Monday, May 20, 2013
Boys and Their Toys
Vernon McMahon beamed at the crowd wandering around the Talbot’s Peak town square, many of whom detoured into the Grease ‘n’ Grill. He squeezed Elly’s hand. “I’m telling you, baby, this is the best idea I’ve had since that time I offered raw meat.”
Elly shook her head, but even she had to admit Classic Car Cruise Night was a tremendous hit. She’d never seen so many gas-guzzlers and convertibles in her life. But then, she didn’t go around looking for any, unlike the car enthusiasts who’d turned out for her husband’s promotion. Nearly all of them were male, and nearly all of them had that same puppy-with-a-chew-toy look on their faces. A car was a car to Elly. It must be something carried on the Y chromosome.
“Holy cow, would you look at that Pontiac!” Vern exclaimed. “Get a couple paddles and you could float that boat down the river.”
“Oh my,” Elly gasped. She darted over to a vintage ‘60s VW Beetle, complete with windup key attached to the back. “I had one of these when I was Mary’s age. They’re so much cuter than the new ones.”
Vern hugged his wife against him. “Same reason you married me."
“Knock it off, you old wolf. People are watching.”
“No, they’re looking at the cars.” Like Vern. “I always wanted a street rod. Too bad the oil embargo hit around the time I got old enough to drive. It pretty much killed the car culture. I ended up with a pickup truck, like the rest of my unimaginative family.”
“You could get one now. A big boy toy. We can afford it.”
“You wouldn’t bleat?”
“Of course I will. Just not too loudly.” She grinned up at him. “I wouldn’t mind tooling around town in a classic convertible.” She broke off as a man and woman in their 40s ambled past them. The man had his hair in a greased-up DA, and the woman wore a pony tail and poodle skirt. “But not dressed like that.”
Vern just snickered. Quite a few of the attendees had opted to dress to the era. The square looked like a casting call for a Happy Days revival. Jaunty ‘50s rock and roll blasted from the ice cream shop, adding to the atmosphere. Like Vern’s diner, it and the other shops that had opened for Cruise Night were doing a brisk business.
“Does it bother you,” Vern said, “that you and I may be the only people here who actually remember the ‘50s?”
“Speak for yourself, old timer. I was just a lamb for most of it. The ‘60s were more my decade.” She stopped and nodded toward a vehicle more lounging than parked at the far end of the square. “And speaking of which … ”
Both grinning, they strolled toward the VW minibus painted in a swirl of psychedelic colors. “In A Gadda Da Vida” blasted out of a modern-sounding stereo system. On the sliding-door side in a lawn chair sat Lorelei, decked out in jeans and a t-shirt, with dandelions wound through her masses of hair and enough beads to start her own Mardi Gras parade. Her boyfriend Bobby made an acceptable, if big-footed, John Lennon. Digger the wolf stood by a portable grill, roasting veggies under his human girlfriend Laurie’s supervision. Digger and Laurie were dressed like Digger and Laurie. Not so Lamar, who’d gone full-on greaser with leather jacket and sinfully tight pants and his ebony hair styled to within an inch of its life. Rounding out the makeshift commune was Jamie, in his usual slacks and flannel and long-suffering grin.
Lorelei held up two fingers in a V sign. “Peace, dudes. Join the food-in.”
“Only if you tell me what that smell is.”
“Relax,” Digger said. “It’s cooking herbs only. I don’t grow recreational.” He nodded toward Lorelei and Bobby. “I can’t speak for the bunnies.”
“You’re looking authentic,” Elly said to Lamar. “Very stylish.”
“Protective coloring,” Lamar said. “The ‘50s were a dangerous decade for those of my persuasion. I won’t feel safe until the ‘70s swing around again. Ay!” He bolted out of his lawn chair as a blue Plymouth Fury growled past. “Was that Christine?”
“Don’t think so,” Jamie said. “Christine was red.”
“I hate haunted cars.” He hopped into Jamie’s lap. “Hold me.”
“Hey, Pops,” Digger said to Vern, “you look like you’re from the era. You want to explain the fins to me?”
“Is that even a word?”
“It was in my day. Show some respect for the machinery, puppy.”
“Uh-huh.” Digger suddenly froze with his spatula half-under the carrot slices. “Oh, that is sweet.”
They all turned to look at the immaculate Mustang purring its supercharged way into a nearby parking space. The door swung open and Ziva got out, done up to Pink Lady perfection: black Capris tight as a coat of paint, scoop-neck blouse, killer heels, a kerchief around her neck in the same scarlet shade as her lips. Nick slouched out of the passenger seat and fell in at heel. He hardly rated a glance.
“You’d better be talking about the car,” Laurie said to Digger.
“Shoot,” Jamie said. He got up, dumping Lamar off his lap. “Better get back to work. I’m supposed to be shooting photos of the cars.” He scurried off in the opposite direction with Lamar clinging to his arm.
“Quite a crowd, Dad,” Nick said, following introductions. He was trying his damnedest not to scowl at his father holding hands with a herbivore. Ziva jostled him with her elbow and stepped over to check out Digger’s food. He didn’t growl, but Laurie did, very softly.
“You offering prizes?” Nick asked.
“A coupon good for two free meals at the Grease ‘n’ Grill for the most authentic car. This isn’t a contest. It’s for funsies.”
Nick looked around, more at the people than the rides. “I didn’t know so many shifters were into street rods.”
“Yeah, well … ”
“Let’s be honest,” Elly said. “Most of them are human. We picked up a lot of the raceway crowd from down by the exit. Word got around, and … ” She shrugged.
“Dante’s not pissed, is he?” Vern said in a low growl.
“Are you kidding? He’s been looking for some way to ease contact. It just happens you lucked into it. If there’s one thing human and shifter males can agree on, it’s cars. Oh dear dog,” he added, suddenly panting. “Is that a Corvette? I have got to check that out.”
Nick trotted off, followed by Vern, Bobby and Digger. Laurie took over the grill. “I don’t get it,” she said to Elly. “It’s a car. What’s the big deal?”
"Well," Ziva said, "there's always the back seat."
Laurie smiled and nodded. In fact, there were smiles and nods all around. Over at the ice cream shop, the soundtrack kicked into “Little Deuce Coupe.”