|If you’ve been following this series, here’s your next installment.|
Gilberto Rides Again: Chapter Six
by Stephen Halpert
Despite the threat of rain, it was perfect weather for the country’s Independence Day celebration.
Atlas senior staff and their families crowded onto the beach in Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island, for their annual 4th of July clambake.
Positioning his beach chair so he could maintain a commanding view of the area, Gilberto observed a vintage Bentley convertible easing into a parking space. As a teenager he’d parked cars at the Country Club near Miami. He remembered learning how to discern about people from the way their vehicles appeared. This Bentley was a classic from a bygone age; its powder blue body patched, painted, repaired. To Gilberto, it gave the impression of somehow having made it through the wars.
“I suppose you’d like to take a spin in that set of wheels,” Maria said with a smile. “I’d imagine just the insurance would set us back…”
Gilberto nodded. “Sure, who wouldn’t?” His attention was drawn to the stocky, freckled redhead in a sundress who appeared from the driver’s side. She reached into the back seat, casually picked up a monogramed beach bag, fastened a blue boot over the back and front seats, and then strode toward the bathhouses.
“It reminds me a little of my father’s old Packard,” Maria said. “He drove it when I was little. I remember sleeping across the back seat when we’d go on trips.” Maria unfolded beach towels as Ramon appeared. With him was his younger daughter, Toni.
Joey grinned. “Wow! You look bigger.”
Toni grinned. “You just never noticed me before.” She sounded matter of fact, like her mother, Rosa. She and Joey ran into the surf.
Ramon unfolded two beach chairs and set his down next to Gilberto’s.
Gilberto smiled. “Where’s Rosa?”
“Changing room at the bathhouse.” Ramon said. To Gilberto his voice seemed strained, tight.
Gilberto watched as the redhead disappeared into the woman’s bathhouse. Even from a distance he noticed she walked briskly, her head held high, designer sunglasses perched on her head, holding her auburn hair in place. Her mouth betrayed an expression of sadness, as though she were lost with too many years left to live.
After a short while, Joey and Toni emerged from the water. Joey looked shocked, shaking his head. “She’s not going to marry him?” he asked.
Toni shrugged. “Who knows? I never said that. But she wants to keep the baby.”
Ramon gave Toni a look of disapproval. “Enough,” he said sternly. His younger daughter appeared embarrassed and fidgeted with her towel.
Moments later, Rosa and Sara emerged from the bathhouse. Ramon gasped in surprise. They were chatting affably.
As they drew closer, Ramon forced a smile. “Hello,” he said weakly. “You found the beach.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
Sara smiled cordially. She turned to Gilberto. “Oh, hello, Mr. Santiago.”
Gilberto smiled. “Call me Gilberto, everyone at Atlas does.”
Sara set down her beach tote and spread a large towel onto the sand. She removed her jacket, revealing a modest designer swimsuit highlighted by a flattering striped pattern.
Gilberto introduced Sara to Maria.
Maria smiled. “I think Gilberto is a bit envious of your Bentley.”
“He can have it,” Sara said ruefully.” It was my late husband’s pride and joy. I’ve never become comfortable with a stick shift, and already I’ve had to replace the brakes.” She looked wistful. “I hang onto it for sentimental reasons. Personally, I’d prefer to drive a Camry. But owning a car in Boston is ridiculous. I only drive the Bentley on occasional trips out of town; otherwise I take a cab.”
“I’ve always driven a stick,” Gilberto said. “These days living in the Back Bay we keep something insignificant. Otherwise the insurance can be a killer.”
Rosa joined the group. She smiled at Sara. “I remember we talked at the Rowan Tree Inn’s fundraiser. Your contribution was very generous.”
Sara smiled. “I had no idea you were married to Ramon. What a small world. Do you do much traveling for the Inn?”
“Yes, Rosa said. “Usually I like Ramon joining me. That way we get a bit of a getaway.”
Smaller world everyday, Gilberto thought. He noticed that the sun was starting to hide behind dark clouds.
He smiled at Sara. “I’d be glad to give you some tips about shifting sometime.”
“That would be nice, but I must warn you, the Bentley is extremely temperamental, with a mind of its own.”
“That’s true for most British and German vehicles,” Gilberto replied. He wondered if Sara possessed those qualities as well.
Ramon looked at the sky. “Best to get in a swim before it rains.” He rose, took Rosa’s hand and together they walked into the ocean.
“Thank you for making that offer.” Sara said to Gilberto.
To Maria she sounded just a little too casual. She smiled. “Don’t let Gilberto talk you out of it.”
“That wouldn’t be difficult for him to do,” Sara said. “The Bentley is much more comfortable to sit in than to drive. Perhaps I’m just a natural passenger.”
After a few minutes, Ramon and Rosa returned, still holding hands.
The old brass bell on the veranda announced that the clambake was ready. Everyone headed for the food, and for the next couple of hours, Atlas senior staff chatted while feasting on lobster and delicious seafood. Gradually the sky grew darker.
“There could well be a storm coming,” Gilberto said. ”Let’s head back.”
Sara smiled at Maria. “If you agree, Gilberto could drive me back to Boston. That way he’d have a chance to try it out.”
Maria smiled. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll drive our car, and we’ll see you at the condo. We’d love it if you stayed for coffee.” Gilberto gave his wife a kiss goodbye before Sara led him to the Bentley.
Despite the car’s age, Gilberto loved the feel and precision of the Bentley. It had a smooth, natural flow, downshifted easily, and hugged the road. He imagined himself as one of the royal Windsors in command, behind the wheel of a true classic of British motoring.
The sky darkened further. “Maybe we should pull up the top,” he suggested.
“Good luck with that,” Sara said grimly. I fear it’s permanently open. At least I’ve never been able to budge the roof.”
They could tell by the swaying trees that the wind had picked up. A few large drops landed on them. Gilberto pulled over, but try as he might, the top seemed locked into its down position. “Oh well,” he said, trying his best to sound cheerful, “we might get a little damp.”
They rode for a few more miles when the engine began to sputter, causing the Bentley to jerk erratically. Glancing at the gas gauge, Gilberto noticed the needle on E. He eased the Bentley onto Route 95 past Providence, toward Boston. “Must be a gas station somewhere nearby,” he said. But no such luck. He pulled over and called his roadside service. By the time he made a connection and requested help it was raining harder.
The sky opened, and the rain began falling in torrents. To his surprise, he felt Sara clutch his right thigh. You’re such a man,” she said breathily, her voice barely audible over the pelting raindrops. “I knew you’d be my hero.” Speechless to respond, Gilberto couldn’t help but wonder if she’d said the same to Ramon.
(To be continued.)
MORE ABOUT STEPHEN HALPERT AND HIS WIFE AUTHOR TASHA HALPERT…
ABRACADABRA MOONSHINE & OTHER STORIES by Stephen Halpert
This collection of original, unusually intriguing short stories is an exuberant tour de force of wit, humor, and insight into the human condition. The collection of magical tales will entrance, entertain, and prompt readers to ponder the true nature of reality. They will definitely entertain you and make you wonder a bit about the twists and turns that life can take. You may even fall in love with some of his characters and wish they were real and present in your life.
Heartwings: Love Notes for a Joyous Life by Tasha Halpert
This heartwarming book brings a breath of sunshine against the cold of any day and kindly and gently reveals a deeper level of understanding for all. It provides a helpful path for anyone concerned with personal self-development to follow. Sharing a lifetime of comforting knowledge gleaned from living and loving life, the emotionally intelligent author leads readers on an introspective journey to a greater sense of realization, joy, and inner peace. Her poetry is moving, and a poem follows each thought-provoking essay.
Up to My Neck in Lemons by Tasha Halpert is a collection of practical as well as metaphorical uses for life’s lemons. This collection of essays and poems provides insights gained from daily life experiences, both happy and sad. The stories illustrate how to appreciate what might at first have seemed unfortunate.
The recipes are author favorites, and are both sweet and sour, cleansing and therapeutic. This book will bring comfort and insight on turning life’s lemons into lemonade. The poems that follow each essay form an enjoyable adjunct to the wisdom and insight this book brings the reader.
Each book is $15.00 postpaid autographed by the author. Write to Tasha Halpert at P.O. Box 171, North Grafton, MA, 01536 and include a check to receive a copy of any of these entertaining and even perhaps helpful books.
Visit Stephen and Tasha’s website here.
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