Max keeps the camaro.
She tries to fix it up. Doesn’t know much about cars. She’s watched Billy do maintenance on the camaro countless times. She’s even helped him a couple of those times.
But standing in the driveway with Billy’s toolbox open at her feet and the camaro broken and silent in front of her, it all seems impossible, like it’s too much. She’s at a loss. Has no idea where to start.
Neil doesn’t offer to help. He doesn’t look at the camaro. He hasn’t said Billy’s name once. He hasn’t talked about Billy at all. He drinks a lot. He watches reruns of baseball games till two in the morning.
Mom kisses Max’s head. She’s had tears in her eyes for a while now, it’s gotten worse since Billy. She tells Max, you’re doing a good thing for your brother.
She doesn’t say Billy’s name either.
Max goes to the library. Checks out books on car repair. Most of it’s out of her league, a bunch of gibberish she can’t understand with confusing diagrams, at least that’s what she thinks at first. She sits in the front seat of the camaro and studies during the morning, skin sticking to the upholstery that’s still got his blood on it and at night she sits in Billy’s room on his bed.
His room still smells like him. She’d always thought he’d smelled bad. Stunk like every boy does, but worse because he was Billy and everything is automatically worse because it’s Billy.
He never let her in here before. She’d sneak in sometimes just because.
She pokes around his drawers and his closet. Under his bed. Trying to find something. She isn’t sure just what that something is though.
She doesn’t move anything. Keeps it all the way Billy had left it.
She finds a yellowed photograph of a blonde woman with blue eyes taped to the back of the mirror.
A folded up Scoops Ahoy cap with a number written on it, a half-empty pack of smokes, and what she’s pretty sure is a joint in the pockets of his leather jacket.
The few magazines under the mattress aren’t exactly a big surprise, but she tosses them in the neighbor’s trashcan after dark anyways. Can’t stand the idea that the first thing Neil might say about Billy in weeks could be something ugly.
She takes his leather jacket. It’s cool. It’ll fit her someday. It’s not like Billy can want it anymore. She wears it to bed and to the mall and, later, to school. It smells like smokes and Billy.
She learns what the tools inside the tool box are called - so many kinds of wrenches, it’s ridiculous - and what the parts of the camaro are called that need fixing up.
The dents will be hard to get out. The paint will be impossible to fix. If the frame is bent - that’ll be it. It’s not going to happen. The camaro will sit in the driveway till it rusts or Neil gets tired of seeing it.
But she wants to hear the camaro run again.
So she tries.
Lucas helps out when he finally clues in that she means it. They have Billy’s toolbox out, his boombox blasting one of his Metallica cassettes. She can almost hear Billy drawl, no not that wrench, at her.
She tells Lucas, when they’ve got the camaro’s doors opened up and dismantled, trying to heat up the metal and bang it back into shape, I’m gonna drive this when I get my license. It’s gonna be my first car.
Lucas doesn’t really believe her, but he nods and keeps whatever doubts he has to himself, so Max stops short of dumping him for the second time that week. He’s gotten smarter. Good for him.
Billy would tell her to dump his ass. That’s what he said about any boy Max hung around with that made her upset in the slightest. It was dump his ass or I got a knife you can borrow.
The rest of the party helps out too. They all go to the junkyard to scavenge for parts. Dustin does the wiring and the camaro’s radio works again. She pops in Number of the Beast and bites her lip to stop from crying.
When El comes back for Christmas, she pops the camaro’s frame back into place, smooths out the dents Max couldn’t quite get out herself.
Sometimes Steve puts his hand on her shoulder and squeezes really hard. He’s got a weird look on his face. Max never asks about the Scoops Ahoy cap or why Steve’s number is on it.
No one talks about the camaro being Billy’s car. Or about Billy.
There’s blood on the upholstery still. Max tries to scrub it off a few times. The blood’s stubborn. The camaro wants to keep Billy, she thinks.
That Christmas she gets four new tires for her present. It’s eight in the morning and Neil’s drinking from a glass of eggnog that’s mostly bourbon and won’t look at her. Mom kisses her head again. She’s crying again.
Max says thanks. Her hands are shaking.
She puts the tires on herself.
Billy had gotten a flat once while she’d been in the car with him. He’d had her do most of the work. Called her a dumbass when she did something wrong. Got pissed when she dropped a lug nut. But he walked her through every part. Bought her ice cream at the pier afterwards.
The camaro’s got four new tires and is as fixed as it’s ever going to be. There are still dents. Half the windows have no glass. The sides are scraped to hell. The camaro’s got scars all over. Billy would hate it. But it’s whole. It can run.
She holds Billy’s keys with two hands. She sits in the driver’s seat. She can reach the gas pedal better than the year before, put her foot flat on it and push.
Max holds her breath when she puts the key in the ignition and turns it. Knows it’s going to work, but -
The camaro’s roar is so familiar. It has her gasping. Her hands tremble on the steering wheel.
It’s like hearing his name.