The scene is Perrysburg, Ohio. The time is May 1980. Bobby is 18.
He only stalled the car once while turning around in the parking area in front of the house. He looked to see if his father was still watching, but he’d already gone back into the house. He slowly went up the driveway and made it out onto River Road without another stall.
The Mustang felt nothing like driving the Cadillac. The growl of the engine and the whistle of the wind through the car made it feel like he was actually driving instead of floating on a cloud. He turned on the radio, found a rock station, and cranked it up.
He heard the rustle of paper from the back seat and glanced back to see a white envelope fluttering around. He reached back, grabbed it, and stuffed it under his leg. When he got to the stoplight on West Boundary Street, he pulled it out. It was addressed to “Mustang Bobby.” He chuckled and stuffed it in his back pocket.
He pulled into the Marathon station on the corner of Indiana Avenue and Elm Street. Filling the tank took cost almost fifteen dollars and Bobby wondered what the gas mileage was on a car like his.
At the next pump, a middle-aged woman was filling her Pontiac Le Mans. It was red with a black vinyl top. The lady smiled at Bobby and said, “That’s a beautiful car.” Bobby grinned. “Thanks!”
He drove out Louisiana Avenue, across the I-75 overpass, and out into the country. He was now on McCutcheonville Road and it led straight southeast as if it had been drawn by a huge ruler, past fields and houses, the wind carrying the scent of fresh earth, cut grass, and the occasional whiff of exhaust from the tractors chugging through the rows. Corn had been planted in a lot of the fields and the green stalks were already up in their rows that flashed by with dizzying precision.
There was very little traffic, and when the road was clear and he was sure there were no Wood County sheriffs cars to be seen, he pressed the accelerator, moving the needle past 55, then 65, then 75 before letting up and coasting back to the limit. The car felt solid, handling the bumps in the pavement with ease.
He drove ten miles, turning west on Sugar Ridge Road, then proceeded at a leisurely pace to the tiny town of Sugar Ridge, passing a tractor towing a hay wagon, waving at the teenager standing on the wagon. Bobby caught a glimpse of the boy in t-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap, and remembered the kid he’d seen last Christmas selling Christmas trees in the parking lot. The boy waved back.
He made his way along the back roads, cutting back west until he came out to Haskins Road, which he knew led back home, and less than an hour after he left he parked the Mustang in the driveway in front of the house.
He read Jill’s letter sitting on the porch. Her handwriting was firm but graceful on the lined notebook paper, and she started out right away.
Mustang Bobby –
If you’re reading this for the first time, you’ve probably already taken the Mustang out for a joyride and cruised through your burg like the total badass I know you’re not. I hope you had a good time anyway.
Damn if I don’t miss you already. The place isn’t the same without you and G hanging out here and lowering the class rating on Sully’s by a notch. Josh is busy as hell with finals even though they don’t mean anything and I don’t care because unless a miracle happens I’m not getting into Smith… as if I’d go there anyway. Graduation next week will be a total waste and I plan to get wasted to go along with it. Not really… seen enough of that in dear old dad and don’t need to carry on that family tradition.
I meant what I said about you meeting someone. Don’t wait for him to find you. Find your kindred spirit and make the first move. I want a full report when you do.
Thanks again for everything, Bobby. And thanks for introducing me to Garrett. Now it’s your turn.
Hugs – JM
My real first drive in my first Mustang was in April 1969 with my dad coming home from Brondes Ford where we’d bought it. That was a fun drive, too.