One Page Stories

Car Keys*

Bob was tired from driving over the long road from the neighbouring town; he had just brought his mother back from visiting a friend, and he sank wearily now into his mother’s comfortable armchair and leaned his head back. His thoughts turned to the car they had driven – his grandfather’s ’58 Ford Fairlane. Grandpa Staley had been dead for many years, since before Bob was even born, and now Grandma was gone too, so that the only knowledge Bob had of his grandfather was what his mother could impart to him, and the picture hanging in the hallway – and of course the Fairlane. It ran pretty well, but Bob was concerned about the doors. His mother had said the ignition key was the same as the key to the doors, and the key did in fact fit into the locks, but it didn’t want to turn. Historically, the car had been kept in the garage, but now that they were driving it around more often, he wanted to be able to lock it up.

“I can’t do that if the key doesn’t work,” he murmured to himself. His eyes closed. Maybe the locks are all rusted, he thought as he drifted off to sleep.

He awoke with a start. Grandpa Staley was standing in front of him, peering intently down at him. Bob stared wide-eyed at him, and tried to speak to him, but he couldn’t seem to make any sound. Grandpa Staley bent forward and reached his arm across the chair to the crowded side-table. Amidst the books, knickknacks, and tea-stained mugs sat a small bowl brimming with buttons, pennies, nuts and bolts, and other odds and ends. The old man’s fingers dug into the bowl and fished out a single sliver of metal – a key. He held this key up for Bob to see, dangling it next to a second key that he had in his other hand.

“Do you see the difference?” he asked Bob.

Bob nodded. “They’re shaped differently,” he answered.

Grandpa Staley nodded too. “This is the ignition key,” he said, wiggling the second key. He wiggled the one he had pulled out of the bowl. “This is the door key,” he said.

“Thanks,” Bob said, reaching out for the key. Before he could grab it, he woke up for real, and sat disoriented for a moment. He turned to the side-table, where there was indeed a small bowl, nearly hidden by other items. He wasn’t sure that he had ever seen this bowl before. Hesitantly he reached into the bowl, his fingers pushing aside the pennies and miscellany until he felt the cool smoothness of a key. “Whoa,” he said, pulling the key out and staring at it. It looked just like the one in the dream, and almost – but not quite – identical to the Fairlane’s ignition key.

He got up and went outside, to the Fairlane parked in front of the house. He put the key from the bowl into the door lock. It fit. It turned. The door locked and unlocked without complaint.

Behind him, his mother came to the door of the house. “Bob?” she called. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” he called back. “I found the key to the doors to the car.”

“Really?” his mother said. “I thought the ignition key was the door key.”

“Me too.” Bob locked the Fairlane and walked with the key back toward the house.

“Where was it?” his mother asked. “How did you know it was the door key?”

Bob shrugged. “Grandpa Staley told me,” he said. “Just now.”

*based on actual events.

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