This story is based on fact. Some literary license has been taken to make it a better read.
This is the story about the most important summer of my life. The summer that I finally became a man and realized who I am. It was My Corvette Summer.
My name is Francis Xavier O'Reilly. Frank to my friends and Francis to my dad and mom when I'm in trouble; I was called Francis a lot growing up because I had a very adventurous childhood. As you can tell by my name I'm of Irish decent. It's not really important, but I'm proud of my heritage.
It was 1969, I was 18 and I enlisted in the military after my graduation from high school. At six feet and 195 pounds I was the perfect size to be an infantry man. Of course any size is the perfect size to be a grunt, at least according to the Army. After serving three years in the goddamn stupid army, I mustered out.
I had planned to make a career in the military, but became disillusioned and disgusted with the service. I have nothing but respect for the everyday soldiers. The grunts, noncoms, and lower echelon officers do a great job in trying circumstances. They are heroes in everyday life. God Bless Them. It is the big brass that disgusted and disillusioned me and was the reason I decided to leave the service.
I was stationed in Germany; just your typical everyday dog face soldier. A Major ordered my First Sergeant to get a squad together for a run to the base garbage dump. When we loaded the truck we realized that we were loading food that was still good. It should have been used, not thrown away.
The reason the Major wanted the food dumped was to maintain his food budget. The food to be dumped was surplus. In the military and other government agencies, if you don't use this year's entire budget and have a surplus, the next year's budget will be decreased. This stupid way of budgeting is the cause of a lot of waste.
The First Sergeant and the rest of us thought it was stupid to dump this perfectly good food. We, as a squad, decided to take the food to a local orphanage. The Sarge was smart about it, he called the local TV station and they sent a news crew. This is called cover your ass. The Major wouldn't dare raise hell with us because we were celebrities. That incident is why I left the goddamn stupid army.
I had gotten out of the Army in April and planned to start college in June. I was going to the summer session to get a head start. It was a warm May evening and a couple of friends, Sal and Tony, and I were at a Steak n Shake drive in just hanging out.
For those of you not from the Midwest, Steak n Shake was a burger joint a couple of steps up in class from a MacDonald's. The deal was you go there to eat in your car and then just hang out. You could see friends or make new ones and have a good time. Cheap, harmless fun.
I was driving my "new" car that I had bought with the money I received when I got out of the service. It was a cherry 57 Chevy convertible. A car pulled in next to me and Tony said to check that out.
Looking to my left, I saw an older model Corvette, a 56 I think. The driver was a very attractive female. I asked Tony, "The car or the chick?"
"Either," Tony answered. "They are both awesome."
I took a closer look and yep, Tony was right. The car was pristine and the girl or woman was even better. She had long blond hair styled in a ponytail. The tail stuck through the back of the baseball cap she wore. Very sexy to an ex-soldier boy or to any red blooded young man for that matter.
She placed her order with the car hop. (In those days' people, boys or girls would come out to your car to take and deliver your order). Then she did the coolest thing. The glove box area had been taken out and a record turntable had been installed. She placed a LP record on the turntable and played it. So cool. We were still fighting with 8 tracks and bad radio.
After the car hop brought the woman's order and left, I heard her say, "Damn, no ketchup."
This was the opening I needed to meet her. I got out of my Chevy, grabbed the ketchup from our tray, and walked around to her side of the car. "Your wish is my command," I told her as I gave her the squeeze bottle of ketchup. Corny I know, but it got a smile from her along with her thanks.
I squatted down to talk to her. Her name was Robin Stiles, 28, from the Chicago area, and was on her way to California. No reason, she just wanted to see California and the Pacific Ocean. To an impressionable young man she was a goddess.
We had been talking for about 20 minutes when Robin invited me into her car. She said she didn't want my knees to buckle on me when I stood up. I laughed and got into the passenger seat. Of course, my knees were screaming at me as I stood up. But I think I hid the pain pretty well.
Robin was a widow, her husband, Brad, was killed by a drunk driver three years ago. She told me six months ago she decided to take some time for herself and go wherever the wind blew her. The Corvette had been her husband's pride and joy. Robin thought he would like the fact that the car was making the trips that they had planned to take together.
I was mesmerized by her and hung on her every word. You see, I didn't know what to make of or how to handle a woman like Robin. I could hold my own with the girls in high school and around the neighborhood. I had some fine experiences in Germany and other places the army had sent me. But I had no experience with someone like her. The army had taught me how to be a soldier but had neglected to train me about a woman like Robin.
Our conversations went on for about two hours. Finally, Robin said she had to try and find a cheap motel for the next few nights. This was Wednesday night and she was going to stay in town until Monday. Then it was on to the west coast and the ocean.
The one thing (well one of the things anyway) that my First Sergeant had yelled at us about in combat training was that we should adapt, adjust, and overcome. I adapted and adjusted from that awestruck young man to a take charge guy. "Robin, why don't you stay with my folks and me?" I suggested hopefully. "I mean no funny business or anything."
"Frank, I couldn't impose on your family. Besides don't you think you should check with your parents first?"
"Dad is always kidding me about bringing home strays and ... Not that you're a stray, I mean..." This woman flustered me just being there, much less talking to me.
Robin was laughing at me and said, "Take it easy, I know what you meant."
I told her about our four bedroom house and that only two bedrooms were being used since by brother had gotten married last year. I also told her that my dad would like to meet her, if for no other reason than her Corvette. He has a thing about classic cars.
Robin agreed to stay with us, if it was okay with my parents. This was before cell phones and I didn't want to call my folks anyway. It's better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission. That was something else I learned in the army.
"Tony, take my car and drive Sal home and then bring it to my house. I will ride with Robin to show her the way," I was giving orders just like my First Sergeant. Tony lived across the street from me and he could get home after dropping my car off.
If Robin hadn't already won my heart, she did with her next question. "Would you like to drive, since you know the way?"
I was in heaven; a beautiful car to drive and a beautiful woman next to me. It couldn't get any better than this. I would find out later that it could get better. The trip to my house took longer than usual. I didn't want to stop driving the Corvette nor did I want the magic between Robin and me to stop either. I least I felt like it was magical.
My dad was on the front porch waiting for us. Tony had already dropped off my car. He had knocked on my door, handed my dad the keys to my car, and told Dad that I was bringing a chick home with me. Ergo, my dad waiting on us.
Robin and I parked the Corvette in the drive and I took her to meet my dad. From the look he gave me, I began to think this wasn't my best idea ever. After the introductions, Dad surprised me. I have never seen him be so charming. Maybe it was because Robin was gorgeous or the way she presented herself. Probably it was that Robin was a woman and not some airhead young girl.
Robin met my mom and they went into the kitchen to talk. It was decided that Robin should have the larger of the two empty bedrooms. Dad crooked his finger at me and went outside to the front porch. Oh shit, I would rather have my sarge on my ass than to have to face Dad.
As soon as we closed the door Dad asked me, "What were you thinking Francis? She seems to be a very nice person, but we don't know anything about her."
"Dad, you have always taught me to trust my instincts. That's what I'm doing here."
"Are you trusting your instincts or you Johnson?" (For those of you who don't know what a, ... wait; you all know what I mean. Never mind.)
I told Dad her story. Robin being a widow, it was her husband's car, taking the trips they had planned, all of it. He calmed down after I told him about it.
Dad looked at me and gave me a little smile. "I guess I keep forgetting that you're a man now Frank. I know one of the reasons you helped her is how she looks. Can't fault you taste. By the way don't tell your mother I said that. But I know the other things you told me was also part of your reasoning. Good job, son."
For the next few days, Robin and I were inseparable. I showed her all the highlights of our city. I also took her to some of the spots that the locals went to, away from all the touristy places. One of the best parts was that we took the Corvette and she let me drive.
The only downer during our tour of the city was running into Gerry. Gerry is the girl that I had dated most in high school. Nothing was ever said about going together or boyfriend girlfriend type stuff. We just enjoyed each other's company, and we had a few dates when I came home from the army.
I had never touched Gerry below the neck or above the knee and the few kisses we shared were not the "I heard the bells ring and the earth shake" kind. Even so, it was a little awkward running into her while I was with Robin.
Gerry wasn't her normal upbeat self, but she was always a little shy around new people. I figured that was the problem. After the introductions were made and small talk exchanged we continued on our way. Robin smiled at me and said, "You know that girl is in love with you, don't you?"
"Gerry? You're crazy, we're just buddies and went out together once in awhile. Usually we were with a group, so it's not like that," I told her.
"Maybe that's what you think, but I'm a woman and know about these things. Gerry is in love with you. It hurt her to see us together," Robin said with a little sad voice.
We dropped the subject there. A strange feeling ran through me as I had watched Gerry walk away. I shook it off and went back to trying to impress Robin.
Saturday we went on tour of the Budweiser brewery, something I hadn't got to do before. I hadn't been of legal age and couldn't make use of the sampling room so I hadn't gone. We went on a morning tour and had lunch at a German place nearby.
That evening I took her to my favorite Italian place for an early dinner. A mom and pop restaurant that served things family style. Whatever you ordered was brought in big bowls and you served yourselves. Just like at home. We had a fine meal and a good time.
When we got home we were alone at the house. Mom and Dad left a note that said they had gone to a concert in the park and wouldn't be back until midnight. Robin took my hand and led me to her bedroom. In that room she gave me training that the army hadn't and I began to learn how to handle a woman like Robin.
I thought, as all young men do, that I knew my way around. It was a little bit of a shock to find out how much I had to learn. For instance, I learned a lot about oral sex, both giving and receiving. I learned that giving your partner pleasure increases you own. Let's just say I was an avid student. I was sneaking out of her room about 2:00 A.M. and ran into my dad. He didn't say anything, but he did give me that little smile again and shook his head.
The next morning I was checking out my car. It had been neglected for the last few days. My dad came out to talk to me. I knew I was in for a lecture, but I didn't care, it was worth it. Go ahead Dad, have at it, I thought. My father surprised me again. Not one word was said about last night in the hallway.
He asked me how the Chevy was; that car was one of his passions too. He also asked about school and was I going work while going to school. Everything except what I thought he was going to ask about.
Finally I couldn't take it anymore. Maybe I was waiting for the Inquisition or maybe I just wanted to brag a little. "Okay Dad, let's have it. Why did you really come out here?"
Dad gave that little smile again and asked, "Are you in love with her?" Then he went on before I could answer. "You know she's older than you"
"I know she is older and I don't know if what I feel could be called love. Right now we are just enjoying spending time together. She's leaving tomorrow so how I feel about her is sorta academic, isn't it?"
"I just don't want you to get hurt Son," Dad told me. "I know you're not a boy anymore but Robin would turn any man's head and break any man's heart."
"Let it go Dad. I have to. It's been great meeting her and I don't mean because of last night. I have never had such a good time with a woman. It's been the time of my life," I told him sadly.
We let the conversation turn to my Chevy and Robin's Corvette. Dad and I were both big fans of classic Chevys. He told me breakfast should be ready and we went back to the house. In the kitchen Mom was putting the food on the table and Robin was helping her. We all sat down to eat and talk and enjoy the food and company.
Robin tried to help Mom with the dishes, but Mom chased her out of the kitchen. Mom told her she had a long drive to start tomorrow and that Robin should take it easy today. Robin and I went for a walk down by the river. We stopped at a little gravel bar and sat down.
We were staring at the water and then Robin dropped a bombshell. "Come with me tomorrow Frank."
"What?" I was shocked.
"Come with me. You're good company and a good driver. I could use both. Not to make your head swell, but I like you and I could use a friend on this trip."
My first thought was, I can't go I'm starting college next month. Next what would my folks say? And the last thought I had was, hell yeah I want to go.
"I don't know Robin. I'm starting classes next month and I have already put college off for three years," I replied.
"Would another few months or even a year make any difference in the long run?" She prompted.
I told her that I would have to talk to my parents. Not to get their permission but just to get their input. She looked at me, nodded and smiled.
"I'm leaving about 9:00 in the morning. I won't say any more, the invitation is open until then. I'll remember you fondly if you decide not to go. Thanks for our time here, Frank." She leaned into me to give me a kiss.
When we got back to the house, Robin went up to her room and I headed for the kitchen. Dad and Mom were at the table having coffee. I poured more for them, got a cup for myself, and sat down with them.
"What's on your mind Frank? Dad knew me too well.
"Nothing, why would you ask that Dad."
"You have never sat down with us other than at meals. Ergo, something's on your mind."
I sat for a minute more and then told them I was thinking about going with Robin. Going into the army had put off college for three years and I told them I didn't think another year would cause a problem.
"Are you telling us you're going or asking our permission to go?" Dad usually cut through the bullshit.
"I'm just trying to tell you how I feel and to get your ideas on this," I answered.
Dad, Mom, and I discussed, debated, and looked at the trip from all angles. After an hour, I made my decision. I was going. Before going up to my room I thank them both for their help.