The names of the cars had thrilled him, from Cousin to Human, by Jane Mayhall

The names of the cars had thrilled him. Hudson and Buick, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Lincoln and Ford, Chevrolet, Studebaker, DeSoto and Dodge; their names stabbed in his heart like weapons of love. And that there should exist fifteen thousand automobiles in the city, and that one of these ready-made vehicles should not, at last, belong rightfully to Norman Cole was beyond his powers of understanding. That the great names, the life-giving names of engine and wheel, General Motors, American Trucking, Goodyear, and Body by Fisher, or that the names of turbine and throttle, axle and pinion, names of steel companies, aluminum, and importers of rubber, that these great dynastic names and name-givers of time and space, in a clamor of pistons, combustion, and fast acceleration, providing the wherewithal to encompass the worlds of America—that these mixed spirits of whose ubieties he knew not, but sensed where they were, omnipresent and unseen, that the magnanimous names and name-fathers of industry should not make it finally possible for Norman to attain and to keep a new car was almost beyond his mind and his reason. The city itself, abounding with the visible influences of whiskey merchants, tobacco tycoons, moguls of metal, the sheer weighty sum of illustrious tradesmen and affluent producers, appeared to present a grand and superlative evidence that opportunity was open to one and to all. “Buy More and Save,” “Dividends and Plus,” “New Heights of Delight.” Ready and open and given to all. On upper Broadway, set beyond intentions of glittering glass, the automobile salesrooms were constantly ablaze with spotlights and mirrors, standing out at night like an electric sunrise. Or, he thought of them by day, opalescent and strange, like transparent caves wherein lolled the comely creatures of self-locomotion; shining with non-breakable windows, bodies of chromium-blue, sable and mauve, crimson or pale yellow—like fish in a formidable bowl, they floated with a beauteous mien.

“Pay Us On Time,” “The Choice Is All Yours,” “Enjoy Yourself While You Can.” Everywhere now, when he saw these advertisements, his secret manhood was touched; Norman felt awakened to a sense of aspiration that he had thought long since dead. That was who he was! Dodge and Plymouth, Buick and Whippet, and sometimes the names seemed almost to have been invented by himself—so near they were to his marrow. He was not an immodest man, and he saw himself in perspective. But was it not finally for him, and others like himself, hard working job-owners who earned what they made, that the sovereign powers were intended? Was it not for him that the cities and the countryside were plotted with roads, and the highways to new adventure? It was the normal way to live, and it only seemed right. Every week, he saw it exhibited there, in Liberty Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post, some vision of stalwart cliffs and frothy cascades, picnic grounds extending three thousand miles long, bewitching, exotic, verdant, and free. Was it not he, himself, who was meant to enjoy the sun-baked desert and green-oaked forest? Lush in the sward and the sweet downy glade. Off the coast of South Carolina, there were isles of romance, fruit-bearing trees and black-tufted palm.

“The World Is Your Own Back Yard!”

Well he knew that, and only required the time yet to prove.

from Cousin to Human, by Jane Mayhall

Leave a Comment