Ethnic Belt Tensioners

Sven looks me in the eye, just for a second, and then returns his gaze to the seventy-five cent hot dog. Any one of the normal human beings passing by would say that the weekly Volvo meet at Ikea was getting tense.

It had started innocently enough, with a burnout competition next to the cart corral. Then it turned into a comparison of homemade flame trap fixes, and an impromptu technical panel on where to find the best fake woodgrain vinyls. But Sven and I had history.


I wish I could say that I was sorry, or even that I still had the portion of my humanity that allowed me to express regret in an authentic way. But I wasn’t and I didn’t.

Sven looked up again from the hot dog, hoping to bridge the gulf between us. He knew that I would see his eagerness as a lack of strength, and I did. But I knew that there was something more beyond our petty squabble. I made the first move, reaching my hand across the table in the ancient Anglo-Saxon gesture of getting along openly despite hating one another secretly. We shook on the deal, and money was finally exchanged.

I stepped out into the parking lot afterward, relieved of one burden but having gained another. Sven’s - my - key sat heavily in my hand, the blow-moulded Volvo plastic already peeling and revealing the secret Ford origins of the motor vehicle I had just taken delivery of for a little bit too much money.

Its titanic husk sat alone in the parking lot, lit from behind by the stark sodium-emulation LED light standards that filled the tarmac like oxeye daisies on a construction site. The XC70 shook on its long-travel suspension in the brisk December wind, and for a split second I could sense its fear.


We had a date with the Corvette junkyard and the portal axle warehouse, I explained to it softly once I was inside. I accentuated my point by punching the throttle hard enough to spin all four mismatched all-seasons from its parking spot to the deserted exit past the cart corral, leaving my own marks atop the site of my defeat in the burnout contest.

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