Short Story: That American Thing

Sandi Sonnenfeld ’85 is a fiction writer and essayist and Managing Editor of The Lyon Review. Her stories and creative nonfiction pieces have appeared in more than 30 literary magazines and anthologies, including Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sojourner, Voices West, ACM: Another Chicago Magazine, Raven Chronicles and others.  In 2002, she was named a Celebration Author by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association for her memoir, This is How I Speak (Impassio Press), which recounts Sandi’s first year enrolled at the MFA program in fiction writing at the University of Washington.  “That American Thing,” republished here, won The David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Award for Young Writers (1998) sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education.

Miklos Sandor first saw his future wife Elissia when she was a contestant in the Miss Liberty beauty pageant held at the Hungarian Jewish Social Club of Detroit.  Miklos had forgotten about the beauty contest when he stopped in at the Club after work.  It was Thursday and he was thinking about the car.

Miklos Sandor didn’t want just any car; he wanted one that he had helped build at Mr. Ford’s Motor Car Company.  Miklos Sandor wanted a 2.9 liter, monoble sv, four‑cylinder Tin Lizzie with a capacity cruising speed of forty‑five miles per hour and a detachable hood.  The list price for the new 1925 edition was eight hundred and sixty dollars.  Miklos had sat down with a pencil and paper and figured out that if he saved five dollars weekly, one quarter of his salary, he could own the car in eight years, seven months, and twenty‑one days.  So every Thursday when he got paid, Miklos stuffed five dollars into his right sock and played chess with Morty Feldman at the Club.

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