To any outside observer I might have seemed to be mumbling. But I never mumbled. I was reciting, as I had every day since I was six years old, the Code, the code my uncle had taught me, the chivalric code. A good man's duty was as follows: to protect the weak and defenseless; to despise monetary rewards; to avoid unfairness, meanness, and deceit; to speak the truth at all times; to honor one's vows; and to respect the honour of women.
The Code, the Chivalric Code, oh yes, I knew it by heart. I lived it by heart; it was the code, the order of life. I was David Hart. Placing the carnation inside the open coffin of my uncle, my heart was heavy.
"I will never disrespect the Code, my uncle, never!" I said aloud. The funeral over, I headed back into town. I would miss my mentor and surrogate father. My own biological dad had died, and my mother too when so very young, as I saw it. But, Melvin Hart, my father's younger brother, had done me right.
Melvin Hart, had died but two weeks gone, but not of natural causes. He had given his life to save a defenseless and homeless girl in an alley next to the apartment building that the two of us lived in.
The three thugs, all in their early twenties, that had assaulted the helpless fifteen year old runaway, were still in the prison hospital ward; they'd been there since the set-to with my uncle, again but two weeks gone now. They'd all soon be tried for rape, second degree murder, and a host of lesser charges. Uncle Mel would be satisfied I knew.
"Sorry to hear about your uncle Davie. Bad shit," said Carlos. Carlos was my favorite bartender at the Hammer. Mexican, honest, and good at his job: there wasn't anything else. I nodded.
"Yeah, the baddest," I said. "But, yuh know, I think he was glad to go out the way he did. He was an ex-marine you know. I think he knew he won the fight even though he was dying. He was gone when I got there, but those other guys; they didn't look too good. And, they're still in the hospital, and one of them may yet die from the beating he took. If he doesn't he'll be joining his friends in prison for a very long stretch."
"Well, good," said Carlos. "At least there's that."
"Yeah for sure," I said. "Going to a graduation the day after tomorrow at the university. A friend of mine is getting out. Gonna do the walk across the stage," I said. "He's a lot smarter than me; kinda envy him if the truth were to become known."
"You talkin' about Victor?" said Carlos.
"Yeah that's a true thing," I said.
"Yeah, well have fun," he said. "And come visit us tomorrow night, you and him, the drinks will be free." I smiled, threw a twenty down on the bar and went out.
"Congratulations, Vick," I said.
"Thanks bud," said Victor.
"Will you be staying in town again tonight?" I said. We'd gone out partying and dancing the night before at the Hammer. Frankly that he was able to negotiate the stage on more or less steady legs was something of a minor surprise.
"No, I'm already packed and on my way to California. Be well, David. I appreciate you being here today," he said, and then he was gone. Gone to a job in aerospace: Boeing as he'd told me.
Victor Grantham and I had been friends since we were six years old. Lived next door to each other. His parents, like my own were now gone. Father abandoned them when he was two. His mother was gone to cancer but a few months before his walk across the stage. I was his only close friend and the nearest thing to a relative he still had.
I was two hours from home. I decided to eat before rolling out. Pete's Pizza fit the bill. It was crowded, but the line was moving okay. I got my pizza and hot wings and chowed down. The table next to mine was occupied by a family of four: a mom, a dad, a young girl, and young lady who was obviously a graduate. She still wore the grad hat thing.
I watched them leave. She was pretty, the graduate. I had me a beer, finished up, paid, and headed out for home a hundred miles distant.
The rain was coming down in sheets; I reduced speed to a highway crawl. I made the turn around a risky curve: the drop-off was scary. The man was waving desperately. I slowed and pulled over ahead of them. The rain was really pounding down.
"God bless you, sir, for stopping. The car just crapped out on us I Barely made it to the side of the road," he said. He nodded toward the three women inside of the car. I recognized the one immediately; it was the grad from the pizzeria.
I smiled inwardly. Helping ladies in distress was my middle name. Oh yeah, I thought; uncle Mel would be proud.
I had him pop the hood. I saw it almost immediately: the alternator fan belt was just hanging there. Their battery was dead.
"You need a fan belt and a jump," I said. The nearest shop—and one I knew about—was back in town. This was going to be three hour job counting travel back and forth.
"But how can I..." he started.
The rain had slowed. I hadn't noticed that miss college grad had joined us by the open hood.
"If you guys want to pile into my ride, I'll take you back to town. We can get the belt, and I can install it and jump you," I said. "I mean unless you just want to stay here with the car. I can go and come back, but it'll be a couple of hours."
"You'd be willing to do that for us, for strangers?" he said.
"No problems. I ain't got no place to go," I said.
"Dad," she said. "I'll go back with our knight in shining armor. The rest of you can stay with the car for security." Her dad looked at her.
"Okay, I guess," he said. "I mean..." She was already walking over to my car and getting in.
"Okay," I said. "By the way, my name's David Hart."
"Randy Cross," he said. "Your passenger there is Jennifer Cross." She was already fastening her seat belt in the car. That's my wife Judy there and Jennifer's little sister Blanche, she's just ten years old.
"Very nice of you to help us," said Jennifer, as I got situated in my seat. "We all appreciate it very much."
"You're quite welcome," I said. "No problem really."
I did not burn up the road on the way back to town. But, I didn't waste any time either. I went immediately to the parts shop and got the needed belt. We were back on the road in less than ten minutes.
Our conversation was pretty much as one might expect after the initial hussahs and hosannas relating to how wonderful a guy I was for saving them.
I found out she was a just graduated Business major. She was going to be working for some real estate firm. She was twenty-two years old. And, she told me something that made me hope for an opportunity to see her again. She told me she had no boyfriend. No girl says something like that without a reason. I just hoped it was the right reason; well, right as far as I was concerned.
Back at the car, I installed the fan belt and gave them a jump. Told mister Cross to have his battery checked when he got back to town. He tried to pay me, but I just waved him off. No, didn't need the money, and what I really wanted was a chance to see Jennifer again. The good news? There was the fact that they lived in New Town, as did I. Sometimes things did work out the way one hoped.
I'd given mister Cross my card. Well, even though I was only twenty-one, I did have an A.S. degree in auto-mech from Alfred J. Steele CC, and I was a licensed welder and aircon man working for Allied Motors, a used car dealership and importer. I hoped that the next time they needed a car tended to that they'd call me. I just couldn't get Jennifer out of my mind.
That lucky happenstance occurred but two weeks after my debut as a knight in shining armor. I was just finishing up a brake job when I heard the familiar voice.
"How yuh doin' David," said Jennifer Cross.
"Miss Cross, Jennifer. Good. Yourself?" I said. So far I hadn't embarrassed myself.
"Fine. Got a couple of things you might could help me with," she said. I nodded my willingness to be her slave—well, to help her.
She led me over to where she'd parked her canary yellow Corvette. "Wow!" I said. "That your ride?" She smiled.
"Yes, yes it is," she said. "Need an oil change and maybe a tune up. My dad said I needed a tune up too."
"Okay, no problem," I said. "If you can come back at closing, I'll have it ready for you."
"Great. But—uh—David, there is one more thing," she said.
"Yes?" I said.
"I'm not going to be available Friday evening until after 6:00PM. Can you pick me up then?" she said.
"No, no," I said. "I mean I will have the car done tonight, not next Friday." It was Wednesday. Friday was still two days away.
"No, no," she said. "I understood that the car would be ready today. I'm referring to our first date," she said.
"Huh? Uh? I mean?" I was fast losing control of my thought process.
"You do want to date me don't you?' she said. I got control of my conscious mind, took a deep breath, and replied.
"Damn straight," I said.
"Good. So Friday evening then?" she said. She handed me a slip of paper with her particulars on it. And, when I say particulars, I mean her particulars. Address, cell phone, measurements, and a small picture of her face: all of it on a facsimile of a business card. I'd never seen anything like it. Never heard of anything like it. Jesus, this woman was very likely way-way out of my league! Oh, and did I say measurements. Try 34-22-36, 5'8", 130, oh yes and C-cups. Me on the other hand: 5"6" and 150; very well-muscled, my uncle's fault; but only so-so looking. And definitely A-cups—pretty much flat chested actually.
.... There is more of this story ...