By Alexander Arnell
Friday, January 16, 1976
Gleaming even in total darkness, Ablan's beloved jade green 1969 Chevy Chevelle stood waiting in the fridged garage as a clock chimed 7 times through the wall into the garage. Suddenly, Alban and his best friend Von burst into the garage. A shaft of light shone through the door from the utility room they had just exited. The two stumbled forward, Alban in the lead, reaching to flip an Ivory light switch to ignite the single bare 75-watt incandescent light bulb that was used to luminate the garage. In wonderful good cheer, the duo stepped into the dimly lit garage with mounting anticipation of a fun Friday night.
Dressed in disco clothes Alban wore gray and silver plaid pants, paisley patterned maroon silk shirt, two-inch wide belt, four-inch brown platform shoes making him over 6 feet tall and a brown waste-length leather jacket. .Alban stroked his light brown hair parted in the middle to then turn with his bright blue eyes to look at his friend. Von was proudly wearing his favorite hillbilly hippy style, bell bottom-Levis’ pants, Levis’ shirt, no belt, brown lace up roper boots. The cold had Von bundled up in his dad’s Korean War khaki green army jacket. He was five foot ten inches tall, curly blond hair in a Simi afro, with mellow brown eyes.
The two best friends were laughing and punching each other on the arm in spite of the extremely cold garage and even colder sub arctic weather outside.
After a brief wrestling match to see who went first,Alban continued to lead only becauseVon let him. Alban outof the corner of his eye immediately noticed behind the wheels on the front and rear quarter panels of his green 69 Chevelle were white splash marksmade by the car's extra wide tires.
Staring down at the white streaked road film Alban said, “Well that looks like crap.” Von only nodded in mutual agreement as he shuffled by to open the garage door.
“I’m going to have to wash that off,” Alban murmured to Von. Von stopped, in exasperation turned to his left to stop and lean against Alban’s parents’ 1973 blue Olds Cutlass with his arms folded. After a moment of thought, Alban looked around the garage for a container that held his cleaning supplies. He never had one place for these items.They usually were stuffed in a convenient place close to where he had used them last.
“Von do you see the Jack O’latern bucket?” asked Alban. Von made a non-complementary look around the garage. “I don’t see it,” replied Von.
Alban made a sweeping look around the interior of the garage to stop when his eyes focused over Von’s shoulder to see the bucket sitting on the workbench.“There it is,” he declared.
Von looked over his shoulder to see the bucket then stepped aside as Alban walked past to reach for the bucket.
Inside the bucket was a tan sponge along with a well-worn shammy skin for spot free drying of the 69’s shiny paint.
During the more temperate months of the year, Alban would wash or as he would say “warsh” his jade green 69 Chevelle at least once a week. The paint may have not looked perfect, in fact, it was a “Maco” paint job, but you could always say he kept his car clean and well waxed.
The winter months were a hard time for Alban to keep his car clean. The cold, slushy slop of snowmelt on the roads were a big problem. To make matters worse the county road commission used generous amounts of sand and a rock salt mixture on the road to keep cars from sliding off it.This mixture when driven on invariably made Alban’s car dirty.
Alban, many times during the cold winter months, gave his car a sponge bath and shammy dry to display the shiny jade green paint and mag wheels.
Alban looked attentively into the bucket and said, “Damn, the water has frozen solid.”
“Come on, forget it, Alban!” Von said, “Let’s go. I don’t want to wait out here in the cold while you go to get hot water to give your a car a sponge bath!” Von looked at Alban staring into the bucket, a left over trick-or-treat Halloween Jack O’latern candy bucket. Von said, “It will most likely freeze up again before you finish like the last time.”“Let’s go, we got people to see, places to go.”
Unceremoniously, Alban tossed the bucket back on the bench and grumbled, “The hell with it anyway, let’s go.”
Von opened the driver’s side door to slide over to the passenger side since the passenger side door was too close to the garage wall for entry.Luckily, the green interior of the 69 Chevelle had a bench seat so he should slide easily over to the passenger seat. The Chevelle had sticking out of its center hump an extra long Hurst four on the floor shifter covered in brown velvet. The shifter was topped off with a tee handle shifter knob set at 45 degrees. Von’s right two-inch tall heal of his boot made him stumble over the shifter making him fall into place, smashing his right shoulder against his door.
Alban watched, snickered and said, “Way to go Grace, looks like your taking a trip and never left the farm.”“Shut up,” Von said in reply.
Alban half closed the car door to pass by to open the garage door.Immediately the cold zero degree wind screeched in, to chill his feet, then his complete body.Alban rubbed his non-gloved hands, as he spun around to jog towards the car door in three bounds.Once in the car, he slammed the door shut, but not before the wind blew up the back of his jacket on his exposed lower back from the waist length coat.
With both hands on the wheel, Alban realized that his keys were still in his front pant’s pocket.“Crap,” he mumbled while he had to arch his back and raising his butt off the cold stiff vinyl seat to be able to reach into his front square pocket to get his keys.
With the keys in hand, Alban deftly placed them in the ignition on the steering column but did not engage the starter just yet.
Last summer Alban removed the car’s original 2-barrel carburetor to replace it with a four-barrel Quadra Jet model.When Alban installed the new carburetor, he couldn’t understand how the choke linkage went together on the carburetor.Out of frustration, Alban had thrown the linkage in the trash to state, “You really don’t need a choke anyway.”
This act of naive youthfulness made the 69 hard to start in such cold weather, but Alban, after many months of cold weather starts, through trial and error, had learned to get the old heap started down to a science.Vigorously, he pumped the accelerator 17 times - not 18 because 18 would flood the carburetor.After a 5 second counted pause, Alban turned the ignition switch to engage the starter.The starter ground for 10 seconds while Alban held the accelerator peddle held to the floor.First with a cough then with a roar the 307 cubic inch engine came to life.At this precise moment, Alban started to pump the accelerator to keep the engine from stopping.With a chug and a pop the engine, slowly come to life again with a black cloud of exhaust smoke filling the garage to finally resending into a healthy exhaust roar.
Von was oblivious to the now familiar routine.He was casually looked through Alban’s eight-track tape collection.“You ain’t got anything new?” he asks Alban.“You would know if I did, you are with me ever time I go to town,” Alban replied.
Von ignored the comment, chose a “Foghat” tape, and quickly inserted it into the dash mounted 8-track player.Soon after some clicking and whirling, the excited whine of “Fool for the City” blasted through the rear “Jensen” speakers.
While Alban tapped to the beat of the song, he waited patiently for the car engine to warm up to a reliable operating temperature. To pass the time he sang along with the blaring music:
I'm a fool yea, A fool for the city,
I ain't no country boy, woo!
“Ok let’s go,” said Alban after he reached down to release the emergency brake to next push in the clutch.The emergency break’s foot leaver made a familiar thump as Alban slid the shifter lever over to the far left and up into reverse.Slowly, he let out the clutch and slightly pressed on the gas peddle to get the car underway.The car slid completely out of the garage on to the frozen gray driveway.Looking at Von, Alban said, “Get out and make yourself useful and shut the garage door.” “Why me?” stated Von.“I did it the last time you lazy bum, get out and do it,” said Alban.
Grudgingly Von opened the passenger side door, slid out of his now warm seat to go outside in the sub zero January evening air.For spite, he left, in Alban’s mind if not in his own, the car’s door open so the biting north wind would swirl into the car to make Alban shiver.As fast as a person could, Von closed the garage door and ran back to the waiting car.
Alban, looking over his left shoulder, released the clutch and backed the 69 down and out of the driveway ending backwards onto the street sliding the front wheels in the process of stopping.
Both he and Von had lived their whole 17 years as best friends.Even though they were not brothers, in many ways, they had grown as close as brothers.However, in many other ways they were just friends of mutual age that just happened to live at a close proximity to one another.
“Let’s go to the convenient store and see if Trent is working,” said Von.I need another pack of smokes and maybe we can score a 6-pack.”“Not Olympia again that shit tastes like piss water,” Alban said in reply.
Alban left his start position slowly in first gear only later to aggressively shift his car into second gear.He did so because he liked shifting hard, and it was fun.He knew that his parents did like him to lay rubber in front of the house.However, Alban knew he could get away with making the 69’s twin open Cherry Bomb mufflers roar while he drove through the neighborhood. Besides, you had to be loud to be noticed.
The twin headlights of the 69 pierced the darkness of the early evening.Alban lazily drove while Von looked out the window at their familiar middle class neighborhood.The car jolted as it crossed the railroad tracks to pull to a stop at the edge of a 4-lane highway.
“Did you even look to see if a train was coming?” Von said in an accusing voice.“There are no trains on those tracks any more,” said Alban in reply.Von gave Alban a cold stare, “That’s probably what Sam Hepley said just before the Rock Island Rocket ran over his ass,” Von said.“That was 10 years ago and since then they put warning lights on the tracks. Besides, the Rocket stop running back and forth to Chicago five years ago, idiot,” rebutted Alban.“When it comes to trains you can never be too careful,” was Von’s reply.
As Coach Lauber had taught, Alban completed his stop a foot behind the stop sign.To see the traffic better, Alban crept forward slowly before he made another stop just before the edge of the asphalt of the highway. Lookingboth ways Alban saw that there was little traffic at this time of the evening.With little thought, Alban decided that it was safe for him to cross to make a left turn onto the highway named Route 29. Route 29 was a main road to and from Peoria and the Caterpillar Tractor plant in Mossville.At shift changes, Route 29 could be quite busy with several thousand employees working three shifts at the plant now. Rush hour is what the locals call that shif changetime. Peoria was a medium size town. It’s workers really were able to rush to get home, not having to drive in stop go traffic like in the big cities like Chicago or Saint Louis.
Alban crossed the highway’s median to complete his left turn when he floored the accelerator to make he car zoom forward with a loud roar of the exhaust mufflers.Barely touching the clutch, Alban slammed the gear shifter into second gear leaving a chirp of tire squeal then immediately slammed on the breaks to make a right turn into thelocal convenient store.Von was not impressed because even after numerous bolt on speed enhancements there was nothing that Alban could ever do to make a 307 cubic inch Chevy engine fast.Besides, he floored it on that stretch of road every time he pulled out unless if the cops were running radar in thestore parking lot.Von would have been surprised or impressed if Alban did not drive like a maniac.
Making a wide turnaround the gas pumps to next slide to a stop Alban and Von piled out of their car to make a hasty trip into the warm convenient store.
In the store, Alban and Von’s life long friend Trent stood behind the counter.“Hey, Trent what’s up dude?” said Alban.“Not much, I’m working until midnight,” said Trent.“Well far out,” commented Alban although not really listening.Alban looked around the store and over his shoulder then back to focus on Trent. Albanasked, “Is your manager here or are you by yourself tonight?”“Alone,” replied Trent. “You think we could score a pack of Winston’s and a 6-pack of Bud?” asked Alban.“Man, you're going to get us in trouble if you get caught,” said Trent.“We won’t get caught,” replied Alban.“Go ahead, you know where it is,” said Trent “but you are going to have to pay this time, they are taking inventory next week.”“Yea, yea,” said Alban mockingly as he walked to the back of the store to the beer cooler.Trent yelled at Alban and Von’s back as they walked away, “Get it out of the back so I don’t have to restock the cooler tonight.” “Ok”, Alban replied while stepping through the brushed metal two-way swinging door into the back storage room to be able to enter the cooler. Alban let the back room door close before he was able to push the round knob of the push lever that operated the cooler door latch to open the walk-in cooler door.Looking in the walk-in cooler he saw stacked neatly up against the back wall the extra items stored to fill the cooler shelves until the venders came in to restock.Looking past the Olympia and Hams beer, he saw the extra six packs of Budweiser. Alban casually grabbed a 6-pack of Budweiser beer that was stacked under a case of iceberg lettuce.
While Alban was busy, getting the beer Von made a left turn to walk over to the back rest room situated in the back storage room to use the indoor plumbing.Humming to himself while using the facilities, he heard Alban close the walk-in cooler door with a slam and the bang of him kicking the two way medal door open with his right foot when leaving the back room.Exhaling with a deep sigh Von quickly finishes and flushes the commode with his left foot leaving the lid up.Satisfied, he turned and headed toward the front of the store.
While walking past the frozen food sections Von heard Alban-addressing Trent, telling him a tired old joke.Did you hear the one about the lady that bought a magic mirror at a garage sale?” “No,” replied Trent. “She takes the magic mirror home and hangs it on the closet door.Her husband comes in and says, "What’s that?"It’s a magic mirror and it will grant you a wish.He says lets see how it works.The lady goes, magic mirror on the door make my tits a 44 when, vaboom!” Alban uses his hands to exaggerate breasts getting bigger with both of his raised hands over his chest. Trent, Von and Alban let out a robust round of laughter.Waiting a moment Alban continued, “The husband says, that’s great let me give it a try.Magic Mirror on the door make my dick touch the floor, then his legs fell off.”Trent and Von shake their heads in disbelief.Alban blurted out, “I guess the punch line in this joke was anticlimactic.Trent add a pack of Winston’s, in the box, and $5 of gas with the beer.”
Trent with years of practice selling cigarettes reached into the rack above him without looking for the Winston’s to hand them to Alban with his right hand while accepting the payment with his left in the same motion.Trent placed Alban’s $10 bill on top of the cash drawer, as he punched in the cost of the beer, cigarettes and gas into the register.The register’s bell rung as the cash drawer opened for Trent to count out change.“That’s $7.52 out of $10 so your change is $2.48,” said Trent counting out the change backwards from $10.Alban smiled and said, “I gave you a 20.”“Don’t pull that old joke,” remarked Trent pointing to the ten on top of the cash drawer.Trent and Alban laugh knowing Trent was the one who trained Alban how to count out change and how not to be ripped off in the process.“Chow Baby,” said Alban as he stole a Tootsie Pop out of a display on the counter as he walked toward the door.“Quit watching Kojack and get out more,” quipped Trent.
Alban got back in the car after having put a little over 8 gallons of gas in the tank, filling it to almost the full mark. Alban looked over at Von who again was looking through the 8-track tapes and said, “Keep the "Foghat" tape in, I like that.” After looking out the window at a passing green Corvette Alban said, “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” said Von. “I don’t know I asked you first.” Alban shot back. “I don’t care,” said Von.“You want to go see a movie,” asked Alban?“No I don’t want to spend the 2 bucks,” says Von.“You want to cruse Main Street,” asked Alban, “Why not I ain’t got nothing else to do.,” said Von, while he took the pack of cigarettes out of the paper bag. Von started to hit the pack of smokes against the open palm of his hand.“Stop that you’ll give them too much of a bite packing them down like that,” griped Alban.Von ignored Alban while he opened the package of cigarettes.Alban started the car before he pulled away from the pumps to leave the parking lot.
Once again, the mild throaty roar of the 69 Chevelle’s Cherry bomb mufflers wafted through the neighborhood as Alban made a tire screeching, blue exhaust smoke filled turn down the four-lane highway.Shifting through three gears, first, second then fourth since third gear did not work any more the car’s engine began to spin at 2300 RPM.Alban had already done the math and knew that at that RPM in fourth gear the 3:08 to1, geared 10-bolt rear end would make the car travel at a constant 55 miles per hour. He had to use the tachometer to know the amount of RPM to calculate his ‘car’s speed because when he was installing the four-speed transmission Alban had cut the speedometer cable in two pieces.When he had gone to buy a new one the person behind the counter asked a bunch of question about his old cable such as, how long was the cable and some other things that Alban could not remember.Alban did not know the length of the old cable and told the parts counter person he would come back but never did since he was afraid he would not have answers to all the questions.In fourth gear the 69 was on its way towards the big city of Peoria.
© Copyright 2016 Alexander Arnell. All rights reserved.