Contributor: Adam Dorey

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Bold. Dark. Sleek. Those were the words that described a legend on my block. The lone, black Cadillac—the panther on four wheels—the king of the street—these were the legend’s many names. But those who truly knew him called him Ashwin. While other children grew up hearing stories about Goldilocks and beanstalks, I fell asleep to the spellbinding tales of Ashwin and his selfless battles to clean the streets. His roar could turn the hardest of men into a bedwetting infant.
As a child, I had never met the owner of Ashwin but had heard he was some kind of freak—a bloodthirsty vampire. The locals called him a mutant vigilante—claiming that he was the product of some failed experiment that left him fused to the car. His heart was said to have powered the death machine through his blackened veins, feeding it his ravaged soul to burn as fuel.
As bad as things were, even the cops steered clear of my block. But if you were a regular kid, like I was, you had little worries. Ashwin stood for good—justice—sanctuary. And more importantly, he was always watching. If not for him, the block would have been a hopeless stretch of despair—a soiled landscape of senseless violence. I would have been lucky to see graduation.
I heard a story once, from a boy named Donavan White, about his encounter with Ashwin. He was attacked one night, while walking home from a high school football game. The attackers had him at gunpoint and were demanding his wallet, when the roar of a massive engine caught them off-guard. As the grumble of the engine rolled in, like a violent storm, and headlights pierced the darkness, the attackers fled down an alley with Donavan’s wallet. When all was said and done, the dark silhouette of Ashwin’s owner stood towering over him, headlights blaring at his back—extending his hand to return the wallet, without a single word. He said that, once he wrapped his hand around the wallet, the man and Ashwin disappeared into the night.
I am much older now than I was then. At the age of forty-three, I have five published novels, a loving family, and a house in a suburban neighborhood. I attribute all of my success to Ashwin. My first successful book was the story of how he saved my life. I had tracked down his last known whereabouts and tried to get an interview with the man behind the windshield, finding that he had died a few months after I had left the block. It was as if his job was done, once I had made it out. I met his daughter, who described him as a proud and patriotic man. After being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, he spent his dying days cleaning the streets of filth. His daughter claimed to have only known of his actions through a letter left for her, after his death.
I remember staring blankly at his photos, studying the face of the man who drove the legend—realizing he was not a freak or a mutant, but a man. She took me to the curb, where Ashwin sat—still glossed and gleaming, beads of raindrops speckled across the hood. Ashwin, though stunning as ever, looked empty and alone. Without the fuel of his owner’s fury, he was nothing more than a lifeless heap of shining metal—a legend in the minds of the children he had saved.

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