“Diamond Girl”- Excerpt From American Spaz The Novel
Later that week, at a corner store, Henry picked up an Auto Shopper magazine. In the evening he sat in bed and perused the car ads while Esther finished the dishes. Endless junkers cried ‘dependable,’ but he wasn’t interested. She came in and sat next to him. “I like this one,” he told her, pointing to a sporty seventies Toyota with tinted windows and chrome rims.
“That’s a thousand dollars,” she said. “How much do you have?”
“I have one thousand four hundred,” he said proudly.
“Maybe you should buy a cheaper car and save the rest, just in case.”
“Just in case what?” He put the Auto Shopper down.
“Well, I was thinking…” she said. “I was thinking maybe you could… I don’t mean to ask for money but maybe you can contribute a few dollars here and there for rent.”
“Oh. Esther, I’m sorry. I completely forgot. I was going to offer to pay some money.”
“No problem,” she said, sincerely. “Sorry I had to bring it up.” She picked up the magazine and began thumbing through it. “What about this one? Six hundred dollars.”
He examined the ad. It was a long, white, four-door car. “What? I’m not driving around in that thing. I’ll look like a grandmom.”
“It’s a more practical car than the one you’re looking at. And it’s newer so it should last longer too.”
“I don’t know.” He flipped through the pages to the other ad. “The Toyota looks newer to me. See how shiny it is,” he said, touching the ad.
Henry went out to the living room. “Hey man,” he said to Willy, who was watching T.V.
Willy nodded without turning to Henry.
“Hey man,” Henry said again, holding out the Auto Shopper magazine this time. “I’m gonna get this car and maybe we can cruise around and stuff.”
Willy looked at the ad while Henry held it. “Really?!” Willy asked. “That’s a nice fuckin’ car!”
“Yeah,” Henry looked at the ad again. “I think I’m gonna buy it tomorrow.”
“Damn motherfucker!” Willy jumped up and extended his hand to Henry. “I like how you operate.”
They shook hands.
Henry woke up several times throughout the night, imagining himself driving the Toyota through Trenton. He pictured himself pulling up at Columbus Park with Esther and picking up Willy. He imagined letting other Latin girls in tight jeans and Wigwams slide in the back with Esther. They all laughed and danced and bounced around to the fast dance rhythm and heavy beat as Henry sped through the streets of Trenton.
In the morning, he called the number in the Toyota ad and made an appointment. Later that day he went to Center Street to see it—on a long block lined with rows of homes. The car wasn’t as shiny as it seemed in the picture, and there were a couple spots where the paint was chipped. But it was spotless inside and out, and had three “Vanillaroma” air freshener trees hanging from the mirror. A Puerto Rican flag hung there too.
“I’ll remove the flag,” the guy said.
“Nah. That’s cool.” Henry reached inside the car and touched the tinted window in the back. “You install the tinting?”
“Professionally installed.” The guy opened the back door. A large speaker lay across the seat. “Kicker” was written on it in block letters.
“Whoa.” Henry ran his hand over it. “I bet that kicks the fucking beats.”
“Oh, I should have told you, the Kicker doesn’t come with the car.”
“Okay. Can I hear it anyway?”
The guy got in the driver’s seat and turned on the stereo. It was the same fast rhythm and dance beat Henry heard before. A man sang passionately.
Henry immediately felt the music move him. “Who’s this?” he asked.
“Oh yeah. Freestyle, right?”
“My girlfriend is half Puerto Rican … so … you know … I know …”
“You know… what?” the guy asked.
“I meant… oh … nothing. Can you turn it up?”
When the guy turned up the music, the speaker in the backseat boomed and the world around them stopped. A man on the street stopped to take a look, and cars slowed down as they passed by. Henry saw all the attention the car was getting. He made some muted dance moves for a few beats.
Then, the guy turned down the stereo. “As I said, the Kicker’s not for sale. It’s going in my new car.”
“Come on, man. How much you want for it?”
“No. Sorry bro.”
“I’ll make it worth your while.” Henry said, rubbing his fingers together to indicate cash.
“You really want it, don’t you?”
“Yeah. Hell, yeah. It belongs in this car.”
“Three hundred,” the guy offered.
“How about two hundred?”
“Deal!” He patted Henry on the back. “Twelve hundred dollars for the whole package!”
“Can I have the Stevie B. tape?”
“I’ll throw it in for thirty more!”
When Henry was a block away from home, Esther heard the thump of the bass. As it got closer, she heard the rhythm and the words. Stevie B. sang “Diamond Girl.” She heard the horn honk but didn’t realize who it was. When she heard it a second time she ran to the window. Henry was standing next to the car with a big smile on his face.
“What do you think?” he called up to her.
Willy came to the other window. “Nice!”
Esther laughed and shook her head.
Later, while sitting in the passenger seat, Esther took the Puerto Rican flag off the rearview mirror. “It’s funny seeing you in this car,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“I just mean it’s strange for me. I picture you in like, a different car—maybe a truck.”
He laughed. “Oh, like I’m a country boy or something?” Henry pulled the rearview mirror toward his face and tried to imagine what he looked like sitting in his new car. He played with his hair.
Then, Willy popped his face in the driver’s side window, startling both of them. “You the man, Kreiser,” he said. He extended his hand to Henry.