After many years of faithful service, it seems as if the transmission in Black Phillip — our trusty 2006 Honda CRV — is in the process of giving up the ghost. We’re steeling ourself up for a full diagnosis at Foster’s Garage at some point, but judging from the noises we’re hearing every time we pull away from a stop sign, we fear the prognosis our coveralled automotive physician will deliver will not be good. Given what a transmission replacement costs, this may be curtains for ol’ Phillip, which already sports 190,000 miles, assorted squeaks and rattles, a hole in the floor mat where The Observer’s heel rests when driving, and at least one tire that’s as bald as Donald Trump would be had he not had a golden marmoset pelt shoddily grafted to his head at some point.
Black Phillip has been with us quite a while now, purchased to replace Green Phillip, then known as just Phillip, which was yet another Honda CRV we owned for a little over a year. Green Phillip’s catlike reflexes managed to save Spouse’s life some years back when, as Spouse was returning late one night from The Observer’s aunt’s house way out in the wilds of Pulaski County, she was nearly struck head on by a driver so drunk he couldn’t even stand up to take the Breathalyzer test when the cops arrived to shuffle him off to the hoosegow. Spouse saw the headlights weren’t veering at the last possible moment to swerve, and instead of performing an impromptu physics experiment in which the drunken idiot in the other vehicle attempted to make six tons of steel and glass come to a sudden and bloody stop at 50 miles per hour, the potted dumbass hit Green Phillip at an angle, gouging the driver’s side into modern art, exploding nearly every window in the car, and ripping the rear axle out and sending it skittering across the pavement in a shower of sparks and mechanical clatter that surely woke every dog and little old lady for miles around.
Green Phillip, his life given for Spouse’s continued existence and her Old Man’s continued happiness, went where the good cars go. The Observer and Spouse, meanwhile, soon found Black Phillip on a North Little Rock car lot with low miles, all-wheel drive for the winter, a sunroof for the summer and a price we could afford. He’s served ever since, hauling Junior around as he went from car seat to booster to his legs being so long they rubbed the back of the front seat no matter how far his dear Ma slid hers forward. Motored us down to the Redneck Riviera a few times, and up to North Arkansas more times than The Observer can count. There were hospital runs and beer runs and drives along back roads out in the sticks with the sunroof open and the radio on, ol’ Black Phillip rarely wanting for anything except oil changes, tires, brake pads and a short drink at the pump from time to time. Them Hondas, sons and daughters. They’ve got the magic in them.
The Observer has always been a sap about cars, as you know if you’ve ever read this space. Born with 30-weight motor oil in our veins, automobiles have long been more than just modes of transportation to Yours Truly. We name them all, and mourn them when they’re gone. Our primary mode of transpo right now is Abilene, a midnight-blue Honda CRV of more recent vintage, named for where we found her, on a pre-owned lot of a vast Texas car dealership. We’ve since rolled over 75 thou on her odometer, with no more trouble than the Phillips ever gave.
No matter what diagnosis we get from the world’s last honest mechanics at Foster’s in the next few weeks, we’ll always have a soft spot for the Phillips, Black and Green, which were the first truly reliable cars Spouse and Her Loving Man owned after a series of wired-together jalopies that were always in need of some kind of work. With the Phillips, we could just get in and drive without worrying about getting there. That’s a kind of freedom one can’t imagine until you’ve experienced it.
And so, for now, we prepare for the bad news. We pull away from stop signs gingerly, and recall the good times. We hope for the best for our four-wheeled friend, and ponder over what our next car will be. Whatever the case, Black Phillip is surely due a long rest after years of carrying us through.