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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fact is stranger than fiction.


Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is 'stranger.'

My dad drove my mother to work and back every day in a gunmetal gray Ford Falcon. He parked it with precision in front of our house so that when the passenger door opened she could step right onto the sidewalk leading to our front door. You would have thought she was a movie star arriving on the red carpet; but sadly she was only on her lunch hour from the grocery store. This day my father’s mood matched the perfect v formation and the peeling paint in the dented hood. The day before, our black and white world had been rocked as he had been following another car too closely while he lit up a cigarette. Now he felt even guiltier than he was every other day and try as he might, he couldn’t smoke, yell, hit or sleep away the fact that his new car wasn’t new anymore.

After he deposited my mother back at work he went immediately to the back porch, retrieved the hand clippers from the windowsill and marched to the front lawn. On his knees he carefully cut the grass that the lawn mower didn’t reach along the curb. As he crawled along he finally came even with the front of the car. He stood up. Filthy Italian expletives flew out under his mustache like startled bats. Then he returned the clippers to their windowsill parking spot, forgetting that he had only finished half the trimming job he had started.

Sitting out his penance on the top step of the porch he had a perfect view of the incised hood as well as a man standing next to the fender, also surveying the hood. This mystery man was as tall and swarthy as my father but wore a long sleeve flannel shirt, boots and a small hoop in both ears. His unseasonable dress should have alerted my dad that something was odd about this man but the visitor in our front yard was someone to talk to until my mother got off work.

For $50 this wanderer promised to return in the morning with some tools and in no time he would have that dent pulled out. My father was skeptical and my mother was too tired to care. From their conversation my father also knew that he was a gypsy just passing through and could use the money. A deal was a deal. Next day my friends and I watched from the porch, while my dad stood at the window intent on the spectacle in the street, a sweaty $50 bill wadded in his palm.

The man brought along a giant rubber mallet, a can of Simonize and an old rag that I recognized as a sleeveless undershirt. All morning he paced, pounded, tapped, wiped and stopped periodically to wipe the sweat from his face with the undershirt. Nothing changed. While we were in the kitchen making sandwiches, we missed seeing him climb on the hood. When we returned he was jumping up and down like the car was a little round trampoline. Finally he gave up, climbed down and slowly met my father at the front door.

I wish I could say that benevolence won out over anger but my father was driven by even more humiliation than the exhausted would-be car repairman. Whenever I see a rebuilt Falcon or a Gypsy, for that matter, I can recall in perfect detail the defeated posture of a retreating man carrying a mallet down Birch Street in the summer of 1960.


16 comments:

"Sunshine" said...

I really enjoyed reading this story!

B. Roan said...

You brought a memory to life. Great description. I felt like I was watching from next door.

Lilly said...

You reminded me of a friends dad. This piece was so well written!

anno said...

Definitely a strange encounter... that image of the gypsy jumping up and down on the hood of the car would be hard to erase! I'm glad you wrote this one down.

Linda Jacobs said...

There are so many beautiful lines in here. I especially like the red carpet and the bats!

~*sis*~ said...

a man and his car...great images. :)

Granny Smith said...

This is so vividly written that I could almost feel that I was there! I love your stories about your Italian family.

You may have noticed that the verification codes on comments are suddenly beginning to approximate actual words. Today yours - the one I am about to copy -IS an actual word - "mouse". I would hardly call you mousy, but how was the computer to know?

XXX Phyllis

Cloudia said...

Priceless! Well-written and touching......Aloha from Waikiki-

tumblewords said...

Oh, my gosh! This is a tale to share! So well-written and vivid. Great job!

linda may said...

Great story here. I guess he didn't get his $50. He he. The car looks the same as one that was available here in Australia too. Tough old things.

Denise said...

What a fascinating story and you told it beautifully from start to finish, I was riveted. These are the kind of memories that fill the tapestry of our lives. I was hoping it would have a happier outcome for your Dad. I can relate. I have a relatively new car that I took much pride in, but a few days ago I noticed several nasty, very deep scratches on the hood and a dented license plate. Someone had backed into it and driven off without fessing up. I am learning it doesn't pay to be too happy over a material possession. The last time we bought a new car someone hit us a week later and caused about $5,000 worth of damage :(

Rinkly Rimes said...

This had a ring of truth. Was it a memoir?

Beth said...

Write all these stories down! This captured much more than a vivid memory. I enjoyed the way this recollection recreates the scene and your family so precisely, especially the relationship between your mother and father, and the Italian community that once was. Go ahead. Write a memoir.

Marianne said...

Heh, dear friend, you had me on the edge of my seat, again. What a great story :^)
We also had a Ford Falcon back in the day.

Mary said...

Beautifully written. I felt as though I was there.

Labyrinths Muse said...

What a wonderful story! My father had a Nash Rambler. Mostly because our last name was Nash and he loved the little car. It was hilarious to see him climb out of it, not a tall man but definitely round.

Thank you for sharing your memories.