

She looked down at him now, where he’d been working on the car’s exhaust.  His legs perfectly relaxed, as if he’d fallen asleep.  The jack sprawled on the asphalt beside his legs.  The car now propped up only by his crushed torso.

She turned from the window, her hand hesitating over the phone.  She pulled her hand back, lightly touching her face.  Then she went to the mirror and looked at the marks half-hidden by her hair.  Purple, like smudges of Black Tulip.

She decided she’d go to work after all.