I knew Gatsby was agitated about something when he sent workmen to my place to re-gravel my driveway and thatch the roof of my hovel. Then he appeared himself a day later in a dove-gray linen suit, a mauve silk shirt, and a dark silver metallic tie that said DUAL MOTOR in tiny pearls.
“I’m getting the Full Self-Driving, old sport,” he said. “FSD, they call it. This fellow Musk is a genius, another Wolfsheim.”
“Isn’t it still in beta?” I said. My Middle Western upbringing made me think of Full Self-Driving as a pipe dream, but Gatsby had an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person, so FSD was right in his wheelhouse.
“I wanted the Model X,” he said. “Gull wings, zero to sixty in under three seconds. But there was no way I could cut into that line, and I hate waiting." Gatsby shot a jovial glance at the loveseat in my tiny parlor where he and my cousin Daisy had been canoodling just the day before.
“Elon said he could get me a Performance Model Y with the structural battery pack in dark silver metallic out of Giga Texas in two weeks.”
“Nice,” I said. “It will match your necktie.”
Elon’s two weeks turned into a month and a half, during which Gatsby’s agitation grew so intense that workmen scraped and sodded my front lawn first into a putting green and then into a full-on miniature golf course. A Finnish seamstress recovered my few pieces of parlor furniture in a soft lemony chintz and hand-stitched cozies for my teapot, toaster, and Shi Tzu.
I found Gatsby late one night toward the end of summer on his sloping blue lawn, his arms outstretched toward the shimmering bay, his hands at ten and two on an imaginary steering wheel.
“There’s plenty of room for a picnic hamper in the frunk, old sport,” he said when he saw me. “And the boot opens and closes automatically.”
“Boot” was one of Gatsby’s ways of humble-bragging about having been “at Oxford.”
“This Full Self-Driving,” he said, “is a marvelous thing. There’s going to be a fleet of robo-taxis whisking people all around. No need at all for us flawed humans at the wheel. Marvelous.”
I’d had it up to here with Full Self-Driving. “Isn’t there some sort of problem making left turns in traffic?” I said. “And ‘phantom braking’?”
Gatsby stared at me for some time as if I’d uttered obscenities in a language he didn’t quite understand. “You’ll have to pardon me, old sport,” he said. “I’ve got a call coming in from Chicago.”
It was a Saturday in late September when the Model Y finally arrived. I could tell because I saw it driving in circles on Gatsby’s enormous front yard, tearing through his expensive flower beds and now and then flushing a gardener.
“I’ll send it to get you, old sport,” Gatsby shouted from the safety of his front steps.
The Model Y lumbered in my general direction, and then, gathering itself, achieved a truly breathtaking speed on the short stretch of road between Gatsby’s property and my own. It threw the new gravel on my driveway in all directions as it shot toward me and came abruptly to rest after crumpling the pirate ship on the third hole of my mini-golf course.
“Get in! Get in, old sport!” Gatsby shouted, running up the drive. “Welcome to FSD!”
We climbed aboard the Model Y, Gatsby breathing hard from the chase. He programmed it to take us to the city, through the Valley of Ashes. Instead it lurched crazily across holes four through thirteen, dragging the pirate ship behind and crushing a child-sized cowboy on a horse made of plaster. It clipped the windmill on number seventeen, which remained perched and spinning on the hood of the car until it smashed full-tilt through the front wall of my cottage and came to rest in my cozy parlor.
I glanced at Gatsby, who bore the look of a man who realizes what a strange thing a rose is when it’s been uprooted from around the clown’s nose on eighteen and ends up on a lemony chintz loveseat.
“I didn’t sense any phantom braking,” he said. “Did you?”
I shook his hand. It seemed silly not to. “FSD,” I said, “is never going to work.”
“Never going to work?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course it will!”
He looked around him wildly. “Oh, it’s going to work, old sport. It’s going to work. Either that, or from now on,” he said, squinting hard at a green light across the bay, “Daisy drives.”