Fast Car (inspired by Tracy Chapman)

This is the first installment of a series of stories inspired by Great Songs! Some stories/plots/characters are directly taken from the song’s lyrics. Some are inspired by a general feeling the song gives me. I’ve already received many ideas for songs to “Cover”, But if you know a song that would make a Great Story, Comment below!

I would recommend listening to Fast Car by Tracy Chapman AFTER reading

Fast Car

Tracy is folding laundry as her father watches a World War II documentary on Channel 11. It is a very small apartment on the West Side of Chicago. Light jazz hums from the kitchen radio, which is always on, whether anyone is in the kitchen, not, or the apartment is completely empty. On the wall hangs a diploma from Triton College. It is Tracy’s Associate’s degree for Social Work—she really wanted to be a teacher, but she heard that the Social Work program was much easier and, being the first person in her family to try college, easier seemed smarter. The rest of the walls were exposed brick—accidently trendy, nothing to adorn them. Without air conditioning, the windows were all open, which let a saving breeze steal through their house.
Tracy is a black, Christian, hard-working women. She is also a democrat, convenience-store clerk, and heterosexual, but she didn’t have much input in identities so she didn’t wear them as pridefully. She wasn’t particularly attractive by today’s standards, but there was an undeniable magnetism to her face, with the roundness and sweetness of a batch of brioche.
Tracy’s Father, Troy, was hardly 50 years old, but his rusted, deflated frame made him look 80, if a day. He is on kidney Dialysis, so he never leaves his recliner in front of the TV, which he hoards and never strays from channel 11, WTTW Chicago, and Fox news.
Tracy’s children, Vanessa, lil D (DeAundray), and Tonee, were in 1st, 4th, and 8th grades, respectively. Since Tracy worked most hours of most days, the three of them were almost always together, Tonee helping with his younger siblings as much as possible.
Aundray has been in and out of the house for the past 13 years. Tracy and Aundray have kids together and are currently engaged—for the past two years. Aundray is a very large man and often struggles to manage rooms without looking clumsy. As a high-school football star, his tremendous size was a blessing, but now he often feels self-conscious of looking like an old bear, which was one of the reasons he bought the ’97 Ford Mustang.

Scene I
Tracy: I told you, I’m not gonna change the channel again. I just changed it 10 minutes ago and I ain’t got time to play your remote control…got too much to do around here anyway. If you’d stop throwing those damn remotes every time you get bothered, you could change the channel whenever you want.
Troy: Well, isn’t that what a daughter’s supposed to do, anyway? Serve thy father. I brought you into this world, gave you the precious gift of life…the least you could do is change the channel, time to time.
Tracy: Shoot; I’ve been serving you my whole life. I’m ‘bout ready to serve myself and get the hell out uh this God forsaken city.
Troy: Oh yeah? And where you gonna go—wit your black ass? California? Paris? You always dreamin’
Tracy: And who asked you?!
Troy: I used to make dreams too, you know. Before you was born. I had a clarinet, was gonna be a professional musician, until I met your mother and had you and your brother. Couldn’t go around playin’ my music anymore—had to get a job and stay ‘round and take care of you little niggas. Yeah, I woke up from dreamin’ real quick, and you will too someday.
Tracy: Please, I heard that story a thousand times and you know it ain’t true. You just makin’ excuses. I heard your band when I was a kid and I knew it wasn’t good, even as a child. And I’m serious… I already looked at schools for the kids; I just need to save up $2,300 and we gonna move to Des Plaines. It ain’t far, but they got good schools and we won’t get snapped awake by gunshots every damn night.
Troy: Oh, is that it? Just 23 hundred dollars, well here, I happen to have that in my pocket right now. Pshhh
Tracy: Oh shut your mouth. I already got six fifty saved and…
Troy: And where you gonna get 2 large? The devil? Why don’t you go on down to the liquor store—I think I saw him down there the other day. And pick me up some Canadian Club while you down there.
Tracy: No! I’m gonna make Aundray sell the Mustang. And you know you can’t have no alcohol, you old fool. You’ll kill ya’self.
Troy: Ha! Good luck! Aundray love that car more than anything in the whole world. He love it more than God.
Tracy: Now you stop talking like that—taking our Lord’s name in vain.
Troy: You know it’s true. And YOU love it too; Don’t bother pretending like you don’t. It’s about the only damn thing around here worth a raccoon’s shit.
Tracy: I never said I don’t like it. I said we got priorities, like the kids—not to mention there ain’t no Dialysis centers in Garfield Park—we need to get your broken-ass outta here too.
Troy: Don’t worry ‘bout my ass, just go down to the liquor store and talk to the devil about gettin’ your money and my whiskey, like I told you.
Tracy: Doctor Goldenberg said not to drink no alcohol. I ain’t got time to be taking old, stupid men to the hospital.
Troy: Ah shit. I ain’t scared of death! At least I wouldn’t be stuck in this chair, watchin’ this boring old show!
Tracy audibly exhales, puts down the shirt she’s folding, and walks over to the TV to change the channel. Just then, her children—Vanessa, lil D, and Tonee—get home from school.
Vanessa: Hey Mommy!
Tracy: Hey sweetie!
Tonee: What’s good mom? You got that 20 for school?
Tracy: I’m sorry baby; we can’t afford it this week. Ask your teacher if you can just go on the field trip and I’ll pay it later.
Troy: You just said you got 6-50 in the bank.
Tracy: Shut up, you old fool! That money is for something else. You know that!
Tonnee: Ma! What the fuck, I can’t go to school beggin’ again!
Tracy: Watch your mouth young man! Don’t make me smack some manners into you.
Tonnee: God! I hate this family! And I hate you, ma! Tonee runs to his room. Tracy watches him go, arms akimbo, with a firm face and clenched lips.
Vanessa: I don’t hate you mommy. I love you!
Tracy: Thank you sugar. I love you too, very much. {Tracy picks her up and kisses her head.} DeAundray, how was school today? Did you give miss Davis that letter I gave you to give her?
Lil D: Yes, momma
Tracy: Thank you, dear. {Tracy walks to the back of the room and pulls a plastic bag from her backpack} Guess what mommy got from work?!
Vanessa: a turtle!
Lil D: a puppy!
Troy: Hepatitis.
Tracy: No… All the ice-cream was out-of-date, so the manager said I could take ‘em home.
Lil D &Vanessa exclaim in excitement.
Troy: God, when you gonna quite that raggedy old convenience store? Get bossed around by a bunch of cheap Hindus! What a racket.
Tracy: Oh, hush! Mr. Patel is a very nice man. And he pays me enough to take care of your old black ass. So don’t be foul!
Vanessa: I want some ice-cream mommy. Can I have one? Vanessa tilts her head and designs her most pitifully adorable face.
Tracy: No sugar, you’re too sweet as it is and I don’t want you kids spoilin your dinner.
Lil D: Ahhh, mama! I won’t spoil my dinner! I’ll eat every bite, I promise. Even the plants!
Tracy: Yeeeaaah, right! You two finish every bite of dinner and THEN, I’ll give you some ice-cream.
Vanessa & lil D squeal in excitement.
Tracy goes back to folding laundry, while Vanessa and Lil D run out of the room. (Presumably to their bedroom). While Tracy greeted the kids, Troy fell asleep watching TV and is snoring. All is quiet; a soothing boredom cradles the moment. Soon, the peace is scattered by Aundray clumsily opening the front door, trying to use keys on an already unlocked door.
Aundray: Hey’ey! If it isn’t my beautiful wife!
Troy awakens with a gasp and turns the TV up, ignoring the ensuing discussion.
Tracy: Don’t you “Beautiful wife” me nothin’, Aundray. We ain’t married, and you’re drunk. Good Lord, I can smell it from here.
Aundray: I ain’t drunk! Cain’t I be happy to see my exquisite woman?!
Tracy: I ain’t your woman to own, Aundray. And where was you last night? Why you ain’t come home? I’d’ve been up worried sick all night, if I hadn’t done it too many times before to know better.
Aundray: C’mon. You’re the one who said you didn’t want me drinkin’ n drivin’ anymore. Me and the boys had a few and I didn’t want to drink and drive, so I spent the night at Donnie’s. Ain’t that what you said to do?
Tracy: I didn’t say to stay there till no damn 4 in the afternoon the next day! And y’all are too damn old to be boys. Y’all need to start ackin’ like men. You need to get a job, so we can get out of this place already.
Aundray: I will baby. You know how goddamn hard it is for a Black man to get a job wit a felony on his back.
Tracy: You wouldn’t of had a record at all if you wasn’t sellin’ drugs.
Aundray: If I wasn’t sellin drugs, I wouldn’t of had no money. I wouldn’t have had no car, no food. I wouldn’t uh had you! You know you never would’ve kicked it wit me if I wasn’t driving you around in the Mustang, takin’ you shopping and all that. So don’t get all high and mighty on me now. You weren’t singin’ that tune when I was givin’ you money to get yo hair done.
Tracy: Nigga, I wish you would give me money for rent, right now. That was years ago and I was too young and ignorant to know the difference between a wannabe player and a real man wit a real job.
Aundray: ughhh
Tracy: And that reminds me, we need to sell that wrachet ole Mustang so we can put the deposit on the duplex.
Aundray: Woman, you must be out of your mind! That’s my baby! I wouldn’t sell her if God himself came down and put a lightning bolt to my head.
Tracy: What about your real babies, Aundray? What about me? I thought I was your baby? C’mon Dre, you know we can’t have our kids growin’ up ‘round all this shit. Mr. Patel said he’d give me a raise at the end of the year. And out in the suburbs, there’s jobs. You could get a job out there, easy. Those white folk in the suburbs feel so guilty, they’ll hire you because you been to prison. Please, Aundray, ain’t nothing for us here. Now I need your help, Aundray. I need you to start takin some responsibility ‘round here.
Aundray: Ok. Fine! I’ll take some responsibility. I’m gonna go out and get a job right this instant! And I ain’t comin’ back till I got one! Aundray heads toward his jacket and puts it on.
Tracy: Nigga, you ain’t getting no job right now. You still drunk! Now get your black ass in the shower and get ready for dinner. It’s about time the kids got to have super with their father.
Aundray: Those kids don’t give a damn if I’m here or not. And DeAundray ain’t even mine. Just cause you named him after me don’t make him mine.
Tracy: Oh stop that nonsense and get the shower.
Aundray: No I’m serious! I’m gonna go out and get a job, right, now! And It’s gonna be better than yo job, so don’t bother axin’ me for no spendin’ money. Aundray leaves, still rambling angrily, and slams the door behind him. Tracy wants to cry, but holds it in and goes back to folding laundry.
Troy: Now why you gotta drive the boy away like that. You ain’t never gonna keep a man around, hounding him like that. You’re just like your mother.
Tracy: Oh, Please. Ma left You. Don’t pretend like she was the problem. If you wasn’t livin’ in a bottle, I wouldn’t have had to quit school to take her place takin’ care of you, and I could be a nurse by now, makin’ real money. So don’t you go blamin’ Ma for nothing!
Troy: I’m just sayin’, if you keep riding the boy’s back, it’s not gonna make him want to hang around here any more than he does.
Tracy: Well, I ain’t got no choice. I can’t keep bein’ the only one bringin’ a check anymore. And I ain’t gonna take the kids back to the shelter. I don’t know why he gotta be so selfish? We need the money. The kids need the money. If he’d just sell that ole stupid car and get a job, we’d be all-good, and wouldn’t have to worry about all this basic… stuff (mumbled).
Troy: You don’t understand. It ain’t just a car to the boy. It’s all he got! He ain’t got no job, and he’s right, with that record, he ain’t never gonna get one. He ain’t got no money…no home to call his own. A man’s gotta have his own home or he just don’t feel like a man. He don’t want to say he’s stayin in his woman’s house!
Tracy: He don’t need to say nothin’! He just needs to grow up and start pitchin’ in.
Troy: Ah, you wouldn’t understand… Women…
Tracy: Why don’t you watch your show and leave me to finish folding your laundry.
Troy waves his hand to declare his abandonment of the conversation and focuses on the TV. Things become quiet again as the lights slowly fade.

SCENE II

Tracy is sleeping in bed. Aundray enters the bedroom and slips into bed without turning on the lights.
Tracy: Dre? Is that you? {whispered}
Aundray: Yeah, baby. It’s me. How are you?
Tracy: Awake, now. You get a job?
Aundray: Nah. Ain’t no jobs out there for a strong Black man, specially an intelligent, powerful King like me.
Tracy: You lyin’; You was at the bar, you wasn’t lookin for no job.
Aundray: C’mon baby, can’t you let up for just 2 minutes?
Tracy: Aundray…I know I been hard on you lately, but that’s only because I’m trying to do right by our kids and I need your help. Don’t you wanna get out this trap? I’m not just being hard to be nasty. I want you to have a better life too—move somewhere you can actually get a job. You know I love you, Dre. That’s why it upsets me even more when I don’t see you helping me out here.
Aundray: I know, baby. I’m trying. I really am, I swear. It’s just depressing to go into interview after interview just to get rejected and told I ain’t good enough. Those fucking 20 year olds telling me I ain’t good enough to cook in a kitchen—I should be runnin’ those damn restaurants! I’m the only one who actually knows how to cook in this damn city. Then I get all stressed out and need a drink, and then the drinkin’ makes me think even harder on it, which makes me need another drink even more. It ain’t easy, baby. It ain’t.
Tracy: I know, sweetie. I know it ain’t. But that’s what I’m here for. I’ll do whatever you need. Can I sign you up for detox or an out-patient program? Alice told me about a place she went to get sobered up; she said it was real good, and inexpensive… Can I pour out the vodka you hide under the couch?
Aundray: No, no, no! I gotta do it myself! I don’t need no doctors or babysitters. Only person can get me sober is myself. I need to just buckle down and bite the bullet.
Tracy: But that hasn’t been workin’, baby. We need to get you help, and we will. Whatever it takes.
Aundray: God, I wish shit could just be simple again…I wish I could just grab a beer and chill sometimes, like you can, without getting all fucked up inside. All this kids-shit and house-shit, is just stressin’ me! It’s too much for me. I just wanna relax and chill and not give a fuck, like I used to.
Tracy: I know, Dre. It’s not fair. It’s not fair how you are and where we are and always being broke for no good reason, but it is what it is. We can’t keep pretending or crying about what is—we have to do the best we can with what we got. And at least we got each other, and three beautiful, sweet kids, and a crotchety old man to take care of and criticize everything we do. They both laugh.
Aundray: You right, baby. We ain’t kids no more, and getting so old isn’t all fun, but it’s better than the alternative… Remember when we first met?… I was drivin’ the Mustang down Pulaski, minding my own business, thinkin’ it was just another day, when I happened by the most gorgeous, stunning, perfect Angel in the whole world…
Tracy: Oh stop lying, you just thought you were big pimpin’. You thought I was just another little girl you could pick up with your ugly ass orange car.
Aundray: I was right, wasn’t I?! Here we are…
Tracy: whatever…
They continue to relive the story of how they met. It is clearly a story they have indulged in many times and a tradition they relish in.
Aundray: I said, “Hey sweet thang, it’s too hot for a pretty little thing like you to be walkin’ and getting those clothes all sweaty and stinky.”
Tracy: And I told you to get lost!
Aundray: But I wasn’t gonna give up on the woman of my dreams that easy…
Tracy: Please…
Aundray: I told you, “I’m serious girl. I’ll give you a ride. No need to torture yourself on a hot day like this. You know, I saw a dog chasin’ a cat a minute ago… they were both walkin. C’mon, I won’t hurt ya. I just want to talk to you—get to know ya.” And sure enough, you hopped in.
Tracy: Reluctantly. I still wasn’t sure you wasn’t crazy.
Aundray: You were impressed though—like you’d never been in a car before, least not a real man’s car.
Tracy: My god, I can still remember… you took me on Lake Shore Drive, Speeding like a maniac, scarin’ me half to death. We were flyin’ so fast, I felt like I was drunk. The city lights were rushing past in streaks. And I know what you were doin’… I was so scared, I didn’t notice you slippin’ your arm around my shoulder. I have to admit though; it did feel exciting to be cruising at the speed of light, like nothing could hold me back, like I had a ticket to anywhere… And though I was scared that you were out of your damn mind, it felt good to have your arm around me, like you got me. Something about that fast, powerful car, made me feel like… real, or something—like I could be someone.
Aundray: That’s right, I took you for a ride you’d never forget! And I knew you were mine forever… I love you, baby.
Tracy: I love you too, Dre. Even though you been actin’ like a fool since the day we met.
Aundray: I know, baby. I’m sorry I am the way I am. I’m really gonna change this time, I promise. I’m gonna stop drinkin’. I’m gonna get a job tomorrow, I don’t care if I have to be the fry guy at McDonald’s or clean shit from toilets, I’m gonna start contributing to the bills if it kills me.
Tracy: That sounds wonderful, Aundray, but you always say that. How can I have faith that you’re serious this time?
Aundray: I am serious baby. Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna put a sale sign on the Mustang and put it on Craigslist. I should be able to get at least 3, 4 thousand. Then we can get that place in Des Plaines you been talkin’ ‘bout. I swear, we really gonna do it this time, no matter what!
Tracy: Ah, Dre, you best not be playin’ wit me. This is really important to me and I don’t want you messin’ wit my emotions.
Aundray: Nah, baby. I swear on my life. We gone get it together. If I don’t have that car sold by tomorrow night, you can kick my ass to the curb and never talk to me again.
Tracy: That’s not what I want. I want you to be with us, bein’ a part of the family.
Aundray: I know, baby. I know… Aundray spoons Tracy and they fall asleep.

Scene III
As the whole family sleeps soundly, perhaps too soundly, there is a commotion in the neighborhood. It is 3:00 am when the tranquility of dreams is interrupted by a car-alarm. The alarm is coming from directly in front of the house and immediately awakens Tracy and Aundray.
Tracy: Dre! What is that?
Aundray: Oh shit, I think it’s the car! Aundray walks to the window to see what’s going on. The kids all run into the bedroom, scared.
Vanessa: Mommy, What’s going on?
Tracy: It’s ok, darling. Nothing—it’s fine.
Aundray: Trace, call the police, quick!
Tracy calls the police, while Aundray goes to the closet to grab a metal baseball bat. The alarm isn’t deterring the burglars from trying to get into the car.
Tracy: Hello? Yes. Someone is trying to steal our car. Yes. 4412 West Monroe.
Lil D: Ma, where’s Dad going?
Tracy: Never mind, darling. Everything’s fine. Tracy is apparently reassuring herself more than Lil D. Tonnee follows his father to the front door.
Aundray: Hey! Back the fuck up from my car! I’m finna knock your heads off!
Aundray and the two burglars face each other in a stand off, ready to fight for the car. One burglar rushes in as Aundray swings and misses. The other burglar grabs the wiffed bat and begins a tug-o-war with Aundray, when police sirens sound and the burglars run off. Tracy is now at the front door, where she puts her hands on Tonee’s shoulders as if to say ‘It’s alright. It’s over now.’ Vanessa and Lil D are cowering behind Tracy. Aundray inspects the car for any damages. As he opens the driver’s door, the police arrive.
Police officer 1: Police! Step away from the car! Now!
Police officer 2: Move it! Move it!
Aundray steps back with his hands in the air.
Tracy: What are you doing?! He’s not the robber! That’s our car!
Police officer 2: Shut the Fuck up! You, get on the ground! Now!
Aundray lays facedown on the cement with his hands spread out, as if making a snow-angel. The police officers approach Aundray with handcuffs ready.
Police: Put your hands behind your head! Slowly!
Aundray: Please, that’s my car, officer. I was just checking it for damages.
Police officer 1: Didn’t we tell you to shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear one more word out of either of you!
Police officer 2 begins to cuff Aundray as Tracy approaches to intercede.
Tracy: What the hell are you doing?! We are the ones that called the cops! That’s our car! Get your hands off of him!
It is a very quiet night—a quite black night. The moon throws just enough light on the neighborhood to transmute most of it to shadows. There is no breeze and the air is so fresh and crisp that the explosion can be heard from miles away, when Tracy pushes the police officer off of Aundray and the other officer fires his 9mm directly into Tracy’s chest. One shot, two shots. Three shots and a barrage that seemed to never end, throwing the entire neighborhood, frightening its dogs and deafening Vanessa, Lil D, and Tonnee. The officer shot 16 bullets into Tracy. She was dead after the first. The family screams and hollers and all rush to hold Tracy’s dead body.
Vanessa: Mommy, mommy! Mommy!
Aundray: Baby! No! It’s ok, baby. You’re gonna be fine, baby doll. You’re gonna be fine.
Tonnee: Mama?! No, no, no, no, mama.
Police officer 1: Step back! Move away from the body!
Tonnee: That body is my mother! You mother fucking Pig!
Vanessa runs over to the police officer that shot her mother and starts punching his leg. The officer points his gun at the 6 year old, then thinks better of it and holsters his gun. Troy appears in the doorway and stares stoically. A few tears escape his eyes, though his face remains hard and still as he’s paralyzed by the sight of his daughter’s inside-out bulk. All the children continue to whale and cry by Tracy’s silhouette. The cops huddle in the background.
Aundray: Knowing better than to move from his face-down surrender, he continues to lay spread-eagle and yells across the crime scene to Tracy, It’s ok, baby! You’re gonna be fine! Don’t worry, baby. Let’s go for a ride! Let’s you and me and the kids hop in the car and drive down Lake Shore Drive at 100 miles an hour! It’s a beautiful night for a ride…We can go anywhere—anywhere in the world you want, baby… Let’s drive to that house in Des Plaines you been talking about! I bet it’s beautiful…C’mon baby, I’m sorry. I know I been a pain in the ass but, but I’m gonna be good now, I promise! C’mon, Trace! Please!!! You’re alright, baby. You’re alright. You’re alright, Trace! You’re alright…baby, you’re alright…

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