Johnny P

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Johnny P was one of those good buddies that I was close to during my high school years in the 1960’s. Then we set out on totally different life journeys and never saw each other again.
But the memories remain. That’s good.

Johnny P


We liked to cruise with Johnny P even though his ride was ugly....a yellow 1960 Chevy Impala....with those god awful big horizontal tail fins.  He called it his “sideways Cadillac”. We had just rebuilt the car’s 348 motor and were installing it back in the chassis.  This was happening in his parent’s garage on Bainbridge Road....it was a small ranch with a two-car attached garage. It was 1963. I would graduate from high school in two more years.

Some 348 facts....a Chevy 348 V8 looks damn near identical to a Chevy 409 V8. Now, if you don’t know how badass a 409 was in 1963, you’re a Van Winkle. The Beach Boys sang that you could get one by saving your pennies and saving your dimes....yeah sure....no way Johnny P was ever going to save enough dimes to buy a 409....not in 3 lifetimes....he worked afternoons at the cardboard box plant. The solution: put 409 emblems on the fenders.....add glass packs and a hot cam.....and voila! “..she’s so fine my 409”. Emblems were cheaper than engines, Johnny P said....smart guy but he dropped out  in  ‘61. How do you make car payments if you gotta go to school?  It’s true that his ‘60 Chevy did look better with those emblems. But the real upper was the eyeballing. You got the look...the 2nd glance....the respect from the guys....even from the the greasers - the ones who would only race you for money.  They listened to the Beach Boys too. That 348 did have a righteous tone...it was a phony all right, but convincing.

So anyway, arm wrestling that 348 back into the engine bay was serious work....it was getting late and we were tired....break time.... Johnny P stole a smoke, hoping his Dad - Papa Pete  - would not come in the garage unexpectedly and discover the theft.  We were teasing Johnny P’s little sis....making her choose which one of us she would marry. She was 8...maybe 10....Shirley Temple kind of cute.  I think I was in the lead with the promise of a Barbie in a prom dress.

Ok...let’s torch this bad boy. This 409 wanna be.  Run the check list....timing set, fuel in tank, fresh 10W30, battery terminals tight...more....check, check...all good. Ok, ready for liftoff....hit the key Johnny P.......Crank, crank, crank....engine filling with oil. Fuel meets spark....fire in the hole.  All is just perfect for one second....then, BAM BAM BAM   .... OVER AND OVER. Deafening. Johnny P freezes in the driver seat with his foot on the gas. I don’t know if he started crying or if it was just straight screaming....maybe both. His 348 motor was convulsing in pain.  Now little sister....my future bride .....starts balling.... some kids can cry so hard it scares you....that BAM BAM is loud for sure....I’m thinking of joining the cry party when Papa Pete explodes into the garage swinging his double barrel 12 gage shotgun....jumping up and down...pure terror on the man’s face. He’s screaming to get in the basement...now! now! He believes the Russians are attacking....gotta save his daughter. Screw Johnny P.....she was the prize. Cronkite had been telling us for weeks how bad the situation was getting. Doomsday.

Well, it all ended well enough, I guess.  Papa Pete realized it wasn’t the BIG ONE....Johnny P found the sense to turn off the ignition, and I got little sister milk & a cookie.   But Johnny P took an awful lot of ribbing about leaving that pair of pliers in the motor’s oil pan....you can’t keep something like that quiet for long.

Every so often...over the years I would wonder about Johnny P. I never saw him again after I left for college. Fast forward 55 years and I am chatting with Gary who clerks at the pawn shop. We had both graduated from the same high school...but hardly knew each other back then. “Oh Johnny P??”...says Gary  “that numb nut that left the pliers in the motor?  Last I heard he went off the grid in upstate New York....living off the land......all bearded up .... pelt trapping......growing his own veggies. No, I don’t know who his sister married.”

Fact check. 98% true story. Not sure if it was a cookie or a candy bar I got little sis. It might have been a Snickers.

 


Submitted: June 30, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Hardtravelin. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Serge Wlodarski

It's not uncommon for people to give a classic car an emblem upgrade then try to sell it for the real thing. Good story.

Wed, June 30th, 2021 2:16pm

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