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Tools of Vanity

By Leslie Freiberger

My husband Ben and I share everything except his passion for automobiles. I'm sorry, but to me, a car is simply a mode of transportation, not an adjunct to my personality.

That said, I was surprised with his latest purchase.

"I bought a new Prius. We're now green," Ben proclaimed with enthusiasm. 

He doth boast too much; I knew he would have preferred a sexy, gas-guzzling BMW, but with teenage twins heading off to college, it was the smart move. As pedestrian as the Prius seemed, it was better than walking. It's not easy being green, so he bought sporty wheels that cost as much as my minivan. For him, those sporty wheels made the difference between a Gremlin and a Ferrari. For me, it was putting lipstick on a pig, although let's face it, shoes do make the outfit. We named our Prius Hermes, after the Greek God, known for wearing winged sandals.

Lindsay, our daughter, sparkled, seeing herself wearing brassy aviator sunglasses sitting behind that wheel. "Road trip to the beach," she said.

Ben gasped, "No!"

You would have thought she said, "C'mon Pops, let's take this baby out to a Monster Truck Rally and see how it holds up."

"Yes, everyone in," I cheered, overlooking his look of betrayal.

Hermes was going at a good clip when suddenly a loud clap.

"A flat!" Ben moaned while navigating Hermes across lanes of treacherous freeway traffic with the finesse of Captain Sully Sullenberger. Cars swerved to avoid this limping pony until we made it to the narrow strip of the shoulder. 


To take our minds off of the situation I suggested, "Let's play Charades."

"YES, IT IS A PR-I-US." Ben shouted into his cell phone. "WE'RE ON THE FREEWAY."


"THANKS," he ended the call, then asked, "Lindsay, who are you texting?" 

"My group chat saying good-bye to all my friends, in case I die. They're texting back that they love me and will miss me."

Sam looked bewildered. "Wait a minute. Why aren't any of my friends texting me back?"

"Sucks to be you. Let's play." Lindsay made a stabbing motion, then gnawing on her arm.

"John Wayne Gacy," Sam blurted.

"No, that was the guy who dressed up as a clown then killed little kids," I told him.

"Killed kids?" Sam gasped.

The car windows fogged up.

"No! Jeffrey Dahmer. He stabbed people then ate them?" Lindsay rolled her eyes.

"Ate people?" The last of Sam's boyish curls was unraveling. 

Why is it that teenagers are obsessed with horror?

"I think he dressed as a cop, then preyed on unsuspecting people, with car trouble," I said.

Tap. Tap on the outside window. I glanced over and was face to face with a man in a uniform looking in.

Lindsay screamed, "HE'S GONNA KILL US!"

The officer jumped, almost toppling over the guard railing. "Are you folks OK?"

"A flat," Ben said and leaned forward.

"OK. Nice wheels."

Ben beamed.

"Excuse me," Sam questioned, "but am I the only one who thinks we should verify his identification?"

Lindsay whispered into her phone, "I thought for sure we were going to be eaten."

The tow truck rumbled; the grungy tow truck driver shouted, "We need to get to your spare tire, sir, and the special tool to unlock your wheel."

Ben looked puzzled, "a tool?" 

You know what I was thinking? You better find that tool for your overpriced wheels if you want to keep tooling around.

We threw everything onto the highway, including my knockoff Gucci bag, until Ben remembered he saw it in the owner's manual he was reading at home. I was shocked. Who reads the manual?

"Can't change your tire without it; you need a flatbed tow, it’s $250."

TOWED!? They shoot horses, don't they?

Unlike Greek Gods, a Prius does not last forever. Years later, we traded Hermes for a Honda with sensible wheels and named it Stride Rite. 

— Leslie Freiberger

Leslie Freiberger lives in Pasadena, California, in the house she grew up in, with her three children: Jack, 24, and twins Lindsay and Sam, 17. Freiberger is currently working on her first novel. She spends her time enjoying her kids and writing her blog

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