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’s Essay, Research Paper

Cousin Elmer’s

Driving my just washed shiny red pickup, I let the scent of the car wash’s vanilla air freshener fill my nostrils. I was headed across town to Cousin Elmer’s Thrift and Engine Parts Store. The windows of the truck were down and sunrays which had been shattered by the giant looming eucalyptus trees standing sentinel on the road were splayed across my forearm. I bounced along Grand Avenue trying in vain to avoid the uncomfortable ruts that had recently been enhanced by a hard rainy season. Repaved in some places and deep troughs in others, I found myself comparing the disrepair to the city in which I lived. My friends from San Diego were at a loss as to why I would choose to live in Lake Elsinore. A town of great contrasts, I recalled traveling this same road during the previous winter and seeing a Gattling gun, set up like a cannon, in a front yard with a sign that read “$500.00 or trade for a PlayStation w/games”. Two blocks down, across the street, was a house covered in signs that proclaimed the inhabitant to be Jesus. The garage had just one sign on it which read “I’M SERIOUS!!!!!” About that time, a sleek champagne colored, late model Rolls Royce Corniche whooshed by me. I

chuckled to myself at the memory, but that was what Elsinore was: an class- diverse group of people living in a town whose downtown boasted year round fairy twinkle lights and monthly street fairs while business at the only department store in town, Wal-Mart, was booming. That was what I loved here-Elsinore could never be described as ordinary. Why would I want to go back to the traffic and congestion of San Diego?

As I drew closer to Cousin Elmer’s, the yard, not much bigger than the football field at the high school, presented itself. An eclectic collection of old and new, hard to find equipment parts, and just plain junk, it seemed a microcosm of the entirety of Lake Elsinore. The yard sat framed by a rusty metallic hedge of lawnmowers, banana seat bicycles, and corroded oil drums. Brand new blazing red diesel fuel tanks, looking like a bold slash of cheap lipstick hurriedly applied across an old woman’s mouth, sat upon the pallid wrinkled texture of the parking lot sand. Other scraps of machinery formed not a cacophony of rusted parts, but rather an orchestra of pieces that Cousin Elmer had arranged into sections. Yellow-tanked power mowers rested in silence just left of older diesel drums, formerly red, now faded orange or pink. Standing proudly at attention, like war veterans in Fourth of July parades, still proud of having served, were rows of oil barrels. Dingy khaki colored, the barrels had been pierced repeatedly by trigger-happy modern day gunslingers, and I listened as the warm breeze passed through them and

bellowed eerily like tiny foghorns. Bicycles cast aside by adolescents hungering for bigger faster toys rested sporadically throughout the lot. A perfume to my nostrils, distilled by time, of mustiness and machine oil mixed with fresh Spring air laced its way through the atmosphere and I gulped great mouthfuls of it. I thought then of my friends sitting at their desks in climate controlled law offices staring out panes of glass they couldn’t open while wistfully watching the movement on the San Diego streets ten stories below them. I smiled at the comfort my senses drew from the yard before them, and appreciated all the more the town I had come to call home. Then I pushed my way into the main structure which housed Cousin Elmer’s other treasures.