Those few words, on the corn-dust colored telegram, informing Bucky of his cancelled liberty, had just about ruined all plans for his Fourth-of-July weekend celebration. Bucky, a nickname earned for staying on a not-to-tame horse at age six, and not for his slight overbite, was all set to spend the four-day weekend with Katy. Man, it just wasn't fair!
He knew the possibility of a shortened furlough and had taken the chance when a hop had become available to Chicago. It had been only a few days since he had thumbed from O'Hare to his parents’ home in Emporia. Now all he had left was one day - one day in which to spend more time with his girl, ready his '55 and catch a few hours of shut-eye. Then it was 30 hours to the base, if he pushed it. He had decided on his last liberty that he wanted his car on base with him.
Also parked in the detached garage behind the white frame house was a gift from his Uncle Bill, a partially disassembled '34 Chevy Town Coach. Uncle Bill abandoned it to him when the clutch went out. Uncle Bill was really his Great Uncle who preferred his horsepower one or two at a time - as in front of a carriage. The clutch gave out because first gear was stripped and Uncle Bill thought it wouldn't hurt to just forgo first and start slowly in second gear. But drive train didn't matter because he planned to use the engine and transmission he had salvaged from his Dad's wrecked Caddy. Just as soon as his tour was complete he was going to transform that rusty old trunk-less Chevy into the coolest hot-rod Emporia would ever see.
The '55 Chev had been the first thing he attended to upon arriving home. He had hoped to have time to install a Corvette solid lifter cam to compliment the two-fours he had bolted on last year. He already had the 097 cam, so if he took it with him maybe he could find a place to work on it during off time while on shore duty.
It only took a jump start and air in two of the tires to put the mildly customized rod back into action. The second thing he had done was to visit Katy. She had been his girl since junior high when he had fought Stevie Bilkus after Stevie called her a stuck up old maid. He hadn't really wanted to win her over then; it was more a matter of exercising an excuse to whip Stevie.
Katy had gotten a job with the telephone exchange after graduation and had promised to wait for his enlistment to end so they could get married. Buck, that's what he called himself, though no one else did, except Katy, wasn't sure he wanted to get married so soon. Not that Katy wouldn't make a fine wife, it’s just that, well, he still had cars to build, places to go, wild oats to sow and you know, other stuff to do. Of course, if he let her get away she'd be hard to replace - she could have been a Breck girl. Katy had volumes of smooth silky blond hair that wound around her head and neck in giant curls like the chrome bumper on a '57 Olds. Besides her cover-girl good looks, she could cook! Meat loaf stuffed with hard-boiled egg and mashed potatoes with thick gravy were her specialty - and his favorite.
The first set of fireworks, those put on by the local Chamber of Commerce at the high school ball field (the field where he had played two years as second string linebacker and Katy had been a cheerleader) was the best he'd seen the town do. It was fun, and comforting too, squeezing into the packed bleachers with so many long time familiar old classmates, neighbors and friends.
The second set of "fireworks" topped the first set by a mile. Katy had wrapped herself around him the minute the '55 had settled in at the local passion pit. Her softness and passion was only tempered by her tenacious reluctance to "go all the way". He thought that since a war was always possible and he could get killed she should show her love and devotion. No soap. He had tried that line before joining the Navy, but she was just as adamant now as then - not before marriage - period! Not that he was a virgin or anything, his shipmates had taken care of that at a brothel at Subic Bay.
Thoughts of "fireworks" filled his mind as he nosed Black Beauty, the five-five, onto the highway at dawn's sparkling glow. He inhaled deeply, completely filling his lungs, like a carburetor sucking air at peak RPM. His mental capacity flooded with patriotic thoughts as his mind’s eye superimposed last night's fireworks on the clear Kansas sky.