[This is one of two stories that appeared in the tiny ‘zine, NUTHOUSE. The other is considerably better, so I’m going to reserve that for the next time I want to put out a collection. I thought I was oh so clever with this story. And it is all right, as far as stories go. Here’s the problem: I hadn’t read Avram Davidson’s “Or All the Seas with Oysters” at that point. This is probably the most imitated story in the history of SF. This story isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s so close that the point is moot. This one appeared in NUTHOUSE #78. (Out of curiosity, I looked them up and holy shit! NUTHOUSE is still in business! That’s pretty cool.)]
“Honey, wake up! I think I heard a burglar in the house!”
I tried to ignore her, but when she started rattling me like a bag of Shake and Bake, I had to say something. “It’s prob’ly jus’ the house settling.” Maybe my tone could have been more considerate, but I had to get up for work at five, and I . . .
And I heard something, too. A loud crash from the garage. It sounded like a heavy chain being thrown into an empty swimming pool.
“Please, Harold, check it out!” Even in the dark, I could tell Myrtle’s face was strained in an unattractive, stretched-Silly Putty fashion.
“Fine,” I said, sweeping the blanket from my bare feet. I was about to stand when she grabbed my arm, whispering for me to be careful.
I wanted to say it was nothing, but my hands shook like I had malaria. I’d never been in a fight before. What would I do if I really did find a burglar?
Armed with a golf club, I made my way down the stairs and, though I stepped as lightly as a ballet dancer, my footfalls seemed to echo in my ears. My tremulous journey ended at the door which led to the garage. A hand hovering near the knob, I blew my fear from my chest as quietly as possible.
I was still jittery.
Do it now, before you chicken out.
Good advice. I pushed my way through the door to discover . . . nothing. My eyes scanned the garage left and right, and no one was there.
Except, hadn’t my Mustang been parked in the other space? And vice-versa for Myrtle’s Town Car? Or was it my imagination?
The next day, I went into the garage so I could drive to work. Instead of sticking to my routine, I discovered something that took a sledgehammer to the foundation of every belief I’ve ever harbored in the arena of my mind.
Sucking at the Town Car’s gas tank was a small vehicle, no bigger than a child’s radio-controlled toy, its sleek body pulsing with life, gurgling like a baby.
I shouted for Myrtle to come quickly, just to see if I was crazy or not. She saw it, too. So I called in sick.
We eventually got used to it. There was no explanation, but it stopped bothering us when the baby car began to grow. Before long, I started finding my Mustang in the driveway, as if it decided to sacrifice its comfort in favor of the little one’s.
Soon, we were able to drive the newcomer. It enjoyed long joy rides, especially down country roads in the summer. It bubbled with glee at every new oil change. Whenever the gas tank neared empty, it growled with hunger, and when I filled it up, it often belched. The horn beeped whenever the car was near a sleek new model, and once it sobbed when I got into a fender bender.
Of course, it made us uncomfortable to be inside something that defied all knowledge, but nothing ever happened to make us suspect we weren’t safe. Besides, the car had to come from somewhere. I know I sound crazy, but I think the sound we heard in the garage that night had to be the two cars making love.
One morning, the new car was gone, and my Mustang was back in the garage. After a few days passed without its return, Myrtle wanted to call the police. I managed to talk her out of it on the grounds that no one would believe us. We didn’t have a pink slip, and it wasn’t insured. In short, there were no records.
Myrtle grew depressed, often thinking about the car as if it had been our child. “Do you think he’s with a better family?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said. “It couldn’t stay at home with us forever, you know. It had to move on.”
My reply had no effect on her tears.
“Harold! Come quick!”
I was mowing the lawn when I heard her, and as I considered it an emergency, I ran inside without turning the mower off or even wiping my hands. When I found her, she was standing in front of the open closet.
“Look!” she cried, pointing.
My eyes followed the path of her finger, to our two vacuum cleaners. Between them was a brand new Dustbuster.
And it was gurgling.