Goodbye, My Pretty Baby. Oh, My Pretty, Pretty Baby, Goodbye

For OLWG 36. I got in 2 of the 3 prompts. The prompts are: Milwaukee; The cost of loving; Right at them.

The decision to let things go is never easy. If you arrive at the point where you have to consider letting go as an option, it means you have, from the first, put in the time. Most likely a lot of time. And, a lot of blood, sweat, and, no doubt, tears. All in the hope that someday, it will work out.

Wayne Newberry was at just such a point. He did whatever it took, whatever was needed. Time, money, you name it. It should be no surprise that everything else in his life suffered as a result. He was in deep debt. His friends stopped calling. His girlfriend broke it off with him. Wayne’s boss finally had to say he couldn’t give him any more salary advances or unpaid leave, not unless Wayne wanted to risk getting canned. When Wayne’s ex-wife’s new husband made a bid to adopt Wayne’s daughter, Wayne didn’t put up a fight. He never was a parent, not in the way it matters, anyway. No, he figured, his daughter was in a good place. The right place for a little girl. Besides, she could always come for a visit, so what is the difference? Besides, he had Bella.

Everything in Wayne’s life was because of Bella. It was all because of his love for his 1953 two door, rag-top Chevy Bel Air he called Bella, that made Wayne do things beyond all reason.

Since the day he got her five years before, Wayne worked tirelessly to bring the old girl back to her just-off-the-showroom-floor glory days. Every penny he had, plus whatever credit card he could max, was spent on parts, body work, a new rag-top, new chrome details, upholstery…you name it. He spent hours combing the internet and trade magazines for restoration retailers and long sleepless nights pawing through engineering and mechanics’ manuals.

When he wasn’t tinkering and fixing, Wayne took Bella to car shows and collector’s events. He had a custom trailer built to carry his precious Bel Air all over the country. Early on, Wayne had made the hard choice to install a 1955 engine, which disqualified Bella from showing at any of the high-end purist collectors’ shows, but that didn’t matter to Wayne. His next big project was to install an original 1953 engine. Someday.

What Wayne didn’t do was see any of the writing on the wall. Bella constantly broke down. Old components and parts routinely gave out. No repair or replacement was anything but expensive. When the collection notices started to roll in after his hours at work got cut, Wayne realized he had to open his eyes to the harsh light of reality.  But, the clincher was the afternoon his daughter refused to stop by for a visit.

“Seriously why would I come over to watch you work on your stupid car?” she said in a text message. “You are in love with that stupid car, and never Mom or me.”

Wayne stopped taking Bella out on the town for a spin. He left her in the garage, tucked in for the night under her cover. Instead,  over the next couple of months, he made an effort to see his daughter and join his friends in a game of pool every now and again. He made an effort to get out in the world, maybe look for a new job with better pay. People are real, Wayne coached himself. Cars are not people. Bella is a car.

As two months rolled into three, the pain of not being with his pretty baby Bella became more than Wayne could manage. One night after work he walked straight into the garage, threw off Bella’s cover, and went back to work on her. He finally collapsed on the couch in his living room around 4AM.

Then came the  awful day Bella wouldn’t turn over. Wayne tried every chewing-gum-and-spit fix he knew, but nothing held. He consulted with every mechanic he could find. He even considered shipping her to Jay Leno’s outfit in California, and paying the hefty price tag to have his people work on her, but the equivalent of a years’ salary was just too high a price to pay.

A guy from Milwaukee answered Wayne’s classified ad and made him a pretty good offer. And Wayne liked talking to the guy. He wasn’t going to sell his pretty baby to just anyone, so, he agreed to the guy’s offer. Wayne threw in whatever parts he had lying around, including the custom trailer. Wayne didn’t want any trace of Bella left behind.

The day before the guy flew out to take her away, Wayne spent the night in the garage, sleeping on a cot next to his pretty baby. Before the guy arrived to cart her off to her new home, Wayne grabbed his well-worn shammy to give the old girl one last polish.

He moved in slow motion, gently rubbing and caressing every inch of her surface. As he made his way along the long line of her chrome stripe, a large tear dropped off his cheek onto the garage floor.

Wayne knew he would never love another as much as Bella ever again.

 You think I’m kidding? Mention “The Rover” to my father—when he was still with us—or to my eldest brother, and just see if I’m exaggerating a bit.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye, My Pretty Baby. Oh, My Pretty, Pretty Baby, Goodbye


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