The Mighty Eagle
The American Motors Corporation (AMC) was bought out by Chrysler in 1987, but during the three decades of their existence, they gave us such wonders of the modern roadway as the squat yet spacious Pacer, the sporty AMX, and the off-roading Wagoneer. But no vehicle in their fleet commanded as much respect as the four wheel drive Eagle station wagon.
When my grandfather was looking for a way to spend his hard earned horse track winnings, he considered the obvious choices: Buicks, Oldsmobiles, even Cadillacs. But gramps was a man in the classical sense of the word, and he didn’t have time for streamlined quality or aesthetic beauty. He wanted a machine that could burrow through the trenches of his trailer park when man-sized snow drifts would frighten lesser machines into dead batteries and frozen windshield wiper fluid.
The AMC Eagle wagon he purchased in 1985 had a tan, faux leather interior and a cream body complimented by coffee brown trim. It resembled a fossilized mushroom with an engine fused to the front of it, and after a few pumps of the gas pedal (but not too many, because the engine would flood) it would roar like a lion woken from a dream of drinking cocktails mixed with the organs of dead gazelles.
And upon my sixteenth birthday, the beast became my own. My grandfather had passed a couple years before, and the Eagle spent those lonely 24 months majestically rusting and dripping transmission fluid in our driveway. As I slid across the faux leather driver’s seat, not as a child with a dream, but as a man with an ignition key, a bond was formed that would last through the remainder of my teen years.
The Eagle and I spent our mornings transporting friends to school, and afternoons waving to one another as I swung at softballs during gym class on the fields just beyond the parking lot. At night we would claim the streets, lawns, and medians as our own. From off road jaunts through the goal posts at my old elementary school, to dust storms created along the rubble of road construction projects.
Then one evening, the mighty Eagle would conquer yet another frontier.
We sat grumbling at a stoplight at the intersection of Golf and Barrington Road. The golden arches of a McDonalds added a yellow light to the orange glow of sulfur street lamps. My best friend sat by my side with two more friends sharing the back seat.
Then a Mustang pulled up beside us. It had the classic nineties shape, little more than a Taurus with sharper contours, but it purred with a souped up engine, or at least a souped up muffler.
I turned and made eye contact with the car’s driver. A mocking smirk crept upon his lips. He seemed to find it amusing to be sharing the road with such an unorthodox creature as my Eagle. But I would have the last laugh.
I shifted my car into neutral and pressed the gas. Ancient elm trees knelt to the godlike rumble set forth by six cylinders of American made fury.
The Mustang howled in return, but the slightest trace of fear could be detected in its neigh.
The light turned green. I slammed the Eagle into drive, but pressed the gas slowly to keep her from stalling. We crept over the line with the grace of an ostrich, but the Mustang hesitated. Apparently, its jockey was inept at driving a stick shift. We roared across the intersection, leaving the whimpering nag in our wake, and clutching our fists in victory.
Adam Natali is a freelancer who graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing. His fiction has appeared in The Cynic and Short Story Me, he's done articles for HD Living magazine, and he spent a year as a staff writer at Groupon (www.groupon.com) composing daily deals, merchant profiles, and stupid jokes