(For my Creative Fiction Writing class – the writing prompt was to write a car wash scene in 400 words using only objective details)

Lemon citrus. The artificial freshness of the car soap tickled Eric’s nose and made him sneeze. It was an unforgiving July afternoon in Elko and the black finish of the SUV was scalding. He moved carefully to avoid pressing his skin to it. Already, sweat began gathering on his brow and he plunged his hand into the cool water, fishing for the sponge before slathering it onto the burning surface.

His elbows were burned as he reached across the roof, but he gritted his teeth and continued. The car was much taller than Eric, making it difficult for him to reach the top, so his arms strained and sweat started to cling to the gray cotton shirt he wore. He sneezed again. His elbows were turning red from the hot surface.

The windows were last, after the doors and rims. Eric scrubbed at the carcasses of bugs stuck to the windshield. He meticulously worked so that no streaks were left behind by the sponge.

In the back of the car, he picked up old makeup wipes, fast food napkins, bobby pins, and seven empty water bottles. He hesitated briefly before picking up the engagement ring wedged between the cushions of the back seat. It was an expensive ring, one massive princess cut diamond surrounded by smaller diamonds. The sunshine glinted off of it, casting a small prism on the beige back seat. Eric threw the ring in the trash bag with the old napkins.

After heaving a big sigh, he backed out of the car, stretching his back and letting the bag fall to the cracking cement of his dad’s driveway. It was even hotter in the car than it was outside and the sweat was dripping down his back. He sneezed one last time.

The front seat was much harder to clean than the back seat. An ice cream cone had been melting since the night before. It reeked. The ice cream was smeared into the passengers side carpet. There were bits of paper torn up and stuck in the gooey mess. Eric took an old rag and scrubbed at it, gritting his teeth angrily. He didn’t make much progress, but after the stickiness was mostly gone, he called it good and went inside for lemonade.

That night, it rained. He forgot to pull the car back into the garage, but he didn’t forget to fish through the garbage to find the ring.