Two Dollars to Enter Hell on Earth

by George Thomas

My first preview to the apocalypse was in a junkyard in South Chicago. The earth was a sun-baked plateau of blackened gravel uniformly blended with glass shards from a thousand windshields. The sunlight was as piercing as the pebbles wearing the soles of my shoes. In neat, endless rows cars were lined bumper to bumper, doors ajar, hoods and trunks burst upward — it was a parking lot that had spontaneously combusted, and in one fateful second, the only survivors were the most haggard and dirty of us all, crawling into one chassis and out another in search of salvageable pieces of a world lost to us. I can’t believe they charge you two bucks to enter hell on earth.

I was looking for a “coil pack” to replace the defunct one in a car that I’m driving temporarily, indefinitely, until it requires a repair that exceeds my skill set (which would be any repair more complicated than replacing a coil pack). To describe the junkyard in a less fatalistic way, it’s like an open air supermarket; the way this rusty plethora of automobiles is situated, organized in rows according to make, and in some instances, the effort of bunching the models together, too. Seeing haggard men drag little carts and wheelbarrows through the lot gives the whole scene that surreal sense of being in a grocery store, one that happens to be under a highway overpass, and without a produce section, or any vegetation whatsoever.

By way of pure luck I find a coil pack that hasn’t been pilfered yet. The car, a Pontiac Bonneville, has a current city sticker, meaning the car was just scraped recently. The back end is beat up, but otherwise everything appeared all right. The only trouble is the third screw beside the engine. My hands aren’t that small, and grasping a ratchet makes for short, laborious turns that strain my thumb something awful. Once my plundering of spare car parts is done, I began poking around through glove boxes and under seats. The scrap workers have likely already got a head start, but I wanted to try my hand at filching something good, maybe obscurely valuable. Besides, like I said in a previous post, my net worth is currently pocket change.

Having gone without a smoke all day, stumbling across a book a matches filled me with the hope of grabbing a forgotten pack of cigarettes. During my scavenging, I uncovered a layer of smashed beer cans beneath a backseat cushion that had been ripped from the car and stuffed in the trunk. Whomever drove this car was apt to taking booze cruises, maybe they left half a six pack for me. A beer, a smoke, and if I can find the foreign junkers I could sit in the drivers seat of a totaled BMW and dream under the blistering daylight.

I wouldn’t be so lucky. It’s a wasteland. While combing the interior of a thoroughly decayed Cadillac I found its leather bound owners manual. The manual was clean, unscathed, and brandished the luxurious logo of it namesake on the cover, inlaid with fool’s gold. Hardly crafty, I impressed myself with the idea of turning it into a photo album. Cut out some of plastic photo pockets and bind them in the manual. A little more elbow grease and I could post it on Etsy. I could get twenty of the thirty bucks spent on that coil pack back in my pocket.