When it is 1981 and you are driving a pre-restoration 65 Ford Falcon (FF), is not called vintage. It is called “thank God for Florida’s lack of motor vehicle inspection laws.” I had a shopping cart that I took to the Winn Dixie now and then, but we mostly took the FF. On days it wouldn’t start we had other names for it, that also began with “F.”
Ron Howard was filming the first “Cocoon” movie in Largo, a hefty 40 minute ride in the loosey-goosey steering of the tan/gold/what-would-you-call-it metallic beige car. We took a ride one day to see what a movie shoot looked like. There wasn’t much to see but when the movie came out and the oldsters sneak next door to the pool, we realized that at least three different St. Petersburg/Largo locations were used. It made me see movies in a different way, and a few years later a similar thing happened when our friend’s boat was in the movie “Summer Rental.” A crappy-assed John Candy vehicle not worthy of his comic abilities, it was not even the John Candy of “Home Alone.” Despite the movie’s ultimate disappointment, it was cool; Phredd was in the movie. Having your real-life canine friend in a major studio motion picture really gives you the feeling that you, too, could make a movie. Ron Howard…move over!
On this particular evening, we arrived home when it was almost dark (a good thing given our headlight situation). We had our favorite meal of Kraft macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. When the phone rang it was startling: we didn’t even want a phone but my mom insisted, “in case something bad happens.” A co-worker that I was not that friendly with was on the other end, odd in and of itself.
“MM has been attacked. She was taken to the hospital. Out now. We didn’t know who to call. We thought you would want to know.”
We didn’t even scrape our plates. This was before answering machines and cell phones, and I’m not sure who we might have called had we had them. This would be beyond Largo, perhaps the longest trip yet for the Falcon with the dimming lights. I grabbed a change of clothes for each of us for work the next day; fiberglass-encrusted cut-offs for him, black pants and white blouse for me.
He said: “We better bring our toothbrushes.”
I hadn’t thought about how late it was, or about staying the night. A visceral feeling of love ran through me as I realized we were on the same page. We would do what was necessary to take care of our friend. Unsorted emotions of fear, horror, helplessness, and grief tried to take over but for me, the feeling that we could do anything as long as we were together, trumped all the negative emotions. We put the essentials in a little brown paper bag and headed out.
We arrived at the scene, and what a scene it was. We walked through the kitchen where the cabinet doors where askew. One was missing. The first thing MM said to me was -“I tried to stuff him in the cabinet.” A flash of laughter followed by a couple of minutes of crying. She was passing out from the heavy sedative they gave her at the hospital, asked me to lay down with her in her bed. She showed me the bottle, drifted off to sleep, and I took one, too.