My best friend is Camaro. He lives on the fourth floor, parked near the bathroom. Camaro is pretty cool; he’s big and green, with a black stripe down his hood. Sometimes I sit in Camaro, smelling the leather seats, pretending I’m driving, making the “vroom! vroom!” noises with my mouth.
Lots of times I just lay on Camaro’s roof, and tell him about stuff.
I already told him about my Mama. She left me in the parking garage. I remember a lot of running, then she was holding me, hugging me, kissing me, and I could smell the lotion she’d used on her skin; french vanilla. Then she said: “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”
It’s been a while, though. I counted; I’ve been to sleep 72 times since she left.
“But I have to stay,” I told Camaro. My voice sounded weird against the concrete walls; all flat, like I was talking into a coffee can. “I have to stay, because if I don’t stay where I’m told, I’ll get in trouble.”
Like in Wal-mart. In Wal-mart, I went to look at the bikes and my Mama couldn’t find me, and she had to call over the announcer thing. It said: “Danny! Danny to the front of the store please!”
Camaro is cool but he doesn’t talk much. There was a radio that worked for a little bit, but there was only one station and no music. I like music, I like the “We Will Rock You,” song. I went to a hockey game with my dad and the song came on and everyone stomped their feet and clapped, it was so cool.
Camaro was out of music, though. The radio only played this weird guy who kept saying “Arma-gay-don,” and that I should pray to God and his son, Jesus. I went to Sunday school so I knew a little bit about God and Jesus Christ, but I never really prayed for them. I tried it, though, because the man said everything would be okay if I prayed.
“Please let my mama come back,” I asked God. “I want her back, and we’ll all drive away in Camaro. Okay God?”
That was 65 sleeps ago.
Odessy is a big red van that smells like my grandma. The whole trunk is full of food, but I have to be careful. I was really hungry when I found Odessy (she’s on the third floor) and when I opened the trunk, I found milk and cheese and turkey lunch meat. I made a sandwich from the turkey and cheese, but when I took a bite my stomach turned all green and I threw up all over the ground.
Now I just eat the crackers and the sloppy joe sauce. There’s a big case of water bottles. It took me a long, long time to get it open; I had to use my fingers. I guess that food will run out in a little bit, and I’ll have to go find another car.
A lot of the cars are packed with stuff; books and TVs and video games, jewelry, clothes, camping stuff. I took a blue sleeping bag off a rusty truck and I lay it on Camaro’s front seat when I sleep.
I think something happened. Like a hurricane or an earthquake. I go to the top of the parking garage, the part that has no roof, and look around. I see lots of smoke like there’s fires, cars flipped over, buildings that fell down. But no people.
“I’m the last boy,” I told Camaro one day. I imagined myself as a hero, fighting off zombies and monsters. I found a metal pipe in Camaro’s trunk, and I swing that around like I’m a Jedi Knight.
I have a lot of fun in the parking garage. I run back and forth, up and down the rows of cars. I climb up on them and leap frog from car to car. I got a big rock that I use to break the windows of the cars that aren’t unlocked, and I play with the stuff I find.
I’m glad Camaro was unlocked. Odessy wasn’t, and I had to break her window and the glass got everywhere; I cut my middle finger.
It was fun for a while, not having adults around. I could run everywhere, no one yelled at me to slow down. And I can use swears! When I found that out, I stood on top of Camaro and yelled: “SHIT!”
I felt bad about that, though. My Mama wouldn’t be too happy if she heard me using swears.
Night time is spooky. It gets super dark, so dark that my eyes start to hurt, like the dark is a heavy blanket pushed against my face. I just stay in Camaro at night, huddled up with my sleeping bag. The noises get closer and closer, howling and screaming, growling and scratching, nails on metal, making that chalkboard squeal that makes my teeth hurt.
Last night, they were loudest. Last night was night 73, and I found scratch marks on the cement outside Camaro’s door. I don’t know if it’s monsters or dogs, but they don’t seem like the nice dogs that played at the park Mama and I would walk to.
I’m worried about the monsters but I have an idea. Camaro’s keys were in the glove box (along with these weird rubbery things called TROJAN). Camaro wouldn’t start, though. The lights would turn on and the radio would blare the loud static, but the car wouldn’t rumble and growl, ready to speed away.
I go down the ramps, down to floor #2. The floor numbers are painted on big posts. I walk past all the cars, talking to the ones I know. “Hey, Niss-on. Hi Ford-truck, Hi Honda.” The one I’m looking for is on the far end. It’s a white truck, and there’s a bunch of red cans in the back. I climb in and open one, and the smell that comes out tells me my idea was right.
“Camaro is thirsty, that’s all,” I think as I carry the gas can back up to the fourth level. “He needs juice if he’s gonna run.”
I open the little flap on Camaro’s side and dump the gas in. I spill it all over my shoes, and the smell makes my eyes water and my throat burn, but it’s not a bad smell, it’s just sharp.
I’m smiling and excited when I sit in Camaro’s driver’s seat. Danny is about to drive! 7 years old and the greatest driver in the world. Get ready! I turned the key, and the car coughed, sputtered then turned on, Camaro purring and growling, not like the monsters, but a good growl. A friendly growl.
I start to pull the knob-thingy, the one Mama pulled to make the car go, but I realize I can’t reach the pedals. I look down at my feet, angry at whatever people decided that little kids needed to have little legs. But my mind is pulling up something from a movie I watched. A little kid, like me, driving a car, using a broom stick and sitting on a stack of phonebooks.
I leap out of Camaro and run around to the trunk, pulling out my metal pipe. It’s long, about as long as my leg, so it should work. I throw it on the driver’s seat and start to run away, but I don’t quite know where to go.
Where would phone books be?
I couldn’t think of any phone books, but Odessy had a booster seat in the back seat of her. Booster seats were for babies, of course, but I would be driving, so it wouldn’t be too babyish.
Odessy looks sad when I get to her, so I rub her hood and tell her: “I’m sorry, Odessy. But I have to leave.” I take the booster seat (pink and purple, yuck!) and snap it around my chest, like a backpack, so it’s easier to carry. As I walk back to Camaro, I pretend I’m a spaceman, with my big suit on and the booster seat is really my jetpack.
Camaro is still rumbling when I get to him; he sounds like he really wants to get going. I set the seat down and buckle it in; it was sort of hard because I had to stretch all the way over the seat to do it.
I climb in, and sit behind the wheel, the booster seat letting me see out the windshield better. I take my pipe and look down at the pedals, unsure of which one to press. I shift the stick thing on the side of the wheel down and gently, softly, press the right pedal down a little bit.
The car lurches and I nearly fall off, but I’m smart so I stab the other pedal and the car stops.
One time, I sat on my Bumpa’s lap and drove, but he worked the pedals while I steered.
Breathing hard, I press on the Go pedal again, even softer than before. The car creeps forward, and I start to turn towards the ramps.
I turn too much, though, and Camaro’s front scrapes against another car, and the sound of metal scraping fills the parking garage.
I keep going, holding the stick as still as I can, steering towards the first ramp.
“Good thing you were facing front, Camaro! I don’t think backing up would be easy!”
I turn left, holding the wheel as far as I can, and we cruise down the 4th floor ramp, Camaro speeding up a bit so I take my stick and press on the other pedal, the Not Go pedal. Camaro stops. I let go of the pedal, and Camaro rolls forward. I keep doing this all the way down to the 3rd floor. Then I go straight to turn again, down another ramp.
It takes me a really long time, like, hours, but I get to the bottom, to the exit.
I stare at the exit sign for a while. Can I really leave? What about Odessy? And Ford-truck and Honda-car? Those are my friends!
Camaro is rumbling and I can tell he wants to go, he’s like a puppy who always wants to run and play.
I think of Mama, how she said to “Stay here, I’ll be back,” but it’s hard to see her face in my mind. I have to find my Mama. I’m a big boy and I have to learn to do things for myself.
I press down on Camaro’s Go pedal, and he takes me out of the parking garage,