(Authors note: This story is part fiction and part fact, the names have been changed to protect, well…me obviously.)
It was a dark and stormy night…no it wasn’t either, it was a rainy Wednesday morning, really. March, 31st, 2004, look it up. I had just stopped by the heating and cooling repair shop to pay yet another bill. I was turning to leave the parking lot when I saw her, far away across two empty lots in front of an industrial building. She was all by herself with no one else around. My heart skipped a beat. I eased on over for a closer look.
She was a tiny little thing, low to the ground, hunkered down against the cold rain, looking pretty forlorn. She had no top on and her skirts were torn. It was obvious that she had been abused and left for dead. But I could tell by looking at her that she still had a spark. Under her faded beauty her heart still beat.
I knew that I had to do something to save her. I looked around and spotted an open bay door on the building and headed for it. As I entered the door I was faced with a strange sight. A 1950s something GMC bus painted to look like a log cabin. It had a peaked roof, a smoke stack, a pair of steer’s horns on the hood and a sign on the roof that read “Hillbilly Bus.”
A second later, I was greeted by a short, fat, bald 70-year old wearing blue denim coveralls, and a straw hat. He had a hearing aid in his ear and a cigar in a mouth with no teeth. He was rummaging around in the back of a 1940s pickup that had Hillbilly Bros. painted on the door.
“Hi!!!!! Howeryalldoin,” he said. At least that’s what it sounded like. “WhyI’mdoinjessfine,” I said, putting on my best accented likeness. “What can you tell me about the little lady in red outside the building over yonder?” I asked.
“She belongs to Paul. Why…Are you interested in her?” he said with a sneer on his toothless face.
“I might be. I used to have one like her when I was 13.”
“Well you go over to that building over there,” he said pointing across the lot. “Go in the front door and turn left and and ask for Bobby Lee. Tell him we sent you. He’ll be able to tell you more about her…”
Part Two: Acquisition
I looked in the direction he was pointing and spied a large brick building. I knew this building. I had seen it before. It was the Khedive Temple A.A.O.N.M.S.(?!) of the Shriners! No, I have no idea what that means.
I entered the building and found myself standing in a great black hall. The walls were lined with pictures of hundreds of Shriners all wearing little hats with the tassels pointing in the same direction. A chill ran through me. I turned to my left and saw the business office and entered the door.
The room was dark with glass cases full of little Shriners’ trinkets. Behind the cases was a dark desk and behind the desk was a strange looking being. It was short, very thin with very short gray hair that was bowl cut. It had on huge round spectacles; It looked up at me and spoke, “Do you want something?” in what I was almost certain was a female voice. Startled, I blurted out, “I’m looking for Bobby Lee.” She didn’t respond for ten full seconds.
“HEY BOBBY, THERES A GUY OUT HERE, DO YOU WANT TO SEE HIM IN THERE OR OUT HERE?” she shouted over me. “In here will be fine,” responds Bobby. I can clearly see Bobby through the large glass window in his office. She glared at me as I scurried through the door of…Bobby E. Lee.
At any rate, I greeted Mr. Lee in the local time-honored fashion: “Haihoweryoualldooin?” “WhyI’mdooinjessfinehowaboutyerself?” said Bobby E. Lee. “Oh, I’m dooin,” I said. (This is how you respond when you don’t want folks to think you’re “dooin” better than they are. It is gives you a better bargaining position.)
“What can I help you with?” he asked.
“I was told I should ask you about the little lady in red in front of the building.”
“Well, she belongs to Paul. He’s in the horse patrol. Someone gave her to him. He said he was going to fix her up but Paul doesn’t know much about that sort of thing. Why? What do you want with her?” Bobby Lee asked.
“I’d like to try and save her. I’ve done this sort of thing before. I had one just like her when I was a kid. She was my first.”
“So you know something about these things do you? She’s pretty far gone I hear,” said Bobby Lee.
“Yeah she is rough but there’s still life in her, I think. I’d like to try and save her if Paul will let her go.”
“Hell yes Paul will let her go! As a matter of fact, you can have her!”
My heart jumped… “Have her you say? Are you sure you can do that?” I asked. “Oh yes, I’m sure! I can speak for Paul. Why he’ll be glad to see her go!”
That scoundrel, I thought! But said, “I’ll take her!”
I asked Bobby Lee to make up some paperwork showing that he gave her to me, (however legal that might be) and breathlessly headed out the door. I wanted to get her out of there as quickly as possible.
As I returned to her it seemed as if she knew what was going on, she sat up a little straighter and her look was a little brighter. It had rained while I was in with Bobby Lee and had washed some of the grime off of her. She looked almost cheerful.
PART 3: The Rescue
I had to work fast, there was no telling when someone might change their mind and take her away from me. A trailer…I needed a trailer. There was a U-Haul right up the street. I headed for the U-Haul….they had no car trailers, ( of course she’s a car, what did you think I was talking about? ) no one locally had any car trailers. Everyone in Southeastern Virginia must have needed a car trailer that day. How about a 12 foot utility trailer they asked. That will have to do I said. Now I need ramps and tie downs and a hand winch. Have it ready for me I said to the trailer lady and hurried off to Lowes.
Five straight days of perfect Spring weather. And today? Rain. A genuine Baptist downpour. Off to Lowes to get the stuff I need to rescue my little red lady, back to U-Haul to hook up the trailer, find out that I do not have the hitch receiver on the truck. It is back home in Suffolk some forty miles away.
The following events would have indicated to a normal person that this adventure was simply not meant to be. However, I am bred from good stubborn Polish stock and was not about to be deterred, so off to Suffolk I went.
Suffolk, Virginia, the largest “city” in the state, not quite city and not quite country but the last god-forsaken outpost of civilization on the western edge of south eastern Virginia. Cow country so barren that even the cows have packed up their show and moved on to greener pastures.
Rt. 58 is about the only way to get there: Enter Virginia’s Finest…in a silver and blue Camaro no less. Roughly 70 on a 55—in the rain—in traffic. Never, never try to explain an LBC rescue to a cold, wet State Trooper, it will do you no good. Only 15 over the limit, though. Failure to obey posted speed. He was pretty nice about it.
Continue on at a slightly reduced speed to my road, Manning Rd. 9.8 miles of winding twistys….posted speed: 55 Mph…enter Combine. You all know what that is…big green thing… about twenty feet wide…eats corn. What it is doing out of hibernation in March is anyone’s guess. Did I mention that Suffolk roads have drainage ditches, deep ones?
Wary of combines, deer, drainage ditches and the Federales, I travel at a more subdued pace…hitting every single bloody traffic light between Suffolk and Chesapeake. The trip takes almost an hour.
I arrive to find a small knot of people gathered around the red lady. Howeryalldooin, I ask as I approach. Jessfinehowboutyerself, one says. We hear yer gonna take it away another grins. What ya gonna do with it? Yes, I am rescuing her, I say, and I’m going to restore her back to life! Laughter erupts…Why it ain’t even got no floorboards! What ya gonna do, make it a pedal car?? I ignore their comments as they walk away snickering. She will live again…you’ll see! I declare as I turn back to her to set to the task of putting her on the trailer…alone.
She went willingly, almost eagerly up the ramps into the bed to be tied down securely for the trip to her new home. No one will ever tie down your spirit, I thought as I watched her in the mirror. I could tell she was happy; her raggedy top was blowing in the wind with reckless abandon!
Arriving home she was dubbed “the cutest little car I ever saw” by my wife Bobbi and was immediately christened “Bobbet.” She was so tiny that there was room for her in the garage and she rolled off the trailer and scooted into her spot like she owned the place, secure in the knowledge that she had a future.
I threw and old quilt over her to keep off the birds, and closed the garage door. As I did I could swear that I heard her sigh.
A future she did indeed have…and it would be glorious!
By Jon Suponski
The saga continues in:
“Bobbet and the Racing Midge”