The BRAT Pack

By BEN R. WILLIAMS

A few months back, my buddy Mike and I went to hang out with our friend Bill.

As fate would have it, the day we went over to Bill’s house was the same day that Bill was selling one of his cars: A 1978 Subaru BRAT.

If you’re not familiar, the BRAT was one of the greatest, weirdest vehicles ever made, a tiny little four-wheel-drive truck with optional plastic jump seats in the bed in case you ever felt like watching your life flash before your eyes on a trip to the grocery store. I love BRATs, as does Bill, but he was planning a big move and needed to shed a few vehicles.

A guy was coming from several states away to buy the BRAT, and Bill had told him to bring a friend to help load it onto his trailer. Bill’s back had been acting up, and he didn’t want to risk aggravating it again, and he also didn’t want to press his two guests into service (which we appreciated).

Nonetheless, the guy showed up that afternoon all by himself.

I want to describe this guy, and I don’t want to be mean, but guess I’m going to be because it’s funnier that way and he’ll never see this.

Imagine that a wizard used a spell a transform an egg into a man, but he wasn’t a very good wizard and the spell stopped halfway through. This was the most egg-like man I have ever seen. He was almost perfectly spherical with a shaved head. He was the individual John Lennon had in mind when he sang “I am the eggman.” This guy looked like an egg is what I’m driving at here.

Bill had a ton of extra parts for the BRAT, including a couple of extra camper tops, and the guy decided to pack those parts in his truck first before loading up the BRAT. From inside the house, we would occasionally see him hustling past the window with a box full of parts from the storage shed. With each pass, he looked more winded and deflated. The three of us were starting to feel pretty bad for the guy, so we went outside to see if he needed any help.

Bill asked the guy if he needed a hand.

“Nah, I’m good!” the guy responded in a chipper voice. “I fell off the trailer a little while ago and I think I dislocated my hip, but I popped it back into place!”

It was clear the man needed a helping hand.

Bill, Mike and myself helped him load the rest of the parts into his truck. It was time to load the BRAT onto the rollback.

The BRAT had been sitting for years, and starting it up and driving it onto the trailer wasn’t an option. Fortunately, the guy had a manual winch on his trailer, so all we had to do was hook the BRAT up to the winch and ratchet it up onto the bed of the trailer.

The only problem was that the moment the BRAT’s engine was past the axle on the trailer, the rollback trailer was going to immediately tip forward and level out. Since the BRAT had to be in neutral, that meant that the second the trailer tipped forward, the BRAT was going to roll forward and probably crash into the back of the guy’s truck. Someone needed to be sitting in the BRAT while it was winched onto the trailer so they could hit the brakes as soon as the trailer tipped forward.

The next thing I knew, I was behind the wheel of the BRAT.

Through the windshield, I watched as the Eggman cranked the lever on his winch. The BRAT slowly inched its way onto the trailer. I hovered my foot over the brake, and my right hand was clasped around the parking brake lever. I was ready for action. The moment the trailer tipped forward, I was going to punch the brake and pull the parking lever simultaneously. There was no room for error. If I failed in my mission, the BRAT would roll forward and crush the Eggman. As a student of literature, I knew that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men would be unable to put him together again. This was a high-stakes operation.

The Eggman cranked the winch. The BRAT inched forward. It was fully on the trailer now, and it would be perhaps 30 seconds, maybe less, before its center of gravity caused the trailer to tip forward. Sweat beaded up at my temples. I gripped the parking lever tightly.

All at once, the trailer tipped with a mighty metal CLANG! I jammed my foot on the brake pedal and jerked up on the parking lever.

The brakes did nothing.

The BRAT soared forward, and as I stared in horror through the windshield, I could see the Eggman attempting to throw himself off the trailer to avoid being crushed. For the rest of my life, the image of his wide, terrified eyes will be seared into my brain. He looked like Lou Costello after seeing a ghost. As he tumbled to the ground, arms pinwheeling, the BRAT’s front wheels banged against the lip of the trailer and came to a stop.

I’ve helped a lot of people move a lot of things over the years, but that’s the only time I’ve nearly racked up a manslaughter charge in the process.

 

 

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