The Car(Vignette)
He stood next to the Christmas Tree, looking out the window. It was 6am. The house opposite, normally empty, was busy. The Governor lived there, and with all the problems recently she needed security. They installed a shed in the driveway for the guard on duty. Two black vans were parked out front.
At the Governor’s house the curtains were open, and with the lights on he could see the man sweeping the rooms to confirm no one was hiding behind a couch or lurking in the pantry. The man across the way stopped searching and looked back at him, so he looked away.
They tried to kidnap the Governor in Michigan, he thought, I guess this is just standard procedure now.
He had borrowed his friend's Subaru, and this morning he was driving his wife to work. An older car, it was apparently a favorite of car thieves because it was very easy to get the doors open. The window glass could be pulled back, and then if your arm was skinny you could just reach in and unlock it. The designers must have lived in a law abiding place. His friend lived near a busy street and it was not a law abiding place. People lived in tents there and they had time on their hands. And crime does pass the time. His friend had installed a DIY anti-theft device in the car: a custom toggle switch that turned off the fuel pump. Without the pump, the car would crank, but it wouldn't start. The switch was in an odd place, and so far at least three attempts to steal the car had been thwarted by this switch.
He felt around now for the switch, down by his feet, eyes on the secret service detail opposite. Click.
Then he got the big screwdriver out of the glove box. The first attempt to steal the car meant that the ignition switch had been torn free of the steering column. Now deep in the recesses where it had been there was a slot, and you could stick the screwdriver in that slot and turn the car over. If you had turned the pump on, that is, which of course he had. The car started right up. Good, he thought. He didn't want to ask the secret service for a jump.
The tank was more than half full. Some of that, by rights, was not really his gas. The third attempt to steal the car featured a criminal hobbyist with quite some time on his hands. He tried turning the car over for a while, and correctly guessed that the engine was not getting gas. So he left, and came back half an hour later with a full gas can. He topped the car up, and then tried again. No luck. Defeated, the thief left in search of another way to pass the time.
And so they had some gas they hadn't paid for.
His friend knew all this because he had a front door camera installed. He could watch what happened to his car using this camera. When the thief came back with gas they watched the action like the most recent crime drama from Netflix. Only the actor was right there, on the other side of the door, performing just for them. The camera was a kinky indirection, a voyeurism. Perhaps as this way of life develops they will put chairs outside and watch the action first hand. "Hmm, still won't start, what could it be?", the audience will call out. Everyone can enjoy the crime. Make some popcorn.
As he waited for his wife to come out he adjusted the heat to defog the windshield. He looked over at the black vans, but no one looked back at him. He realized that the Governor's house probably had many cameras, and so he was on camera too. In a car that wasn't his, burning stolen gas.
After he dropped his wife off at work he returned to the same parking spot. Now there were two giant Yukon SUVs. One had the engine still running. She's home, he thought.
In the back window of the car, on the sidewalk side, there was a sign his friend had taped to the window:
"Car is disabled to prevent theft. Please stop trying to steal it."
He felt like the sign might unsettle the Governor and her protectors so he pulled the tape free and put the sign in the glove box along with the screwdriver. Then he toggled the fuel pump switch off.