“Whatcha think?” I asked pointing at the brand new Ford Falcon. “My dad just bought it last weekend. First time I’ve been allowed to drive it.”
“It ain’t no T-bird,” G remarked.
“You’re right. It ain’t. But it’s a ride and I’ve got it. I’m gonna call it the Bird. Think I’m gonna paint that name on the front side fenders, too,” I said flipping him the bird.
“Your folks won’t let you mark up their new car.”
“Hmmm, you may be right. Guess I better ask them first.”
G looked at me with a knowing smile. “Well, you gonna offer me a ride?”
“Well, hell yeah,” I said opening the door. “Hop in. We’ll head over to Folly.”
“Folly Beach. No better place to be.” G hopped in. I turned the key and four cylinders began their incessant rising and falling. It was a good day.
We arrived at Folly and wandered around the pier until it was time to get home for supper. I dropped G off at his place and headed home. The carport welcomed its new vehicle, shading the shiny new green exterior.
“Hi, mom,” I said as the screen door slammed behind me.
“You know how your dad hates to hear that screen slam Like that.” My mother was frowning while she spoke.
“I know. I can’t help it. It’s almost like a Southern tradition to hear a screen door slam behind you. Like at grandmama’s in Georgia. Rusty screened rickety door cracking into the door frame anytime we kids skedaddled outside. In too much of a hurry to ease it closed.”
“Maybe but I prefer you not do it here knowing your dad gets frustrated with you.”
“OK, mom,” I answered. On the table was the book of calligraphy from which I had been copying flourishes along with olde English lettering with squared pen nibs. I was improving every day.
Seeing that reminded me, “Mom, do you think I could write The Bird on the fender in olde English cally graphy?”
“On a brand new car? I don’t think so. You can ask your dad but I’m thinking he will definitely say no.”
There it was. Anything like this had to be OK’ed by my dad. When it came to confronting dad with such a request I usually backed down. For some reason it was different this time. I’d been getting really good with the lettering. It couldn’t be that hard I thought. Picking up the Speedball Lettering book I walked into the TV room. Dad was watching the news. He was absorbed in the screen in front of him. I sat down in the chair next to him placing the book on my knees. When the commercial came on I spoke up.
“I’ve been practicing this cally graphy writing, dad.” I showed him some examples of what I had done. “I think I’m getting pretty good.”
“Not bad,” he said glancing at it.
“I’d like to use this olde English lettering,” I said pointing to the page, “on a project.”
“Looks like you could do it,” was his answer. The news had returned after the commercial. It was always best to wait and talk during a commercial, so I waited. When the next one came up I picked up where I had left off.
“I’d like to write something in olde English on the fenders of the Falcon.”
He looked at me like I had a mouth full of dangling worms.
“We just bought that car son. It’s brand new. Why would I let you paint something on it?”
“Well, lots of people have the names of their cars painted on them.”
“Yeah, but you’re talking about those old jalopies from the 40’s. I’ve seen them. But I’ve never seen a brand new car done up like that.”
“We could be the first. You said I’ve done a fine job with these practice sets. I think I could do it.”
He looked at me. There must have been something in my look that got to him. His next question cinched it for me. I knew I was going to be painting on the fender.
“What is it you want to put there?”
“The Bird? Why the Bird?” He said through the “hell no” look I normally got.
“It’s a Falcon Right?”
“That’s a bird right?”
“I thought it would be the closest we’d ever get to a T-bird and being another hunting bird it would be kinda neat.” My voice began to weaken as I listened to my reasoning. It was crap and I knew it. This was difficult territory for me, attempting to sway my dad.
“Hmm,” was his response. “Tell you what. If you think you can do a good job with the lettering I’ll let you try it. If it isn’t to my liking, though, off it comes. Alright?”
It took me a moment to gather my thoughts.
“O…o…o..OK,” I stammered out. “You won’t be sorry. It’ll be like a professional did it.”
“Just do a good job.” He smiled at me.
“I will. I promise.” I jumped up and ran to the kitchen. “He said yes!” I shouted at mom.
She looked at me dancing around the kitchen. I lost sight of her as she left walking to the TV room. I heard her and dad in conversation through the walls.
When she returned she couldn’t have been more stunned if a tornado had taken her to munchkin land.
“Well, do your best,” she said.
“Oh I will.”
The following day I gathered supplies. Paint brushes, model car enamel paint, black, and a boatload of enthusiasm. I labored over that project for most of that day. First the driver’s side, I painted “the’ at a forty-five degree angle. Then the “Bird” portion, perfectly level, I painted twice the size of “the.” The driver’s side was finished. After unkinking my body which had been in one position for several hours, I meandered to the passenger side and commenced reproducing my previous work.
It was getting close to dark by the time I finished both sides. Dad had said he would wait until I was finished before he looked at it. Mom had been checking at intervals to comment on the work in progress. She smiled and told me it was very nice when she saw I was finished. Then she went inside then to make a pot of tea.
I stood up very slowly. Backing up I stopped and surveyed my work. ‘Da Vinci couldn’t have done better,” I said out loud to myself. I stood admiring my work for several minutes. Time to fetch dad, I thought. Placing all my tools and paints in a box I ran into the house. Halfway down the hall I heard the screen door slam. I winced at my forgetfulness but enthusiasm for my masterpiece carried me on.
“Must you slam the screen like that?” he said to me with a frown.
“I’m sorry, dad, but I finished. I need you to come see!”
The frown lifted and a smile, an ever so infrequent smile, creased his face slightly.
“Alright, son. Let’s have a look.” He got up to follow me out.
I was outside staring with pride at my handiwork when the screen door slammed again. “Dammit,” I mumbled to myself.
“I heard that,” said my dad.
I turned to him. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”
“Again,” he said. “Alright, then, let’s see this masterpiece you’re so proud of.”
“Ta da!” I said moving to the side revealing perfect Olde English lettering of black enamel against a green background.
“The Bird!” I said.
“I see that.” He smiled. “What about the other side?”
“Ta da!” I responded as he rounded the corner of the fender.
“Not bad, son. Good enough to leave, I believe. A very nice job.”
My dad showed a touch of pride in something I had done. And then…
“Don’t know how that will affect the trade-in but that won’t be any time soon. Good job, son.”
He put his hand on my shoulder then turned to go inside.
I continued to admire my beautiful handiwork.
“Yeah, da Vinci would have been proud, too.” I said to myself