9:00am, Kingsbow, Arkansas: a beat up truck pulls into the parking lot at the Cadillac dealership.
“We can do this,” Becky Collier says to her husband.
“I know.” Ed answers his wife squeezing her hand.
A salesman wastes no time meeting them outside.
“We’d like to buy one of your new Escalades,” Ed tells the salesman.
“Is this a trade-in?”
“No. We’re keeping our old truck.”
The salesman walks the couple out to the lot and they quickly pick out a brand new model with all the bells and whistles. The couple test drive the truck with very little thought.
“We’ll take it.”
The salesman’s surprised how fast and easy he makes the sale. The Colliers are escorted inside where the men spend the next two hours hammering out the money with the dealership’s financial office while Becky waits outside. It’s a tough transaction. They are risking their house and their farm, yet Ed agrees to a $890 a month payment for the next sixty months. He’s afraid to tell his wife how much he took out of their account for the down payment.
By noon, Ed drives the brand new Escalade off the lot with his wife following behind in their old pickup truck.
They meet at McDonalds out by the freeway for a quick lunch. Ed calls to check-in with their daughter, Patricia, in Nevada.
“Yes, honey. I got it. We’ll keep you posted,” he tells her.
Ed and Becky still have a long day ahead of them. Once they finish their value meals, the pair get on I-40 separately in both their new and old trucks for a ninety-minute drive to Starkville, Arkansas. They have an appointment at Stinkie’s Auto Mart.
The two trucks pull into the parking lot right on time. Ed and the owner, Stinkie, have been on the phone a lot the last week.
“It’s good to finally meet you,” Stinkie says. He takes a long look at the Escalade before the three of them go into his makeshift office. The smell of cheap cigars is enough to make Becky want to throw up.
“Okay, so let me get this straight. You want me to take this brand new vehicle off your hands for cash without a title?”
“Yes,” Ed says. “We’ll maintain the financing and make the payments with our bank like nothing happened. You do whatever it is you do with vehicles. If there’s ever a problem, we’ll report the Cadillac stolen.”
“May I ask why you need so much cash?” Stinkie asks after a hefty puff on his cigar.
For the first time all day, Mrs. Collier has something to say. “If you must know, our twenty-two-year-old is transgendered. We need money to pay for her —we call her Patricia now— her sexual reassignment surgery. All the banks refuse our loan request.
Ed turns white as a ghost at his wife’s admission. He’s afraid she has ruined the deal.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “My wife’s very frustrated. We just need the money and hope you can help.”
Stinkie gets up from his desk and looks out the window.
“My son is gay.”
“Yes. He got the shit beat out of him more than once for being gay. It isn’t exactly San Francisco around here.”
The couple watch Stinkie change from a sketchy dealer into a thoughtful father right before their eyes.
“I love my son no matter what he is,” Stinkie says softly.
“Patricia lives in Nevada now. You know it’s not safe ‘round here. The money from that new vehicle plus our savings has to be enough for the surgery and to fly us out to be with her when she gets it done.”
Stinkie sees tears well up in Becky’s eyes.
“I’m impressed with how organized you are, Mrs. Collier. I would be happy to help your family out,” he tells the couple.
The deal is sealed with a handshake: nothing on paper. And like something right out of a movie, Stinkie leaves the room and comes back with a briefcase with over thirty grand in cash. He gives the Colliers a big, smelly bear hug and watches them get into their old pickup with the suitcase. The relieved couple will never see Stinkie or the luxury vehicle again.
Six months later, there’s a new customer at the Stinkie’s Auto Mart. Chris Johnson drove all the way from Alabama in a shiny new Chevy Silverado he bought from a dealer there just yesterday.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Johnson?” Stinkie asks.
“Well… I heard through a friend that you’re a very open minded businessman, and that you’ll wipe a new car for cash? I’m transgendered and have been living as a man for a long while.”
“I’m sorry for your frustration. Please, step into my office, Mr. Johnson,” Stinkie responds.
Dennis Milam Bensie has two books published through Coffeetown Press (SHORN: TOYS TO MEN and ONE GAY AMERICAN). His short stories and poetry have been featured in numerous periodicals. He has also contributed to The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post. His third books, entitled FLIT: A POETRY MASHUP OF CLASSIC LITERATURE will be released next October.