Susan Weston’s left hand held a cigarette and rested atop the convertible's steering wheel as she tooled along the rocky coast’s highway. Her right palm cupped the stick shift’s knob. She liked the feel of tires gripping asphalt at a good zip; it was reassuring, solid, in a world of change. Little had felt right to Susan since cancer claimed her mother a few summers ago, so this little something was something.
Susan's breakfast, a hefty glass of Malaga, coursed her veins. The Jaguar's top was down, the July noon sun too splendid to squander. High school done, college was on the horizon, but far enough away that it could be put in a box, the box put on the top shelf of a closet, the closet door closed. Summers are for fun. Susan adjusted her sunglasses and stepped on the gas going into a curve, hugging it, tires not squealing. Squealing tires are symptomatic of an amateur. This, and many lessons, she’d learned from her father, Randall "Randy" Weston, head honcho of Weston Aeronautics, Inc.
The Jag's white, like Susan's pearl earrings this sun-drenched Monday, and its handsome grill's sparkling chrome. She nosed the British beast into a spot in front of a diner sitting along a solitary stretch, nothing but desert as far as one could see. She parked next to a Thunderbird, walked into the beanery, sat at the counter, glanced a menu, ordered French fries and a ginger ale. To the young man sitting a few seats away she said, “That your T’bird?”
“Sure is,” he replied, adjusting his glasses, barely able to contain his pride. He’d bought the car to celebrate nabbing an advanced degree at UCLA last year. Since then he'd had some serious work done to it: bored and stroked, Positraction, fuel injection. On the surface, she looked stock. But 'twas a monster, a stealth monster, the better to trick some greenhorn into placing real money on a race.
“Huh,” she sniffed. “Kind of a sissy car, ain’t it? A lady car. Are you a sissy, boy?”
Instantly, Timmy Marcade’s demeanor downshifted from jovial to cross, grinding gears along the descent.
Before he could protest, Susan chirped, “Not that it’s a crime to be a sissy. To each their own. Not every fella is gonna be red-blooded Adonis. Hey, ya got smudges on your glasses. Better get mommy to clean ‘em, four-eyes!”
Now Timmy was steaming, staring at the linoleum.
“Aw, don’t get sore! I’m just funnin’ ya. What’s your name, boy?”
“Timmy” is as far as he got before being cut off by her tidal wave of laughter.
“Timmy? Timmy! Perfect name for a nancy. El perfecto, señorita! But please, never ever go by Timothy. That’d be beyond the pale! Deeeeep lavender. Timothy would be just too… exquisite.” She shook her blonde locks and turned her attention to the plate of fries just set before her. She dumped about half a bottle of Heinz on them before jabbing with a fork, stabbing in an almost malicious manner, thought Timmy. Fuming, he looked out the plate glass window and studied her Jag.
“Huh! Little Miss Rich Bitch," he thought. Seen her kind before! Daddy’s little girl. Daddy buys his sweetums a fancy car that she has no idea how to handle.
“Tell ya what, miss. How about a race? There’s an abandoned air base nearby, a quarter-mile stretch we marked off as a track…”
“You’re on, boy,” she said, washing the last of her fries down with a final gulp of pop, licking her lips with a hunger. “And to make it interesting, pink slip.”
“Ha ha! I’ve always wanted to own a Jag!”
He couldn’t believe it as she eased to a stop, sashaying over, palm extended. She’d shut him down with tremendous skill. Gnashing teeth, Timmy reached into the glove compartment to get the papers. He exited his beloved dream car and handed her the slip and the keys. Smirking, eyes inscrutable behind shades, she plunked her butt in the Thunderbird, put it in neutral. Then hopped out, got back in her car, edged up to the Bird’s rear bumper and began pushing it forward.
“Hey! What are you doing!”
She floored the Jag, giving the Ford a generous shove before veering away, sailing it into a Quonset hut, the Bird’s front end crunching into the building. Susan looped back to Timmy, tossed the slip and the keys at him. “On second thought, boy, you can keep your little putt-putt. It’s really a wreck, you know. I prefer my cars in mint condition.” With that she said, “Ta-ta, tot,” stepped on the gas, leaving one Timmy Marcade in a blind fury and a cloud of desert dust. He punched air for about five minutes before walking over to assess the damage to his formerly pristine prize. Maybe it can be salvaged? Where did a girl ever learn to race that well?
"Damn!" he screamed at the silent sun.
And now what? Got to get this mess towed to a body shop. And the nearest one isn't near! And I need to have a car to get to my job interview on Wednesday! Damn that little witch! I should've stayed in bed today! Damn!
Timmy trudged back to the diner, to the pay phone, pausing every so often to remove his glasses and mop his brow and curse.
Wednesday, in a Hertz rental Rambler he pulled into the parking lot of Weston Aeronautics. At the lobby desk a nice lady greeted him and gave him directions to Mr. Weston's office. Resumé in hand, Marcade marched down the long modern hallway. His credentials included USAF lieutenant, time served in a sleepy Oriental backwater few had heard of until recently, and his degree in aeronautics. At the office door he took a deep breath and was about to knock when, to his shock, the little blonde demonette opened the door and looked up into his eyes, chortled, and called back into the office, "Daddy! I think the interior decorator has arrived!" Then she was gone, like a ghost.
Squelching his fluster, Timmy regained equilibrium, gave Weston a hearty handclasp, sat down across from the big man behind the big desk, aced the interview and left with a new job beginning Monday.
Timmy sat behind the wheel of the rental and was about to drive off when Susan in her Jag blocked his path. Motor running, she got out and went to his window and handed him an ivory business card which read:
Your loveliest dream
Your worst nightmare
Timmy flipped it over to see, written in fountain pen and perfect penmanship, an address.
"Tomorrow. Be there. Cocktails at ten. Then dinner. Dress semi-formal. Congratulations on the job!"
Timmy started to ask, "How did you know I got the..." But again she was gone, like a breeze. Timmy stared at the card, looked back to where she'd stood with angelic poise. He could almost see her; her perfume was still in the air, in his nostrils. He shook his head and had to laugh.
"This thing is beyond saving, front end is ruined. Scrap. Too dang bad! She was a beauty. Can you get insurance money?" Timmy fumed, arranged to have the heap towed to a scrapyard. Then off car shopping. He needed some wheels, and they had to be breathtaking. By the end of the day, he was headed home in a factory-fresh red Ferrari, top down.
The Ferrari looked sharp, more than held its own parked along the others at the Weston estate, cheek-to-jowl with a Bentley, a Corvette, a Rolls, a few Caddies. Overhead, the stars of Southern California winked at him as he crunched gravel to the front door where he was met by a Japanese butler. At the bar, Timmy ordered a martini, then went to mingle with the guests, about a dozen of them, including a young congressman who had made a national name for himself as an elected Bircher. There were also industrialists and their wives, and General and Mrs. Edvard Cavalier. Susan was in the kitchen preparing dinner, only venturing out to demurely oversee hors d'oeuvres delivery. She was frostily cordial to Timmy. Then back to apron and oven.
At the head of the dinner table, Randy Weston held court, fielding and posing questions about the dynamics of business, jet engine innovations, this affair in Vietnam heating up. General Cavalier stated that Kennedy was an Ivy League squish, that in order to nip this Vietnam thing in the bud a well-placed nuke on Hanoi would do the trick. And if that ruffled Kremlin feathers, send a few ICBMs flyin' their way as well, really give the Reds something to squawk about.
As for the prospects regarding the space program, one guest opined, "No one will ever put a man on the moon. Buck Rogers stuff. The funny papers. It is a scientific impossibility."
Timmy Marcade was most impressed with Susan's cooking, just about the best dinner he'd ever eaten! Despite her haughty manner and the loss of his Thunderbird, he caught himself gazing at her. He hated to admit it, but she's gorgeous, if awfully young, just a kid, really. But that kid can hold her liquor! Once, she caught him staring at her. She held his stare, responded with a smile, a real smile, warm as the summer sun. He went fizzy, was glad he was seated. In the recesses of his noggin, bells, church bells, began to chime. He thought, I hate her, but I think I love her. But I hate her. But not as much as I hated her five minutes ago. Yah, I love her. She's kind of ideal...
As the festivities wound down, Susan walked him to the door after palming a chocolate-covered cherry from a dish, and out to his Ferrari. "Say, nice car!"
"Yah, gonna keep it stock. No percentage in messing with..."
She stood tiptoe and knock-knee, threw an arm over the back of his neck, met his lips with hers, and tongued the candy cherry into his mouth. "Chew on that on your drive home, boy." Then she was gone.
Dazzled, Timmy Marcade fired up the Ferrari and motored home. He didn't have to turn on the radio to hear the most beautiful music ever.