WELCOME HOME

It was November, 1954 and the instructions were simple. The hostage exchange would take place at 32 degrees North by 108 degrees West. In the most south western corner of New Mexico, AFOSI agent Gilbert would travel from his home base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to this desolate corner of New Mexico to meet for a pre-arranged swap.   Being in the military, vehicles were not the utmost of performance caliper. Gilbert’s prize for his trip was a 1954 Plymouth Savoy 4-door sedan, painted in Air Force blue and stripped bare.

The high desert is cold and unforgiving. Across the landscape out crops of sagebrush and yucca struggled against the continuous harsh winds whipping out of the North. Gilbert had driven 600 miles to this spot and then, per the instructions, had taken a right off of where the compass would nail down his exact location and travel a ¼ mile down to an abandoned grange.   He parked the Plymouth, stepped outside and paused. The sun was a dull nickel like disc hidden behind a dense fog.

New Mexico. Land of Enchantment. That is the state’s motto, and as the wind howled past him he took it all in.
Rolling hills, painted deserts. Mountains carved by wind, water and time.

No wonder this was where the exchange was to take place.

Gilbert walked into the old building. Paused, pulled a Pall Mall out of the pack and lit up. He took a hard drag and was looking for a place to sit when a voice from his right snapped his senses.

“Well done. Your penchant for timeliness is what I had hoped for. It makes all of this so much easier.”

Dressed in black suit he stepped from the shadows. “You were here all along I take it?” Gilbert asked. He was tense, Gilbert’s left hand had stolen into his jacket pocket and his pistol was in his hand. Hidden behind sunglasses (who wears sunglasses inside? wondered Gilbert), the contact took a hesitant step back. “Easy now, I am unarmed. Per the agreement, this is a peaceful exchange. Remember?”

Gilbert nodded. He removed his hands from his coat and slowly raised them palms out showing he had no weapons. The contact relaxed and his thin lips spread into a smile revealing a large smile with too many teeth for just an instant, and then gone. Gilbert narrowed his gaze. Outside the sky had gone grey. The windows of the old building had lost the glimmer of sunshine and now were succumbing to the tendrils of condensation brought on by low hanging clouds and a fog-like condition.

“I have been told that you have brought with you today the bodies of those who had perished here in an unexpected tragedy. That by those who have sent me, to retrieve them, that all knowledge and the official knowledge of what had happened on that day 4th July, 1947, shall and will be eradicated from the official record in return for those who had been deemed missing since day 2, July 1937.” The contact in the dark suit spoke fluidly.

Gilbert nodded. “Let’s proceed, then.” The pair approached the door and Gilbert slid it open. Where once a sky that was so blue it hurt his eyes, had been now replaced by a dense fog.  The dark stranger walked past and from out of the fog his mode of transportation was there.  Gilbert paused.  His contact walked to something from out of a dream.

Long. Low.  Blacker than lust. Sleek. It just sat there looking as if it was going 200 m.p.h while at idle. Out front were a quartet of headlights and a hood long low and smooth. The windshield arced back at an impossible angle.  The top was radically thin and flowed back as if sculpted by wind.  The trunk was smooth and large and rising from the quarter panels were two razor sharp fins with an angled red tail light lens in each. Gilbert gathered his thoughts and asked, “What the Hell is that?”

The contact that was walking toward the trunk paused. He turned and spoke, “Wait 6 years. Beyond that this car will rattle imaginations for almost a century.”

Gilbert followed and as the contact approached the trunk Gilbert asked, “How many bodies ya think can fit in there?”
The contact paused. Gilbert would later state he saw a flash of green from behind the dark glasses. The contact replied, “Enough to solve a problem.”

The pair walked to the Savoy. Gilbert opened the trunk and as they as a pair unloaded the cargo, Gilbert noticed the contact wince and shudder. The contact was saddened and horrified.   There five total. Only two were complete bodies. Two had been almost obliterated by the crash and one had been partially examined. The contact snapped his head toward Gilbert. “We do not disassemble bodies. Never have. What kind of species are you?”

“I don’t know at times actually,” was all that Gilbert could reply.

The contact walked back to his vehicle, opened the trunk. Gilbert assisted as the bodies were placed inside. Then, the contact walked to the passenger’s side door and opened it up.

A man and a woman from out of a distant memory exited from the dark beauty. Dazed, the pair looked around. A wind had started to rise and the fog was starting to lift. The contact looked at Gilbert and took a step toward him. They shook hands and the contact walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and with a soft hum, the dark ride began to rise. Slowly upward. When it had risen to about 10 feet, the pods in the rear bumper lit up in a blue and orange flame and with a soft whoosh, the finned dark ride rapidly chased the sky and disappeared.

Gilbert walked to the pair who had stepped out of the mysterious machine.

The sky had once again returned to that incredible blue. Fred Noonan took in his surroundings, then fell to the ground and sobbed. His hands caressed the soft earth. The pilot turned to Gilbert and he said, “Welcome home Miss Earhart.”

ENDLESS SUMMER

He came into this world as many do. Bright red and screams. Clenched fists and trembling with anger as the revelation that life begins now. As she slipped from this world, his mother told us his name was to be Tide. Tide?

His mother was a SoCal beach girl, had spent days wandering the shores, and would just disappear as she watched the incoming tides. Tide. I nodded. It was perfect.

But Tide’s dad had only stayed in California because of the girl. His hometown was a Pacific Northwest blue-collar town far from the sun and sand where Tide had been born, and that was where he returned as a widower and new father at only 26. I uprooted and moved myself there, too, to help my son-in-law raise the starry-eyed child.

I noticed it right from the first time we took Tide to the coast. The coast. Funny, on the Eastern seaboard, they call it going to the shore. Anyway, Tide was enthralled. He walked down to the crashing waves and sat down. The waves crept in, washed over his bare feet, and he was in awe. He waded out a bit, bent, and touched the sea. Righting himself, he gazed out across the vast horizon.  Slowly, he raised his arms and stood still, bathing in the salt air and endless sky.
Tide’s dad turned to me, “This is something new. He’s so damned quiet. He doesnt say much at home or react to much of anything. This…well…”

I looked at Tide. The surf rushed in, and the boy reveled in it. I nodded knowingly. “Clem, the boy has found his own. The sea rushed through his mother’s veins, and so it does in him.”

Clem turned to me, and we locked eyes. He knew it as plainly as I did. Clem took Tide to their home in Longview and I returned to Big Sir.

And so it was, as the years washed away, that Tide became a student of science and embraced that was all of the oceans. Ya see, I was a surfer bum. Since my return from ‘Nam in ’69, I spent those days on Venice beach surfing and doing what a 22 year old man would do. And, well, that is how I became a father. I stopped the surfing and hot rodding and became a Dad. Hidden away, I had stashed an old ’49 Merc woody. She was a rock solid car and well, too good to sell.

My intentions were to someday upgrade the drive train, keep the wood as is and well, drive her. And then, well, Tide began to show his own in school. His grades were top tier. One day he told me “Grandad, well, I love the sea. I am going to attend the Western Washington University. I want to be a marine biologist.” Clem smirked. “Boy, you need grades.” Tide looked at me and his eye were like razors. Clem had lived a hard life. He had never taken anything from anyone, he had said, yet. Yet. The bastard had shook any tree, begged borrowed, and had stole to keep his sorry head above water. My gaze narrowed. I looked at Clem and said, “Let the kid dream. This may happen.” Clem and I stood across from one another. Eyes locked. I tilted my head and that was when he cast his gaze to the side. Ya see, anyone can speak and spout words. But a man will stand behind what he says. Clem looked downward and walked out of the room. Tide, well, the kid knocked down any wall the system through in front of him.

As a senior, his grades placed him in top tier in the nation. Clem shook his head. Always one who hated himself, he condemned his only son. “Yeah, like that will happen.”

Tide graduated in the top of his class and was awarded a full scholarship to the school of his choice. I missed his graduation, ’cause I had a plan up my sleeve.

Tide was resting in the sun outside his home that he and Clem shared. It was August and soon September would be here. I saw him and from a side street, I fired up the old Merc and trolled slowly toward him. His eyes narrowed. The ol’ girl growled. The new crate 347 ci Roush mill barked. Varnished wood and painted a deep burgundy. Wide whites and chromed reversed. Two long boards strapped atop. Tide stood up and his jaw just dropped. The license plates read NDLSSMR.

I rolled up and parked the Merc. “Ya know, she is even better than when I found her in ’69! Take care of her, she will serve ya well at school.”

Tide stood beside the Merc. His lower jaw hitched and I could see the tears.
“I love ya grandad.”

I paused. “Love ya too son.”

It doesn’t end here. My years fade here, but the years roll on. Tide drives the Merc everyday, still, and is now a doctor.

6 Second Hero

Oh, he had walked the walk. A blue collar pencil pusher by day. He knew the in and outs of the corporate shell. Nailed the daily punch card and had a perfect record. He would speak when asked and worked hard to achieve goals set by those in charge. A dedicated company man. A company man dedicates his time and effort to help keep the status quo by doing his part Never causing ripples to upset the boat. Just remain a steady hard edged cog in all that keeps the company moving forward. Monday through Friday. Even at his clean desk he did not have any distractions, unlike his co-workers. No radio or personal desk calendars or family pictures. The higher ups liked that, in their mind it kept him focused. Friday would arrive and the seeds of an approaching weekend would sprout throughout the office. BBQ’s,  soccer /basket ball/football/hockey games.  A gathering of co-workers at Benigan’s and knock a few back to start the weekend. He always turned their offers down, he had other plans. As his co-workers left in their shiny new cars and SUVs, He gladly climbed behind the wheel of his trusty 1989 Dodge truck and headed west, his heart and mind focused on his other office which waited.

Friday nights are all about prep. Tear down and rebuild.  Planning, strategy. Dirty Johnny watches the weather and working with Woody, determines sparkplugs, fuel/air ratio, tire pressure. Knowing. The brothers discuss the barometer and weather for the next day.  Dirty and Woody come to a decision and reassemble the smallblock. Ol’ Skinny, well, wise as he is, just watches. Knowing. And as the moon rises and the digger is prepped and ready for Saturday, revelry in the pits is not too uncommon, and the first of many of Golden’s finest is emptied.

The morning sun blasts the pits with warmth.  The temperature creeps as the asphalt gets softer. Skinny is resting on a stack of racing slicks. Late night combined with an early morning. Through the fog of a night’s good time the team works. A mild throb in the skull, but the boys have work as one. A unified  machine of a hidden teamwork. Dirty Johnny casts a glance to the horizon.  Then looks at his watch and studies the track thermometer. “Hmm.” He knows that their time for their first run is not for an hour, but if the conditions are just right.

The pits are strong with the smell of racing fuel. Alcohol. Nitro. Skinny suits up and Woody tends to the tow straps. Dirty climbs into the Dodge and eases the pick up forward. The soft breeze calms and the weather balances. Still. No wind. Dirty Johnny raises an eyebrow.

The launching of a dragster is all about a check list. Woody had lived it since he was only as tall as a racing slick. Everyone tending to the launch has a job to do and most important is the communication with the driver. Fire up, tow straps disengaged, chute straps pulled. Every detail ran through like clockwork and then it was all up to Skinny.
A quick burn out, heating the tires up. Not too much. Guided back into place and then he rolls forward slowly and the Christmas tree lights up that he has pre-staged.

Now he is staged and it begins. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow.

As the yellow light fades he stabs the throttle. A weeks worth of sweat and prep comes down to a millisecond as his reaction time is .499.

Green flashes by and he feathers the throttle. No tire spin, and the small block screams.

And it’s done. He pulls the shoot and coasts..drag chute slowly pulling the dragster safely to a stop.
Numbers flash across the display board. 6.1  201.54.

The crowd howls. Skinny Jim pumps his fist and whoops.
Just another day in his office.

Written for my friend Skinny Jim O’Connell. Happy Birthday, man.

All American Classics Wrecking Yard

In 1989 an idea was hatched.  Why not a wrecking yard dedicated to vintage cars?

In 1989, think about it, a ’69 Chevrolet/Ford/Mopar was 20 years old.  Who was looking for these cars?  Todd Toedtli was.

What IF he gathered cast off projects and created a salvage yard where one could find window cranks for a ’62 Impala?  What if, when dealerships sent piles of NOS mouldings to a salvage yard that were left for scrap, he could document the pieces and then resell them?  What if he plowed the unused portion of the defunct dairy farm, lay down some rows of gravel, and then organize row by row of vintage tin?  What if, with every car that was purchased or donated to the yard,  a spreadsheet was created and then every part  inventoried?

“What if” became “He did”, and All American Classics was born.

The yard started as a five acre lot, expanded, and eventually grew to as large as 20 acres at one point in time.  Name the car; it’s crossed the gates, but Todd has a penchant for GM and, especially, Camaros and Impalas.

“You know, some of these Camaros were actually driven into the yard,” Todd says.

One can see what are the remains of the many ’67-’69 Camaros and Firebirds, and they’re stunning.

“When those cars were purchased, they were just cast off projects.  Unwanted.”  Todd shakes his head.  “Today, they would bring good money as a runner/driver.  Who knew?”

From muscle cars to luxury cars.  Hardtops to station wagons and convertibles.  Pick up trucks, too.
“At one point, we had so many 1955-1959 Chevrolet and GMC trucks;  stylesides, step sides.”  Todd shrugs his shoulders.  “They were picked to the bones!  At one point, you just have to pull the plug and knock ’em in the head.”

Currently at the yard,  there are no longer any mid to late ’50’s Chevrolet or GMC trucks.  Heck, even the early Ford trucks are hard to find.  But, they’re always looking!  In the yard’s ever changing landscape, there are still a handful of 1947-1954 Chevrolet/GMC trucks as well as two Suburbans, a few 1960-1966 Chevy trucks, one 1959 Ford F-100, and a 1966 Ford F-250.   A few 1967-1972 Chevy and GMC trucks round out the offerings. But, of course, trucks aren’t all you’ll find at AAC.

“We tried to stock newer cars and trucks; even some imports, but as of January this past year, I have decided to go back to where it all began.” says Todd.   “We will have some stock of new vehicles.  Camaros and Corvettes of course.  Some Mustangs.  But, I really love being a yard where time has stood still.  Come on down and wander.  It  doesn’t cost anything, and who knows, you may find that missing part.”  Todd adds.

Speaking of missing parts, take a look at your own current project. Impala. Galaxie. Newport. Camaro. Mustang, Cutlass, Skylark, Chevelle, Nova, Falcon.  We’re sure you’ve realized that the pickings are slim, my friends. The aftermarket fenders and such are VERY affordable, but from what we have seen, lack in quality and applicatiion.  Most of the parts are made offshore from dies that were purchased from the manfacturer but, even then, have been used beyond their time.  Chrome plating on that $100 ’67 Camaro bumper from a supplier simply doesn’t have the same as an OEM piece, and the fit is not as good as an original OEM core.  We’ve seen it.

And, be it a frame for a ’65 Cadillac or a set of lower control arms for a Nova, each used part is inspected before the customer even touches it.  In fact, when the folks at AAC quote you a price, you can be assured it’s a part that Todd has personally inspected. You don’t have to be a local to shop, either. At All American Classics they aim to please. Parts can be picked up locally, or they’ll ship them to you. They even ship internationally.

At the present time, the yard is down to five acres. We know, we know, we can hear all of the yelling and such, but let’s take that into perspective. Some of the cars at AAC had been there since 1989.  That’s almost 30 years. 30 years of parts pulled, rain, frost, and freezing.   Years of customers forgetting to close a door. Vandals breaking rear windows.  Inner door panels, dash pads, and bucket seats pulled from cars. 30 years of many different hands pulling parts like taffy.  We’re all human; mistakes happen.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time!” Todd laughs and looks over his shoulder as Pat, the yard supervisor, brings up a fully stripped ’72 Cutlass sedan for inspection. Todd pauses then says, “I’ll probably be crucified for that one, too.”  A fully stripped 4-door sedan is now headed to the crusher.

But the cars are still out there.  In the last two weeks alone, AAC has purchased two vintage cars. One a 1939 Buick 4-door sedan that had been garaged since 1961.  It will be sold as a project. The other car is a 1962 Impala SS convertible.  It’s in need of a full restoration, but what a find!

“I am always looking for old cars.” says Todd. “I take all calls, and sometimes I’m lucky.”

So, if you heard rumors that All American was closing their doors for good, never fear. They’re still here. They continue to maintain a footprint, have 800 cars ready to be parted out, and still have project cars ready to be purchased and taken home.

Eugene’s Last Stand

September 24, 1964.

Summer’s burn was starting to wane as the early days of Autumn begin to embrace the city.
On this Sunday, in the early hours of dawn, a job was going down. A large sum of laundered money was in the trunk of a car and waiting at Union Station. The only clue that Cardone had was it was in a sedan.

Sundays at a train station are interesting. Sparse. In the underworld, this is a safe way to make transactions. Cardone walked into the station and took note of those around him. A hobo asleep in the corner. The ticket taker sat reading the Sunday Times. A soldier with a letter in his hands. He looked anxious. Cardone’s guess was the kid was headed off to basics, then off to whatever killing field we send our youth off to now days.

Not a security guard or person who would raise his shackles and call the deal off. He reached into his lapel and withdrew his cigarette case. Pulled a Lucky from inside and lit up with his Zippo. He inhaled and walked toward the parking lot.

It was 7:30. The good people of the city were attending their church of choice or just waking. He descended the concrete stairs and walked with a purpose his Oxford wingtips crunched and scuffed across the baked asphalt.

He paused. Sedan.

The cop that they had put the screws to had been informed that if he did not comply, that, well, his story would be spilled and besides losing his job, his life was on the line.
His name was Eugene Falks. He was a tall and lanky man. Just looking at him one could see that he was raised by an oppressive mother who pressured this poor guy to fear everything. Even his own shadow. Easy target. It started casual. Falks was such an easy target.
No friends. Living in his Mother’s house. Virgin.

Christ!

In this age of whatever the world is becoming.

Regardless, it took a matter of weeks for them to wrangle him for 500k. Right from the metro’s own account. Cold hard cash too.

So here he was in the midst of the parking lot and saw it. White on white. A fresh ’64 Plymouth Belvedere sedan. Keys in the ignition. But Cardone paused. It seemed to easy. He reached in and snagged the keys from the ignition. Stood upright and took in the surroundings.

No wind. Not a sound.

The murmur of traffic building as the sun ascended the skies on this crisp Sunday morning. He took the final drag off of his cigarette and walked to the back of the Belvedere.
He inserted the key and with a twist of the wrist it popped crisply.

—Whomp—

BwaaaHOOooooo—! The Locomotive was all fired up and let go another announcement of its departure-

BAAAaaaWOOOOOOOOoooo!!!!

Cardone glanced up and saw the huge locomotive leaving the station.
Phwuh — Phwuh, Phuw, Phuwh, phuhphwuhphwuhphwuh……

8 A.M. Time is close.

Soon the beat cops would be looking for things that, well, they have no business looking for. Carbone lifts the trunk and looks down and in the back-ground he hears an engine fire.

Two large Samsonite suitcases are there. He clenches his fists and his knuckles crack in order. All apart of his routine. A grin cracks his face and he reaches downward and to his left an Edsel eases out from a parking space.

BAAAAWHHOOOOOOOO!!!!- phwuhphwuhphwuhphuw-

The massive locomotive is gaining speed as is the Edsel.

He hits the latch release on the Samsonite and it splits open.

Sawdust.

Carbone raises his gaze from the trunk of the Plymouth. The Edsel is gaining ground and the sun rises as the city is now awake. Over the railway crossing Eugene dashes. The Dawn Express lets go with another shout and then separates Carbone from the access road.
And it hits. A stolen car filled with sawdust.

His hands start to shake. It all seemed so easy.

We Were Soldiers

On dirt floors and mighty dreams we wrenched. It was not easy. Some of us were just working on John Deere’s or Model T’s before the big break spilled upon us like a gorgeous sunrise over the valley.
We were brothers. Cousins. Friends. But the heat of competition placed us all apart. Each in our own regime. Clawing away at the hardened earth of our self proclaimed trenches to wring out secrets of speed.
Weight. Combustion. Aluminum. 
It was the dawn of Hot Rodding. A term we would not know for two more decades. 
Regardless. 
It is what we did.
We were soldiers.
We saw the torment as racers skipped meals to gain horsepower. 
One single digit.
We witnessed the pain of a failed tire. 
The hard lick of a failed rim. 
The pain and loss of chrome smoke and fire.
Fire. 
The worst.
We were soldiers.
Gasoline, oil. steel and iron. Rubber, grit and hope. Leather, combustion
speed, death.
Glory.
We were soldiers.

TIME TO PAY RENT: September 19th, 1934

Pa had succumbed to the bottle and had passed four years ago, leaving Ma to care for me and my younger kin. At 11. I knew what I had to do. As the oldest, I would badger for odd jobs and always at 4:30 P.M. would be on the corner peddling the evening news to passers by. As a paper boy, I had nailed down this territory years ago on this prime corner and sold The Picayune to passers by to earn my keep.

As the month drew to a close, me, Emery knew that many in the city would be scrambling to make rent. A busy intersection would attract many types. Grifters, Hobos, and scofflaws. But recently, amongst them was a young man in a Ford Model T. But it was unlike any that I had ever seen. Gone were the fenders and splash guards. The top was real low, like a giant had stood upon it a spell. The wheels were tall and spindly, and by gosh, it was noisy! It had a clattering and banging that sounded like it was ready to explode!

He attracted the attention really. Yassir. He would just roll up to the curb and park right near me. He always bought a paper and would tell me about his T. Why it was so loud and all. But what I loved was why he was there. 
We had this depression on, you know? I was not educated about that word, but I knew that living was hard and this stranger in his old car made my end of month routine so much more enjoyable.

Let’s see, right, okay. So Clem was his name and he was a mechanic of sorts. He rented a space and did tune ups and lube jobs as his job. From Thursday night til the early light of Sunday he was a race car driver. Midgets and sprints mostly he told me. But his real money came when he would race the Jack.

As the evening was nigh and my pile of papers was down to a few, here he would come, and boy, I tell you, that flivver would growl! He’d pull up, toss me a coin and smile and say, “What do ya think, kid, V8? Lincoln? Buick tonight?” 
And I would watch. High collared men would show up in their cars. Gosh, I tell you! Lincolns, Cadillacs, One time a real Duesie!

I would watch.  A handshake. Then the exhaust plumes as they would drive out of sight. 
Clem always came back with a grin.

Rent money was his and he would disappear into the city then reappear at the end of the month. 
In these times, well, life is hard. But it sure feels great having a busted knuckled hero in a Model T as a hero.

– inspired by Mr. Model T’s Gow Job –

 

 

The car that inspired this short story, pictured here has been built and built again in 2006-2008 and 2011-2012. Some cool stuff: 1918 Cadillac type 57 headlights, 1912 Cadillac 30 frame horns. 1922 Nash ignition switch. 1932 Sun-Aero Tach. 1913 Waltham 8-day clock. 1924 Willys-Knight steering gear. 1915 Locomobile Headlight forks. 1927 Hupmobile 19” Split-rim Wire Wheels. It’s been all over the US, mostly under its own power. Been to California twice. Was on the Jay Leno Show. Been to TROG, twice and made the 1,700 mile round trip to Bonneville under its own power across 4 states. The mods/specs required to build the engine and drive train is extensive. Maybe a “Car of the Month Feature” should be in the future?

Red Racer

This is a story of a toy. Not just any toy, mind you but a Cox Thimbledrome named Sebastian. Sebastian was made the day after Thanksgiving, 1946.

Now days every toy is manufactured the same way, it seems. A design is agreed upon, it is then passed on to a committee, it is voted on, the designated a name. The is appointed to a group. The group’s design is then voted upon and then the board of director’s votes and either approves the idea, decides to study the idea further, pass it on to another group or kill the idea all together. If approved the idea is passed onto the manufacturing process where the computer program is set forth. The assembled by someone pushing buttons.

Back in 1946, toys were assembled mostly by hand by workers hoping to pass a good product into the hands of another person. Sebastian rolled off the assembly line surrounded by others who had just been built. Mostly, a real engine powered the other toys. Real racers, headed for the hands of older kids and young adults who would race the cars at parks or other such venues. Sebastian was a “push car.” He had no engine but, looked the part. Bright Red paint, a cast side pipe and hand brake were attached to his flanks. Up front, a cast aluminum grille and on his blazing red paint job, a gold #2. He rolled on aluminum wheels with real rubber ribbed front tires and knobby style dirt track rear tires. Sebastian was assembled to look like a real Kurtis Kraft Midget racer.

The toys were all very excited. It was the season they had been told that soon they would be in the hands of real humans who would play with them and love them. The toys were gathered up and packed up into boxes and shipped from Santa Ana, California to the far corners of America. Sebastian ended up in a place called Denver, Colorado. His shipping box was jostled about and then suddenly filled with light as the shipping box was broken open.

He and four other racers were pulled out of the boxes quickly polished and set out in the store’s front window. Sebastian was beside the other Thimbledromes which all had motors. They were on a shelf that over looked an American Flyer train set that would chug its way through a tunnel and then come out of a far wall as a whistle sounded. There were other things which surrounded him that he did not have a clue what they were. Outside the big area in front of him he could see things happening that he had no idea what they were. The outside which had a steady flow of things going back and forth slowed down and finally stopped as it became dark and something was falling from the sky.

A big voice was heard behind him. “Hello new toys and welcome. I am Grandfather Time and you are in the front window of Daniels and Fishers Department Store. The other things around you are other toys. The fellow below us is “Hermy.” He is an American Flyer train, the best on the market! With that the train blew two short blasts from his whistle. “We have Shirley Temple dolls and Charlie McCarthy dolls here as well,” said the old clock. “Above us are a pair of airplane toys and a spaceship toy.”
The grand old clock paused, all the toys were hanging on his every word. “You are to go and be adopted by a child, a human. This is a toys purpose, to make those who own you, happy. The things you see walking past the front window, that is the big ‘thing’ separating us from the world outside, are humans. You will never fully live until you find a home.” Sebastian let the words of the old clock sink in and let it imprint itself on his memory. A Home, he thought. This is what I want to find. He watched outside the window and waited for the darkness to subside and the light to return.

The night gave way to day and the people began to stroll past the window. Some were in a jury and the smaller ones would stop and fog the glass staring and pointing at the different toys. Each had a wish and would focus on the toy that caught their fancy. And, it all began to happen as the clock said it would. The toys were picked up by humans and others were placed in their spots in the front window. Sebastian did his best to earn the respect of the little humans hoping to get a home. He made sure he was in the best light, (only when he could, after hours when no one was around) to show off his bright red paint. But still he sat as his siblings were purchased, leaving him alone. The pace of the humans out front grew to a maddening pace and then it slowed. There was a sound in the air the day no humans came to the store. Great bells were sounding outside and a distant sound of singing.
The Grandfather Clock told him that maybe it was not his season, maybe next year. Sebastian did not understand and still tried to look his best for the humans that may happen to walk by. Then it happened. He was picked up and he was grateful. Could a home be in his future? Was this the day to revel in? But it was just a store employee moving him from the front window to make room for a winter apparel display. Sebastian was placed in a box with decorations and moved to the back of the department store and put in storage. It must have been the wrong box for the darkness, for the little red racer seemed to last a long time. What had actually happened was the box that Sebastian had been put in had been inadvertently placed on a cart for store records and that box had been rolled into ‘long term’ storage.

Daniels and Fisher merged with the May Company and the big building in which Sebastian had first discovered the outside world was closed and set for demolition. Workers were assigned to go through the store and salvage any merchandise that could in return, turn a profit. Some remaining toys were donated to a local hospital. A last-minute opening of an old box revealed Sebastian. He looked like new and the worker who found him smiled. His first thought was to pack the racer into his back pack and take the old relic home, but he decided to send it off to the hospital. The was put into a box and was jostled about while he rolled across town to Mercy Hospital. This was to be his new home.

The box was opened, Sebastian was placed on and rolled across the floor. What a feeling! He felt like screaming with joy as his wheels created a unique shirring noise on the hard, waxed linoleum floor. Sebastian felt the still air turn to wind as his speed picked up. Then as quickly as it had been there it was gone. He wanted to feel that again! Free and Fast he felt! But the worker picked him up and placed him into a box in which other toys had been placed.

Sebastian waited and then saw the blazing light pierce the darkness as the lid of the box was opened. He was lifted out and placed on the floor. The hand gripping him felt different than that of an adult. It was smaller and seemed filled with care. A child held the racer up and made some inaudible noises-bbbbbbbbbbbb-and raced him across the floor. Again, that feeling of bliss. Sebastian felt like this was his home now. He was going to be loved and things would be good from now on.

Many different children played with him. He lost his side pipe with an incident involving a chair leg, but no matter. He loved his new life. His paint was chipped in places and he thought nothing of it. One day a new boy arrived. He could barely make the noises the other kids made, but really attached himself to the toy car. In fact, this child was able to take the car to his room when it was deemed rest time for the boy. One day, a larger pair of humans came to visit the boy. Sebastian heard the larger say to the little boy. “Son, what do you have there?’ “Wow.” Sebastian was lifted out of the child’s hands and the adult looked at the little red racer carefully. “Now that is a really neat toy! Man, I have not seen one of these since I was a kid!” The adult smiled as he held the racer and then returned it to his son’s hands.

Sebastian felt special. Was this what it felt like to be loved? The boy was gentle with the racer and seldom let it fly across the room. He and his Dan would play with Sebastian rolling him back and forth, always careful not to bounce him off the furniture. Then, as things seemed normal, the boy went away. He was better, and it was his time to go home. He cried for the red racer. “I want to take it home!” He cried, but the boy’s Mother gently explained how other kids needed special toys to play with. That the little racer was a great toy and would be best left here in the hospital where other kids could enjoy it. The little boy subdued his crying, but claimed he would never forget the red racer! Never!

Sebastian remained in the hospital playroom, again experiencing the hands of new kids and adults alike. He would love it when a new kid would pick him up and cart him off to their room. A temporary home away from the other toys. As time slipped by the other toys came and went more frequently. Most were more pliable than he. “Plastic” is what one toy Mustang claimed he was made of. Sebastian wondered where the other toys like him were. It had been a long time since he had seen another racer like himself. Were they happy in their homes, he wondered one day as a concerned mother lifted Sebastian and took him to a nurse. “Excuse me, just how is it that this dangerous toy is amongst our poor sick children?” The nurse gave the concerned mother a blank look. “Let me explain, this toy is made of metal!” Another blank stare, “Our children could be hurt on this toy!’ “Does the term LAWSUIT mean anything to you?” This, the nurse understood and took the racer from the concerned mother. That night a couple of workers rounded up any toys that could be ‘dangerous’ and placed them in a box.

The box was closed. Sebastian’s world was in darkness again. The darkness was long lasting this time. Sebastian did not know if he were still together or maybe disposed of. What if this was the end? He had heard about ‘The End’ one night while in the department store window. The Grandfather Clock had been answering questions from the toys when a Raggedy Ann Doll asked, “Grandfather, is there and end?” A strange quiet fell around the room. The wind howled outside, and a swirling of snow flashed by the window. Grandfather sighed. This question he had answered to many times and each time it was never easier. He spoke.
“Yes, yes there is. Some toys will be loved so much they have but no chance of survival. Be it a doll losing her stuffing or a train’s motor failing to pull a load, the End for toys is sometimes inevitable. Many here will meet an end. Cast off to the side and forgotten. This is not the time for you to know of The End. Revel in life and enjoy what is ahead of you.”

Sebastian had taken these words to heart and feared The End. He wished for so much more, but began to think about his existence. The department store window, the smiles of children looking at him through the glass. The hospital years and especially the little boy who wanted to take him home. Home, a word that was larger than life itself. Sebastian wished for a Home. That was what he had always wanted. So, he rested in the dark. Him and a collection of other toys deemed dangerous for sick or recovering children in a hospital play room. And as before, the box was jostled one day and was suddenly being transferred across town, a Tonka Dune Buggy next to him screamed in the dark, “It’s the End. I know it.”

Sebastian was startled to hear this. The other toys remained silent. Each awaiting their own fate quietly, remembering happy days outside of the lonely box. Then as before, the box opened. Sebastian was removed from the box and tough it was an adult who carried him, he was handled with the greatest of care. The adult paused at the big workbench and proceeded to clean the old racer. He used a tooth brush and wax to bring the shine back to the red paint. Carefully he polished the aluminum parts and used some cleaner on the red racer’s tires. The adult gave Sebastian a final polish and gently set him on a very old wooden floor and gave the racer a push. Sebastian’s old wheels carried him a short distance and he stopped. Frowning, the adult lifted the racer and sprayed something on the axles.

Again, he set the racer down and gave a push. Sebastian felt the still air turn to wind as he sailed across the floor. The adult gave a great whoop and chased after the little red racer. Sebastian felt like he may have a second chance. A chance to find a home after all.

The adult picked up the racer and placed Sebastian in a small wooden case. He was next to an old baseball card, Joe DiMaggio, 1953, a set of Aviator glasses with the case and a Buddy L Corvair Pick-up truck. Across from him on the other side of the room was a big old grandfather clock. Sebastian wondered if it was the same one from the department store, but knew better because this one was still and the pendulum was not swinging.

After dark, conversations were exchanged, and everyone spoke of their value and where they were from. Sebastian only knew the plat where he was made, the department store and the hospital. The term “value” meant nothing to him. A doll stood up and exclaimed how she was a first edition Barbie and had all her accessories. She told the room she was very valuable and that she was most likely to sell for a huge amount. A stuffed bear told the room he was a very rare ‘Beanie’ and that being handed out at the All Stars Game made him worth thousands.

The whole night went like this. Sebastian finally asked if anyone was just interested in find a home. The room erupted with laughter. The red racer thought about this ‘til dawn. He did not want to know his “value.” Just to find a home.

The next day. The store opened with a flurry of business. There was a flood of the people coming in and out. The faces were of older people and a few children wafted in and out. But none stopped to stare longingly at the toys. A woman stopped in front of the racers display case and soon was holding Sebastian. She carried him to the front of the store and Sebastian sighed as was put into a box again. Be he had his hopes this time. The woman had spoken excitedly about how her husband played with a car like this as a child and had been searching for one since. Maybe, thought Sebastian, just maybe he would find a home this year.

He sat in the darkness and waited. And waited. Until that fateful day when he was passed around and placed next to some other boxes. He hoped he would be opened and not set to the side this like the other times in his past. His box was opened and the eyes looking at him were much older, but familiar. The face was the same, save for the years that had ticked by. The man smiled the same smile as the boy who had played with him so many years earlier. It was Christmas 1996. 50 years of waiting, finally, Sebastian, the Red Racer had found a home.