Author’s Note: So, for a very, very brief time, my dad owned a truck like the one Mac and Mackenna have, but we never gave it a nickname since we only had it for the briefest of times. Kept its camper for a lot longer, though…
“Is there any hope?” Carson asked, peering under the hood, not sure what he was seeing, since he knew so little about engines. He tried to pick out what he did know—there was the battery, the radiator, the fan, maybe, the windshield wiper thing—and that just left him feeling more pathetic than before. He didn’t know anything about cars.
She’d probably just laugh and tell him that was what he had her for, and she was right, but he didn’t think he wanted to be dependent on her forever. Bad enough he couldn’t seem to cope with his own mind without her, but he could at least learn basic maintenance for a car, couldn’t he?
“Maybe,” she said, crawling out from underneath the truck. “Go ahead and start it for me, would you? Or try to start it? We’ll see if that did anything, or if I should stop calling myself a mechanic.”
“Because one truck won’t start, you’re going to give up your right to your profession?”
She laughed. “This isn’t a profession. I’m a girl. This is a lark, a hobby, a joke—”
“No, it’s not, and you’ve never talked like that before. Even when you thought I was a chauvinist, you never made it seem like you thought—like everyone treated you like you couldn’t fix a car because you’re a woman. Do they? Is that how all these guys at the Legion and people on the run are? Really? Because if it is—”
“Wow, you are so protective. Larry and Nick taught you well,” she said, reaching over to touch his cheek. He felt something on his skin, rough and gritty, and he figured she’d gotten grease on him now. She pulled her hand down and grimaced. “Sorry. I was just teasing. I forgot how dirty my hands get, especially with this monster. He leaks.”
“He? I thought the cars were all female.”
“That would be sexist.”
Carson laughed. “I see. So the ones you like are female and the ones you don’t are male? Now who is being—”
“Shh. Don’t say I don’t like him. He’s the only man in my life besides Mac. Well, and you,” Mackenna said, giving the truck a pat. Carson shook his head. Unbelievable. She could be so… He didn’t want to say frustrating, but she was always pushing some kind of button, wasn’t she? Either she was pushing him or teasing him, and he knew he needed the one and could put up with the other, but still… He kept finding himself in moments like this where he didn’t know if he should laugh or walk away.
No, that wasn’t right, either. He knew enough to know that he couldn’t walk away. He needed her, and he couldn’t ignore that. He didn’t know why they’d ended up so tangled in each other’s lives, but they were. No going back now. Unless they had some kind of huge fight, they’d be friends for the rest of their lives.
“Oh, I know what it is,” he said, almost gleeful when he realized he might be able to tease her for a change. “The truck is a he because it’s all manly, does the work, hauls the trailer, is considered a symbol of masculinity—”
“Guzzles everything it can, chain smokes, and has gas problems? That the kind of manly you mean?”
“You really do hate men, don’t you?”
“Can’t hate you. You’re too much fun to tease,” Mackenna told him with a grin. He rolled his eyes. “No, actually, I thought Shadow was a ‘guy’ first, but I ended up using the feminine form since Mac called her ‘she’ and the last thing a car needs is gender confusion.”
“Besides, with a name like ‘the Woodsman,’ you can’t call the truck a ‘she.’”
“Yep,” she said, waving him over to the side of the truck where a plate with the words Custom Camper was, opening the compartment next to it. Carson frowned when he saw the firewood stored there, hidden away in a little spot almost under the cab. He’d never seen that feature before. “I guess my dad named it that years and years ago. So, anyway, I just can’t bring myself to call The Woodsman a ‘she,’ even if the rest of the cars are ‘girls.’ Well, ‘ladies’ is a more fitting description.”
“Why? Because they’re a hundred years old? That’s young yet.”
She laughed. “True. They’ve got a long life ahead of them.”
“Is it hard to work on the truck, knowing its connection to your dad?”
She shook her head. “No. I never knew him, don’t have anything to associate with him. It’s not the same for me. If it was my uncle, maybe, but not my dad. My dad’s just… He was a genetic donor, and I know it shouldn’t be that way because they did love me and all, but my uncle raised me, not them. Those are the people that matter—my uncle and Mac. That’s it. Even when Mac tells me about my parents, I don’t feel any different, don’t really seem to care. That’s wrong, isn’t it?”
He shook his head. “I think it’s understandable. It’s like… if you were adopted, the ones that raised you are your parents, right? Just because someone caused your birth doesn’t necessarily give them any rights. I mean—no one would think a rapist had a right to his kid, would they?”
“Depends on the circumstances and if he was married or dating the woman at the time or if he’s just a good liar, but yeah, I get your point.”
Carson grimaced. “Okay, subject change. Let’s try a song about… um…”
“Camping? Hello, Muddah, hello, Faddah, here I am in Camp Grenada…”
Perfect. She’d picked one that he knew. “Camp is very entertaining, and they say we’ll have fun when it stops raining.”
She giggled, reaching into the cab of the truck and turning over the key. The truck gurgled, sputtering some, but it came to life, and she grinned. “Ah, now I know the secret. I’ll have to make you sing to him from now on. I think he likes you.”
“Oh?” Carson asked. “I’m not so sure I like you.”