A Very Special Love ©
© Copyright 10-5-2013 Harvey A. Saltz - All rights reserved.
By Harvey A. Saltz
Steve Kopek stood tall and proud as he and four of his retired male friends stood at the open doorway of his detached, three car garage. They had been gazing at the 1927 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton for over 5 minutes without moving or speaking. They were all mesmerized by her elegance and timeless, classic beauty.
Steve had just parked his “Betsy” in the empty garage that morning after driving it home from the shop where it had just undergone a frame off restoration. She had been in his family ever since 1927 when his father purchased her new from a local Cadillac dealership. He smiled broadly as he said, “It felt really good this morning to finally drive her again. I missed her terribly.” A tear began to form in the corner of his left eye, but he quickly wiped it away before it was ever noticed.
It seemed like eons to Steve, but Betsy had been under restoration for only 3 years, 9 months, and 14 days. He visited Betsy every few days just to be with her and to monitor the progress of the painstakingly slow restoration.
“What color red is that?,” asked Frank Cagney, a lifelong friend ever since the third grade.
“I really don’t know what it’s called,” replied Steve. “It’s a special color made up by John Mangiapani, the guy who restored her. Whatever it’s called, I like it. It’s music to my eyes, if you don’t mind my adaptation of a familiar phrase.”
Can we go in and get a closer look, maybe even touch her?,” asked Henry Cassidy, another lifelong friend.
“Sure, go ahead. She may be in showroom condition right now, but I intend to drive her occasionally. What’s the sense of owning something like this if you can’t show her off and get people to ogle you with envy?”
The five men entered the garage and gathered around. They approached and touched her painted body. They marveled at her luster and smoothness. They touched her leather upholstery and marveled at her soft and pliable texture. They touched her . . .
“What the fuck was that?” asked Henry. “It sounded like an engine sputter.”
“Oh shit,” said Gary. “I just heard another.”
The five men ran out of the garage as they all heard a third sputter which sounded closer. They looked up to where they thought the sounds were coming from. “Holy shit!,” shouted Steve excitedly. It’s an old Piper Cub coming straight for us. RUN!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Run for your lives.”
It appeared as though the aircraft was coming straight down. If it were to have been intentionally aimed, it couldn’t have been done better than the course it was on. It was heading directly for the garage.
Allison Kopek, Steve’s wife, heard the commotion and ran out of her house to see what it was all about. She saw the plane headed for her garage and said out loud to herself, “Oh my God.”
It was only moments later that a thunderous crash was heard and felt by the entire neighborhood. Immediately, the entirety of the three car garage was engulfed in a blazing inferno. The heat was too intense and everyone had to move back, far back. Everyone stood and looked on in shock. Everyone was thankful that they had escaped being caught in that conflagration. Everyone except Steve, that is. He strained his eyes to get a view of Betsy as her metal creaked and melted, and as her wood and leather burned to mere ashes.
Again, tears welled up in Steve’s eyes, but too many to conceal. They were tears of deep sadness, of helpless hopelessness. He thought, “Why couldn’t it have been three years, nine months, and fifteen days?”
Sirens filled the air. Fire trucks of every size and shape filled the streets. A Fire Rescue Ambulance made its way close to the garage in case there were injured survivors who required medical attention. Police cars and officers blocked off the streets to control traffic and to keep observers at a safe distance.
Everyone was busy watching the chaotic action going on around them. That was why no one noticed Steve as he walked in a daze towards the flames and heat of the raging fire. Finally, Allison noticed him and ran to him screaming, “No, Steve! Don’t do it!”
Their four friends heard Allison’s screams and then noticed Steve. They all ran to him and grabbed a part of his body to restrain him. It was difficult, but they managed to pull him back from what he intended to be a fiery end. “Let me die!,” Steve cried out in emotional pain. “I want to die!” He collapsed to the ground sobbing uncontrollably.
No one but Allison was aware of Steve’s condition. He had recently been given only 6 months to live as a result of an inoperable advanced cancer that had spread to his liver, spleen, pancreas, and lungs.
He struggled to get up, but his friends fought back and held him to the ground. Suddenly, Steve started to convulse. He doubled over as though he were in severe pain. He turned ashen and broke out into a cold sweat. “My heart,” he yelled, “it’s my heart.”
A nearby paramedic who came with the Fire Rescue Ambulance heard the word heart and placed himself into an alert mode. He spotted Steve on the ground with others around him. “That must be the heart attack victim,” he thought as he rushed to give aide. He rolled Steve over and ripped his shirt open. “Where does it hurt?,” he urgently asked.
“It’s my heart,” said Steve. “I’ve had this sort of attack in the past.”
The paramedic quickly shot Steve with a dose of GIK 1 in preparation for transporting him to a nearby hospital for more advanced treatment.
It was days later. All Steve’s friends and relatives attended his funeral. He really didn’t want a fuss made over him whether he was dead or alive, but Allison wanted it that way. After all, funerals are for the living.
Steve was not a religious man. In fact, he would often say, “I’m not sure there is a God, but if there is, no offense meant.” Allison honored his beliefs, and asked his best friend, Frank Cagney, to draft and deliver the eulogy at the non-religious service held at the mortuary.
“Steve was loved by all,” Frank said as he stood before the gathering. “Although he could sometimes be a real son of a bitch, his generosity and unwavering friendship created a very special place in the hearts of everyone who knew him. That is why, if you look around, you will see that there isn’t a dry eye in the room, except for Steve’s, that is. . . .”
Allison lead the procession that passed by the open casket. She stopped for a moment with tears in her eyes as she gazed upon her husband for the last time. She reached into her purse and gently pulled out a bright, shiny object that survived the fire. It used to be the radiator cap to the 1927 Cadillac. As she tenderly placed it into Steve’s folded hands, she said, “Now you two will be together for all eternity.”
1 GIK: A mixture of glucose, insulin and potassium.
© Copyright 10-5-2013 Harvey A. Saltz - All rights reserved.