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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 18: 29 Apr. 2023
Microfiction: 324 words
By Bella Mahaya Carter

The Magician


Soon after my divorced mother totaled her VW Bug and couldn’t afford a rental, Ford Motor Company announced its contest—a brand-new 1968 Mercury Montego—for the best safety slogan.

Several years earlier, while married, Mom had taken a contesting correspondence course, and won transistor radios, meat-carving sets, bicycles, a washer and dryer, a trip to Hawaii, and was crowned Mrs. Long Island at the New York World’s Fair. These last three wins landed Mom’s beaming face in newspapers.

Ford’s contest featured one pesky rule: contestants had to be twenty-something. Mom was forty-something. But she needed a car.

Her solution was to enter the contest under her cousin Robert’s name. He was a recent college graduate spending his last summer at home with his parents in Middletown, Connecticut. Mom wrote Robert a letter saying that although it was a longshot, if somebody called to say he’d won a car, he should accept.

Mom’s slogan—He who makes time courts disaster—won.

Posed next to the shiny, sleek sedan, Robert’s photo was plastered all over New England newspapers.

His father, Uncle Ben, a trusted and beloved family physician, forced smiles when patients and friends complimented his son’s impressive win.

After the publicity died down Mom apologized long-distance over the phone to Uncle Ben. “It’s been rough without a car,” she said. “And I can barely feed and clothe the girls.”

After promising she’d never do anything like this again, she took a train to the constitution state to pick up her brand-new car.

When my mother pulled into our driveway on a sunny Sunday afternoon in her shimmering, olive-green Mercury Montego, window rolled down, head wrapped in her faded cotton kerchief, and grinning, she asked, “How do you like our new set of wheels?”

My two sisters and I entered the spacious automobile. New car smell. Pristine upholstery. Gleaming handles. It made me wonder what else Mom could pull out of thin air.

Bella Mahaya Carter
Issue 18 (29 April 2023)

is an author, creative writing teacher, and coach who fell in love with micros last spring. Since then, her stories have appeared in The Dribble Drabble Review, The Drabble, and Friday Flash Fiction. One of her stories was nominated for the Best Microfiction 2023 anthology. She lives in Studio City, California, with her husband and daughter.

Author’s website: www.bellamahayacarter.com

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