Monday, July 1, 2013

What's a Marmon?


Glad you asked:
Everything about that behemoth was an anachronism—hand choke, starter button on the floor, a switch instead of a key, a hinged hood that lifted up on both sides, a chrome radiator cap in the form of a naked lady who leaned into the wind. Sid unscrewed the lady, stuck his finger down the pipe, and screwed her back on. He lifted one side of the hood and found the dipstick and pulled it out and carried it to the light and squinted at it and brought it back. With one foot he flattened the folding luggage rack on the running board, opened the door, and climbed in. Squinting down into the shadow, he pulled out the choke. I heard his foot pump the throttle three times.
“Hail Mary full of grease,” he said, and stepped on the starter.
A subterranean grinding, heavy and hoarse. I could imagine pistons the size of gallon jugs trying to move in the cylinders. Sid took his foot off the starter, adjusted the choke, and stepped down again. The grinding resumed, went on patiently for a good minute, grew slower, weakened. Another tired half turn—uh-RUG!—and on the last juice from the battery she coughed, raced, faded, caught again, and was running.
“Ha!” Sid said. He sat nursing her, easing the choke in until she talked to us comfortable. Looking in under the propped hood I could see that the engine was not twelve in line, as I had always half believed, but a V-16. It would have pulled a fire truck. At every stroke a stream of gasoline as thick as my finger must be pulsing through the carburetor. She panted at us in the whiskey-and-emphysema whisper of an Edith Wharton dowager. “Dollar-dollar-dollar-dollar-dollar,” the Marmon said.
—from Crossing to Safety , by Wallace Stegner

Dr. Breed told me that Dr. Hoenikker, as a very young man, had simply abandoned his car in Ilium traffic one morning.
“The police, trying to find out what was holding up traffic,” he said, “found Felix’s car in the middle of everything, its motor running, a cigar burning in the ash tray, fresh flowers in the vases . . .”
“Vases?”
“It was a Marmon, about the size of a switch engine. It had little cut-glass vases on the doorposts, and Felix’s wife used to put fresh flowers in the vases every morning. And there that car was in the middle of traffic.”
“Like the Marie Celeste ,” I suggested.

—from Cat’s Cradle , by Kurt Vonnegut




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