Alex got to keep the minivan, but lost the family he bought it for, his wife Helen and little daughter Sandy. But though Alex has long fallen out of love with Helen, if he was ever in love with her in the first place, he would never give up his daughter. And sometimes, murder is a cheaper solution than divorce…
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- Family Car is a short crime story of 2600 words. It was originally published in newleaf No. 10 and may also be found in the collection Murder in the Family along with seven other stories.
- Family Car was inspired by a TV commercial for the Volkswagen Sharan minivan, which ran years ago. The commercial basically showed the divorced Dad showing up at his ex-wife’s to pick up his kid for a weekend outing. The wife asks if he is keeping the car, since minivans are for families and he doesn’t have one anymore. However, the Dad keeps the minivan anyway, because it’s just such an awesome car. At the time, the commercial infuriated me, because I found it irresponsible to exploit the heartbreak and pain associated with divorces and broken families to sell cars. Never mind that I believed that kids shouldn’t be exposed to divorce as something normal and commonplace, because it would only raise fears of their own parents separating (that was before I became a teacher and realized how many kids already live in broken families). The commercial made me so angry that I wrote a letter to Volkswagen‘s PR department and also considered complaining to the German advertising standards authority. However, I never got around to doing the latter, because the commercial went off the air after a few weeks. I guess I wasn’t the only person who complained. At around the same time, I also wrote “Family Car” to give that awful commercial a satisfying ending (the wife was really annoying).
- Now that I’m older and wiser, I do find the murderous husband quite creepy as well. This was probably a couple who deserved each other.
- When I read Family Car at the launch event for newleaf No. 10, an elderly gentleman (newleaf is a university magazine, so elderly gentleman are rare in the audience) asked me whether my family owned a dark green minivan. Some people tend to view anything as autobiographical.
- My parents actually did own a minivan for a while, though it was long after I wrote the story and never a Volkswagen Sharan.
- The cover photo is a shot of my Dad’s old Mercedes B-class minivan parked in the driveway. When my Dad shot the photo, he accidentally engaged the artificial darkness filter on the camera, hence the spooky lighting.