Ode to an Object

Remember Ode to Joy? That song a piano teacher teaches right away?

Yeah, let’s talk about Odes.

A classic ode is structured in three major parts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. Different forms such as the homostrophic ode and the irregular ode also exist. It is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.

Basically, it’s expressing appreciation/love/praise for an object or person.

Here my example:

Ode to Betsy (the Buick)

I fell in love with Betsy that first sizzlin’ day by the rail tracks. Betsy glistened emerald (or dark booger) as the train’s rumble shook the pavement, rattling pebbles as if they were on a trampoline.

I slid inside and took Betsy for a spin. The milky-eyed salesman sat in the middle of the back seat, leaning forward. When I say milky, I mean glaucoma left partial eyesight in only one eye; the other was sealed whitish-blue. Like an iridescent marble.

As Betsy groaned into drive, Milky Eye’s mothball breath blasted into my air bubble. He pointed at the features: “Heated asscheeks. CD and cassette deck. Enough room in the trunk for five or six bodies, heh-heh-heh.” He nudged my shoulder. No doubt, this guy has murdered people. I did my best to ignore that irrefutable notion. I cranked the radio; Alice in Chains’s “I Stay Away” played.

But I did not stay away from Betsy.

Half an hour later, sitting in the cigarette-cloud office, I was signing papers and nodding like I knew anything about what I was signing. Especially the no returns part.

Oops.

Four thousand in cash. Bam.

Milky Eye smiled, holding his paperwork, a Salem hanging out the side of the his mouth. He flashed his gold tooth and tossed me the keys. Of course, with only one eye functioning, his depth perception was off. The key landed like three feet in front of me. Pathetic—that’s a good word for the toss.

“I got it,” I said, snatching the keys from the shag carpet. Has this been washed since . . . ever?

A month later, that car shop was closed. No idea why. No idea where Milky Eye and his gold tooth went. Maybe he was a low-budget traveling wizard?

It didn’t matter. Betsy the Buick was mine.

Ah, but I missed so much during that test drive. I missed all the signs, all that was flawed with Betsy. But it’s okay. Betsy just needed some love. She needed me. I needed her. (Mainly for getting places.) Anyone else would’ve dumped her at some junkyard. Not me.

I stuck with ol’ Betsy, my junky gal.

Bit-by-bit, Betsy fell apart.

Day one, I notice the gas gauge spun. Like a time machine. Solution: Just remember how much gas in the tank and how many miles per gallon I’m getting. And never forget or I will get stranded and a horror movie will unravel.

Betsy, so unknowable.

Day twenty, the driver-side wiper flings off during a rainstorm. Zipping down I-94, I’m leaning over my friend’s lap, trying to see out her side of the window. Then that wiper flings off. Turns out, Betsy’s wiper motor was roided-up; it was set four-times the normal speed.

Betsy, so strong.

Day forty through sixty-five:  Door-by-door, latches snap off or refuse to work until I only have one working entry point: the passenger side door. When I carpooled, I crawled in first, my . . . caboose in the air like a child crawling through a playground tunnel. Wiggle, wiggle. All right, you can get it now.

Betsy, playing hard-to-get-inside.

But it was okay. All was good. Betsy ran. She got me all across the country; never once did her CD player fail. In fact, I can only remember one time it skipped:

Day . . . five-hundred-something: I’m twenty. (AND IT’S PRESENT TENSE NOW!) It’s snowing. The radio’s warning Wisconsinites to stop driving. For example: “Stop driving,” said the radio.”

I keep driving. Snow peppers my windshield like the sky is a shakin’ salt shaker. I’m driving twenty MPH behind this white car. Long and ugly, like a giant bobsled. The Chevy is swerving left and right.

Without a signal, it whips into a left turn, cutting off oncoming traffic. The Chevy loses control. It drifts sideways down Main Street, blocking the entire road. I slam the breaks, but Betsy’s wheels don’t stop. They’re cue-ball bald.

The wheels don’t stop. Not Betsy.

Betsy, so unpredictable.

I crank the wheel to the right, avoiding the Chevy. The front of Betsy kisses a snowbank. A violent kiss.

Saaa-mooch.

The airbags don’t deploy, so the rearview mirror cushions my face. Blood’s dripping from my forehead like a faucet leak. Drip, drip, drip onto the leather–err, pleather–interior. The hood is scrunched like an accordion, and I almost laugh.

My brain dented and concussed.

Then I remember my license is suspended.

Whoops.

I get out, my vision blurry, my words slurred. “Whaddya do that fir?” No doubt, my brain’s sloshing around like a sponge in a water bucket.

Two girls get out of the car. Both are dressed in Hot Topic gear. A glittery girl wears an Invader Zim t-shirt. She says, “Don’t call the cops, please.”

“Why?”

The other girl–wispy and frail–says, “I’m fourteen. I . . . borrowed this from my boyfriend.”

Wonderful.

I call a friend. His Ford F-15-Million pulls me out of the snow bank. I drive to Wal-Mart’s parking lot where I take a nap to end the headache.

~ ~ ~

Ah, Betsy. I could go on. But I won’t. I don’t need to elaborate on the fun times she and I have had all across America. We both remember them.

It’s about to end soon, though. Nine years now we’ve been together. But her wiper motor is dead. The doctor says it’ll cost $400 to fix. But she’s only worth $250 (according to that judgemental prude Kelley Blue Book). Only one door opens now–the white-handled driver door. My door. Just for me.

I could sell her to a junk yard. But no. Not my Betsy.

Instead, I’m gonna let her rot away in a front yard. I’ll let grass and weeds grow through her. I’ll let her collapsed roof collect rain–patter, patter, pattering. Squirrels and raccoons can hole up in the trunk; after all, it can fit five or six bodies in it, heh-heh-heh.

Oh, Betsy, now I just need to buy a yard in which you can rust away.

Actually, on a second thought . . . that three hundred bucks sounds pretty nice.

Now, write your own Ode to an Object. Post it in the comments.

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Ode to an Object