Hunter began to tell Franklin the story about the car.
“That car belonged to a man named Carmichael,” he said. “Bud Carmichael.”
As soon as Hunter said that name, Franklin felt a shiver go through his body.
Not too many people knew it but Bud and Hunters’ dad had actually opened the dealership together. It was the only one in town and everybody came there to buy their cars.
Bud kind of went off the rails when his wife died suddenly. She had been born with a heart defect and time and rearing a child had taken its toll. Bud hadn’t been much help because he was always trying to sell “one more car” before he called it a day.
The guilt he felt was all-consuming and he sought comfort in a bottle. He basically turned into the town drunk. He stopped coming to work and instead, spent all day and most of the night in bars.
He had a little girl at home but left it up to friends and neighbors to look after her. He would leave her with anybody, if it meant he could have a drink.
He tried to stop several times and would be successful for a while but he would always go back to the booze.
By the time she was fifteen and after several more visits from Social Services, Bud came to his senses and finally quit drinking but he virtually drank all of his money away, so he had to sell his interest in the business to keep from losing his home. He had already lost his car and even his most prized possession, which was a coin collection he had inherited from his daddy. That had to be sold to pay off his credit cards.
He took the only job he could find, which was the manager of the local 7-Eleven. Sobriety had made him determined to be a good father and try to make up for the time he had lost with his little girl when she was younger.
When he sold his part of the business, he made one condition. A brand new white Ford Mustang convertible with a fiery red interior had just been delivered to their lot and Bud wanted to give it to his daughter on her 16th birthday.
Old man Phillips agreed and told Bud that he would keep it in the back lot until then, even though it was going to be a year away. Bud knew that car was going to be a far cry from the 1940 Chevy that old man Phillips had given him. He had named it “old Huldy” and often wondered if his daughter was ashamed to be seen in it.
But the mustang was waiting. He wanted to give his daughter something nice and that car was going to be perfect.
Rose inherited her mothers’ heart condition and aside from being warned by her doctors to not get too excited about something, she enjoyed a full life. She wasn’t able to take part in sports, so she focused on academics and became an outstanding student.
Franklin looked at Hunter and said “what was her name?” Hunter said “I don’t really remember. Seems like it was some kind of flower.” Franklin said “Rose?” Hunter said “that’s it.”
As Hunter rambled on, Franklin stared at the floor, remembering that night so long ago. He was taking in everything that Hunter said, collecting the information that maybe he would later use to later fill the hole that had been left in his heart. It wasn’t until Hunter leaned forward and said “hello” that Franklin came back to the present. Hunter laughed and said “where did you go, man?”
Franklin said “what happened to her?” Hunter, now distracted by a potential buyer he spotted through the window, said “what happened to who?” Franklin said “the girl.”
Hunter said “oh. Apparently when Bud brought her up here to get the car, as soon as she sat in the drivers’ seat, she got so excited that she went into what they called cardiac arrest. Isn’t that a pisser?” Franklin, said “and that happened on her birthday?”
Hunter said “yeah, I guess. She went to the hospital but they couldn’t save her. She never even got to drive that damn car. Like I said, a real pisser, huh?”
Then Hunter asked to be excused so that he could go see if the person wandering around the lot was interested in a new car. He stopped at the door and said “you let me know when you’re ready to bring that boy of yours up here. We’ll take real good care of him.”
Franklin said “before you leave, how did you get the car back?” Hunter said “ole man Carmichael never came back up to get it. After almost six months, dad finally put it on the front lot but nobody would even look at it. He didn’t think he was ever going to sell it.”
Hunter winked when he said “and then you came along.”