© 1990, 2003 Chuck Klein
The young man, in his late teens, pulled into the driveway, eager to show his father and great grandfather his latest acquisition, a '32 Ford. Almost at the same time a delivery man arrived with a package. Taking the carefully wrapped box, with the word "FRAGILE" stamped in red on all sides, into the library of the ancient tudor style house, he approached a much older man seated in a leather wingback.
"Pop." Then a little louder, "Grandpa, come outside for a minute I want to show you my new car. It's got all the extras."
The old timer knew cars. He had studied, and in some cases rubbed shoulders with, the best of the early engineers, customizers and racers. Men with the immortalized names of Iskenderian, Duntov, Barris, Fangio, Vukovich....
After the ritualistic inspection of the male bonding medium the two men returned to the den where the younger remembered the package. "I almost forgot, Pop, this came for you a little while ago."
"What is it Sonny?" the old man asked, settling into his overstuffed chair.
"I don't know Pop. It's from some law office back east and it sounds like it has liquid in it. You getting your Geritol by mail now?" The great grandson joked.
Staring at the proffered package the old man pushed back further into the cushions of the chair as if trying to distance himself from it. His mouth dropped open... "oh my God", escaped in an barely audible, raspy whisper.
"Grandpa, what's wrong? Are you okay?" The young gentleman crossed the room to take this ancient man's hand and search his frightened stare. "What is it, Pop?"
As recollections of events, forever melded to the sentimental portions of his mind, were forced to the present, the great grandfather's eyes soon began refocusing to a new intensity. "Get a couple of glasses and some ice, Sonny - and call your Dad in here. I've got a story to tell you."
A man with graying hair and his teenage son watched the great grandfather, in his 96th year, carefully and ceremoniously unwrap the package. Inside, sealed and encased in a solid wood box with a glass front panel, was a bottle of whisky. Attached to the outside of this shrine was a small brass hammer and a pouch. From this pouch he pulled a sheet of paper containing a list of names - names that had lines drawn through each, save one.
It was a very long time ago that they had met for the last time - a sort of reunion and farewell to one of the members who had but a short time to live.
Pretensions and pressures were checked at the door that night. Whatever problems they faced outside seemed far away and not important. Maybe it was seeing a "best" friend for the first time in two or three decades or just that deep feeling that only comes from the knowledge that to this group each truly belonged. They all knew that this assembly was just this night only and never again would they all be together. Maybe it came with the understanding that these were their roots and the distinct sensation of having come home again. Perhaps it was the familiarity and companionship of old friends, whose dues were also paid in full. It was a most memorable occasion.
It wasn't a large gathering, but 21 men out of a possible 36 wasn't too bad for an informal reunion. Some had died, some couldn't be found, most were graying and pot bellied, but all had, at one time, belonged to the KNIGHTS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Born so many years ago in a back alley garage of a Midwestern American city, The KNIGHTS hot rod club was not unlike other clubs of guys of that era. Back when rock & roll was in its infancy and fast cars had to be built by hand, the members bonded together to learn, help each other and talk engines, cars and speed. It was exciting being the center of attention during this era of historic automotive and musical upheaval.
...Big Bopper and Ben E. King
and LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING
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