“Elite AutoSpa,” by Lisa Fox

Dec 20th, 2020 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Bird shit. Bird shit everywhere.

“You said car washes were a rip-off, Dad.”

Charlie, my ten-year-old son, bit into his third apple since we’d left the orchard. Two nibbled cores lay discarded on the floor beneath the passenger seat, amid crunched soda cans and a pile of cookie crumbs.

“Your mother will kill me if she sees this mess,” I said. I could picture Adriana’s foot-tapping judgment. Spending money on a car wash now would save me a migraine later.

I turned into the lot of the Elite AutoSpa, a hulking glass structure nestled between two nondescript highway strip malls. Sunlight shimmered from the dark tinted windows, and the reflection of my soiled minivan shone back at us. The car was covered in sparrow crap and tree sap, the wheel wells caked with mud. It was as if nature’s Picasso had gone mad.

“You sure it’s open?” Sticky juice dribbled down Charlie’s chin.

Following the signs that read “Request Entry,” I drove the car beneath a tall, steel arch and onto a metal rectangle embedded in the pavement. Even the asphalt shimmered, as if implanted with jewels.

“Fancy-schmansy,” I mumbled.

Red lights flashed from the arch. “Park, please,” a robotic voice said. “Prepare for assessment.”


The ground gave way; the minivan rose with a whoosh. Wide-eyed, Charlie grabbed the dash. We stopped just beneath the top of the arch, its intricate metal pattern visible through the bird dung staining the moonroof.

My teeth chattered as a wall of infrared light rolled over the minivan with a vibrating hum. Our descent was as rapid as our ascent; I couldn’t tell if the bubbling in my gut was from drinking too much cider or from the virtual free-fall.

“Dad.” Charlie pointed as a windshield-sized stamp flew toward us, leaving its imprint on the glass in big, red letters.


The metal rectangle beneath us pivoted the minivan toward the exit. I could have sworn that the push I felt on the car was a giant robotic boot kicking my bumper’s ass.


It took hours to scrub the remnants of our apple picking adventure from the minivan, and even longer to remove the stamp of shame. Who gets rejected by a car wash?

“They don’t know who they’re messing with!” I told Adriana as I scoured the windshield.

I’d fought too hard to reach my station in life to have someone—some thing—call me a reject. I was an Associate to an Assistant Vice President, dammit, and I had earned every rotting slat of the white picket fence that surrounded my suburban home.

No stupid robot was going to bully me and get away with it.


“So kind of you, Henry,” Mrs. Melmin said, handing over her car keys.

I’d done some research. The Elite AutoSpa was the country club of car washes. A seven-star establishment, they only accepted vehicles of a certain caliber. The BMW was a bottom-scraper. Though my neighbor’s car reeked of stale cigarettes, it might be just enough to get me in.

“Nothing like a clean car,” I said, opening the door.

Hot leather stung the backs of my legs as I slid into the driver’s seat. Waving, I peeled out of her driveway and down the road.

As before, I pulled into the drive of the AutoSpa and over the metal rectangle. I waited for the robot voice, for the weightless tickle as the car rose to the top of the arch. I squinted under the infrared light.

I waited.

My window opened, as of its own volition, and in floated a glowing white sphere—a robot eyeball. Our gazes connected; my heartbeat quickened as it sized up my five o’clock shadow, my Spiderman T-shirt, my old sandals. It finally rolled across my forehead like some supersonic cue ball, disappearing outside.

I glanced in the rearview mirror. IMPOSTOR was stamped across my forehead. They’d even reversed the text for easy reading.


I squeezed my gold cufflinks. Tugged at my starched shirtsleeves. Secured my hundred-dollar Ray-Bans. Clutched the steering wheel of Mrs. Melmin’s BMW.

By now, I knew the drill.

Metal rectangle.

Car in Park.

Robot voice.


Red light.


I stared it down from atop my shades. I hoped the eyeball could smell my Drakkar cologne. I wanted that robot bastard to come close enough to feel my clean-shaven cheeks.

But this time, it didn’t touch me. As the car lowered, an army of tuxedoed, blond-haired stepford-men marched toward me.

One of them opened my door.

“Welcome to Elite,” he said. “I hope we didn’t keep you waiting.”


“Today, your BMW will enjoy a mud bath, a seaweed wrap, and a coconut scrub. Lilac water to refresh the interior.”

A woman in a long black gown handed me a glass of champagne as I entered the building. “Feel free to enjoy our wax museum and our virtual reality café while you wait.”

Reject, my ass, I thought, smirking.

While Mrs. Melmin’s car was being pampered, I enjoyed a virtual trip to Rome, smoked a Cuban cigar, drank two more glasses of champagne, and took a selfie with a passable likeness of John Wayne. And when the BMW was dried with satin towels monogrammed with the EAS logo, the woman in black handed me the bill. She stared at me as I placed fifty dollars on the counter.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

She flicked a speck of dust from the paper, removing what I had thought was a decimal point. 

Five thousand dollars.

“I…” Spots swam in my eyes. This wasn’t just a rip-off. It was grand larceny. I fought the nausea roiling in my gut. “I need to use your restroom.”

I bolted for the door.

“Stop him!” the woman shrieked.

An alarm blared. A dozen tuxedoed attendants tackled me. They shackled me with satin and shoved a lavender-scented rag down my throat. The eyeball smacked into me. 




I fucking hate car washes.


Lisa Fox is a pharmaceutical market researcher by day and fiction writer by night. She thrives in the chaos of everyday suburban life, residing in New Jersey (USA) with her husband, two sons, and their couch-dwelling golden retriever. Lisa’s work has been featured in various publications, including Metaphorosis, New Myths, Luna Station Quarterly, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and The Satirist, among others. She won the 2018 NYC Midnight Short Screenplay competition, and her short story “To Lure Gavin Back Home” was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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