"Your car is parked in the second row," the Sixt cashier says, handing LaFontaine the keys and receipt.
They pick up the items and head back toward you, Perry, and Danny.
"So, what did you get us?" Danny asks.
"An Opel. Super cheap."
"Nice one," you quip.
LaFontaine just flashes you a cocky grin and tugs their suitcase behind them, heading for the garage. You follow, hoisting your camera onto your shoulder and pulling your own suitcase. You can't help skipping a little. This Vienna trip is a much needed break after finals. Plus, you've never traveled without your dad holding onto your hand so you're happy to let loose and live a little.
"Geez Hollis, can you keep it down?" Danny asks as your wildly swinging camera nearly nails her in the stomach.
"Whoops, sorry! But I'm just so happy!" You prance around in circles, almost tripping over your suitcase.
"Well, I'm very glad you're having fun Laura. Oh look, is that our car?" Perry shouts excitedly.
You turn to look and immediately regret it. The car is the sorriest hunk of metal you've ever set eyes on. Dented and scratched all over, it reminds you of the wrecks you see in dumps. Except those wrecks look more road worthy than this thing. The car used to be red, but after so many accidents, the paint has been completely stripped off and all you see is ugly rusting metal.
Did LaF make a mistake, you think uncertainly.
"Isn't she beautiful?" LaFontaine lovingly says. They fondly pat the bumper, eliciting a creaking groan from the depths of the hood.
"There's no way I'm getting into that thing. No freaking way," Danny says, stepping back and dragging her suitcase with her.
"It is a little old, dear. How much did you pay for it again?" Perry tries to ask politely.
You hear a note of hysteria in her voice. She's probably itching to clean that car right now. LaFontaine doesn't quite catch on yet.
"That's the thing. It was so cheap! Like ten euros a day," they reply, trying to unlock the driver's side.
The door refuses to budge.
"Uh, a little help guys?"
Danny reluctantly crosses over to them and with a mighty tug, manages to pop the door open. LaFontaine plunks themselves down on the seat. A monstrous yellow cloud of dust erupts from the cloth, engulfing them completely.
"Whew! This, uh, smells a little exotic but no worries! The fun train is now boarding! Choo choo!" LaFontaine says bracingly.
The car resembles nothing remotely close to fun. LaFontaine's face looks like it has been caked with powdered corn flakes. You and Danny exchange looks while Perry nervously giggles before opening the passenger door.
"Well, if we die, we'll die together," Danny huffs. She motions for LaFontaine to open the trunk. They do and you guys load your luggage before climbing into the back seat.
Hopefully, no one dies.
"All righty. So, let's see. To start the car." LaFontaine examines the ignition and sticks the key in, turning it to the right.
The car remains silent.
LaFontaine twists the key to the left and to the right again, a little more forcefully this time.
The car remains stubbornly silent.
"Okay, I'll just get the guy to do it."
LaFontaine rolls down the window manually, but only manages to get it down about half an inch. They spend about a minute trying to figure out how to lower it further but give up panting. They compromise by sticking their mouth as close as possible to the crack and forcing their lips through. You start laughing uncontrollably because they look like one of those fish from Spongebob.
"Hey! You! Could you help me start the car?" they sputter, gallantly ignoring your snorts.
The young attendant lounging against the garage door grumpily slouches over. He peers through the window and motions for LaF to release the clutch. They do while simultaneously turning the key. The car coughs to life, thick black fumes pouring from the exhaust pipe.
"Oh, I see. Thanks!" LaFontaine revs the engine experimentally, causing more vapors to leak out.
The attendant simply raises his eyebrows and walks away, pulling a cigarette from his back pocket. You watch him lean back against the garage door and give you a haughty stare. Clearly, he doesn't have much confidence in LaFontaine. You and Danny share another dark look.
"I hate to be a backseat driver, but do you know how to drive a stick shift? You didn't know how to start it. We can still rent an automatic," Danny points out as the engine makes a painful grinding noise when LaF pulls out of the parking spot.
"Dude, don't worry! I got this. Relax."
LaFontaine puts the car into first gear and gently presses on the accelerator. The car refuses to move.
Danny sighs loudly.
LaFontaine beetles their eyebrows and examines the gearshift.
"Stick shifts are easy. All you have is shift—," here they switch gears again, "the stick."
They press on the gas.
The car abruptly jolts forward, slamming you into the seat. Just as suddenly, the car jerks to a stop and you almost catapult into the windshield. Perry lets out a screech so shrill the glass windows crack, while Danny spits out a flowery string of curse words as she massages her reddening forehead.
"It's okay! I was just testing the brakes. Here we go!" LaFontaine shouts, madly spinning the wheel and changing gears.
Accelerating in sharp bursts, you make your way out of the garage. The attendants laugh openly, pointing at your car and its erratic movements. You feel sick from the lurches but attempt to hold onto your stomach.
LaF's trying their best, you think.
A sharp crack resonates throughout the car.
Beside you, Danny had gripped the door handle so forcefully she accidentally snapped it off.
Perry turns around just in time to see Danny hastily trying to stick the handle back on the door with some mayonnaise. She raises her eyebrows at you but you shrug. You just wonder where Danny found the mayo.
LaFontaine sweats profusely, their armpits stained dark. They jerk the stick shift and mumble under their breath. Granted, you are making progress, albeit in centimeters.
After an hour, you exit the garage. LaF looks proud as they maneuver the car onto the very narrow street.
"We did it! It wasn't that hard, right guys?" LaFontaine says as they nearly run over a biker.
You think it's odd a biker is deliberately riding against the flow of traffic. Perry does so too. She glances around and lets out a terrified scream, pointing at the huge red transport barreling down the lane toward you.
LaFontaine had accidentally turned onto a one-way street.