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art by Melissa Mead

High Mileage

JG Faherty is a writer of dark fiction whose interest in the odd and macabre began as a child growing up in a town filled with stories about Revolutionary War ghosts, unexplained creatures, and UFOs. One of his favorite places to explore was a centuries-old cemetery. Although a fan of horror, sci-fi, and mysteries since he was old enough to read, he didnít start writing professionally until 2000. Since then, he has amassed a variety of credits that include Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, and Dark Scribe Magazine. An Active Member of the Horror Writers Association, his works have appeared in numerous anthologies, and he also contributes columns, interviews, and book reviews to the HWA newsletter, Cemetery Dance, Dark Scribe Magazine, and Horror World. His day job is owning and operating a professional resume writing service, www.a-perfect-resume.com. For more information, visit www.jgfaherty.com.

"So, whatchya think?" Bob Harrison opened his beer and took a sip, a cat-ate-the-canary smile on his face.
Sid Chambers felt a twinge of jealousy, but didn't let it show. Instead, he gave a low whistle. "Sweet."
"Yep, picked 'er up yesterday. The W-9. Dealer gave me a great price, too. Knocked six grand off for the trade in."
"No foolin'? That much?"
Sid couldn't believe Bob had gotten that for his W-5; hell, it was ten years old. He leaned down and grabbed a beer out of the cooler Harrison had sitting on the garage floor. The temperature outside was already approaching ninety.
"You oughtta think about getting rid of your old clunker, Sid." Bob nodded his head in the direction of Sid's house, where Shelly was out in the driveway washing their car. "My Pop used to say, 'high mileage means high maintenance.'"
Sid sighed. "I don't know that we can afford it right now, not with Sid Junior starting college in a year." He glanced at Bob's W-9 again.
Gotta admit, it's a helluva lot nicer than mine.
He drained the last of his beer and tossed it in the trash. "Well, I gotta get goin'. Good luck with her, Bob."
"You think about what I said. In the long run you're just costin' yourself more money and getting aggravated by hanging on to something that don't perform the way you want."
Sid waved without looking back as he crossed the street. But that night, as he lay in bed, he did think about it.
High mileage means high maintenance.
He thought about it a lot.
"Whoo-wee, look at you, Mister Fancy."
Sid turned around and found Bob Harrison standing across the street, getting his mail.
"Afternoon, Bob." Sid couldn't keep the smug tone from his voice, or the smile from his face. In fact, he'd been smiling all day, ever since he signed the papers at the dealership.
"Looks like you took my advice and then some." Bob walked over and joined Sid at the end of the driveway.
"You were right. I figured out the maintenance costs, and I decided to do it."
"Is that a W-10?"
Sid was sure he heard a note of envy in Bob's voice.
"Yep. Hadn't even been test-driven yet. Practically right off the truck."
"Ain't that sweet."
"Comes with a ten-year warranty, too. Anything goes wrong, they fix it for free."
"Well, this calls for a celebration. Why don't you'n the missus come over Friday night for some beers and barbeque?"
Sid tapped his mail to his forehead in a mock salute. "You supply the burgers, we'll bring the booze."
"It's a date."
He headed up the drive just as Shelly came back out of the house to get the last bag of groceries. She smiled and waved to him.
"Hi, honey."
"Hey, babe. What's for dinner?"
"Sean, please pass the potatoes." Shelly Chambers held out her hand for the bowl. Next to her, the lanky, long-haired boy kept his gaze steadfastly on his plate.
When it became painfully obvious his son wasn't going to acknowledge Shelly's request, Sid cleared his throat.
"Sean, pass your mother the potatoes."
The boy looked up, his brown eyes narrowed and his nostrils flaring. "She's not my mother."
"Sean!" Sid slammed his water glass on the table. "You watch your damned mouth."
"Well, she's not. So I don't have to do what she says." He threw his fork down and pushed his chair back. "You can't make me!" He stormed down the hall. A moment later came the bang of his bedroom door slamming shut.
Sid sighed. Ever since he'd brought the new Shelly home, Sean had been acting up. It didn't make sense. Unlike a lot of men, he hadn't changed styles. He'd made sure to choose a model that was identical to the original Shelly, except twenty years younger. She even came programmed with all the memories of Sean's real mother.
So what was the problem?
"It's all right, dear." Shelly patted his hand. "He's just venting. He's sixteen. That's what they do."
He looked over at her, found himself captured once again by the woman he'd married. Gone were the gray hairs and sagging boobs. Tired eyes sparkled again, and youthful skin showed not a trace of wrinkles or laugh lines. Most importantly, gone were the annoying habits she'd developed over the years--the nagging, the complaining, the demanding.
And splurging on the increased sex drive option had definitely been worth the price.
"I'm getting tired of it, Shell." He shook his head. "His mouth, his attitude. And he's been slacking off at school, too."
Shelly patted her lips with her napkin and took a sip of wine. "Well, maybe it's time to upgrade," she said in a soft voice. "I could stop at the dealership and pick up a catalog tomorrow."
He sighed again. "I don't know. It's like admitting I failed to bring my son up right."
She got up and came around behind him, wrapped her arms around his chest. The feel of her young breasts, the smell of her fresh-washed hair, all of it combined to make him want to forget dinner and carry her upstairs.
"It's not an admission of failure, Sid. It's no different than sending a child to a private school, or putting him in rehab. It's something you do now so that later on his life is better. You're helping him to make something of himself."
He closed his eyes and thought about it. It would be nice to be able to brag about Sean the way Bob Harrison was always talking about his daughter. He'd replaced her two years ago, and she'd been on Dean's List ever since. Did all her chores, too, without a single complaint.
Sudden noise erupted as Sean turned his stereo on, filling the house with raucous music.
Sid knew when to admit defeat.
"Pick the catalog up. We'll look at it when I get home from work tomorrow."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 25th, 2010

Author Comments

"High Mileage" seems like a relatively straightforward and simple story, but in actuality it presented some difficulties in writing. The basic premise harkens back to "The Stepford Wives," a theme thatís been copied and built upon by many authors over the years. I didnít want to follow any of those previous paths, but I did have a seed of a story sprouting in my head. It was just a matter of where to take it. I had two ways I could go - focus on the child instead of the wife, or focus on what happens after a Ďperfectí replacement has been around for a while. Then it hit me: why not combine the two? And from there, the story just took off. I kept it short because itís the concepts that are frightening, rather than the events. No embellishment was needed.

- JG Faherty
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