Chapter Two, Part Two
Everything was going along great, what with work, weekend fun, parents, and friends. But then one Tuesday I went to work as usual but when I got there Howard was quiet. The crew and the office personnel came in sobbing, and most with blank faces. I asked what was going on and Johnny told me that old man Zimmermann passed away early that morning. I was shocked. I had just saw him two days before. I needed a little time to compose myself. I went out to the shop and just stood there staring blankly at the ceiling. No words.
The funeral was a few days afterwards and I was asked to be a pallbearer. There was a steady stream of people that came to the wake, the funeral, and the cemetery. It was sad. After the crowd at the cemetery had thinned considerably, Mrs. Zimmermann came to me. We stood there looking at each other, speechless. We shared a hug, and she whispered for me to telephone her next week. I told her I would.
As the second week afterward passed, the Zimmermann Ford crew went quietly about the everyday business with the cloud of grief ever so slowly lifting. The sound of Underwood Typewriters pecking away and the ring of the telephones seemed to never stop.
I decided I would give Mrs. Zimmermann a call as she had asked. She asked if Chickie and I could come to the house the next day around 6:00 pm. I said, "Of course.” I got off work the next day, went home, and grabbed Chickie, and we drove the '32 over to the Zimmermanns', me still in my work clothes. We walked up to the front porch and I turned and looked at the yard, the bushes, and the flowers. All were the same but somehow different. When we reached the front door, it opened, and Mrs. Zimmermann asked us to come in. We went to the parlor, passing by the portrait Chickie had painted of the two of them. There was a well-dressed middleaged man waiting in the parlor. Mrs. Zimmermann introduced him to us. He was her lawyer and we nervously chit chatted for a while. Then Mrs. Zimmermann got up and said, "Well, I have something for you.”
She left the room and then returned. She handed me some papers and then handed me a set of keys. It was the keys to Mr. Zimmermann's '34 Vicky. I said, "Oh no..." She stopped me and said that her husband had placed in his will that I would be the new owner of the car. The lawyer stood up with the will in his hand and showed us that very entry where he had willed us the '34. I was dumbfounded.
When I came to my senses, I said abruptly, " But Mrs. Zimmermann, If I took the car you wouldn't have any car to drive and get around in.” She let out a soft short chuckle and then told me, " My dear boy, I have no need for the car―you see, I don't know how to drive and I don't have a driver's license!"
Again, I was stunned. The wife of a man who had a very successful automobile dealership not knowing how to drive was just…well…baffling!
We said our goodbyes and Chickie jumped in the '32 and headed for home. I, still in a daze, went to the garage to get the '34 Vicky. It started right up. I got it out of the garage, closed the garage doors, and headed down the driveway to the street. I couldn't see her, but I felt Mrs. Zimmermann watching as I drove away.
I got home and drove it into the garage, turned the key off, and just sat there for a moment. I then started looking at the papers. All the service records were there. The title was there, signed, Peter Zimmermann.
"Peter.” I reflected back to when I had first met Mr. Zimmermann, when we took care of his landscaping, and to when he had said to me, "Pete, eh? Good name." Now I understood what he meant. I then opened a sheet of paper that was in Mr. Zimmermann's handwriting. It read, "Pete, take good care of my baby," signed Peter. I lowered my head to rest it on the steering wheel and cried my eyes out.
A day or two later I began to feel like I didn't really deserve having that beautiful 1934 Victoria. There were other people just as much if not more deserving of it―like Mr. Zimmermann's son, Bob―or maybe Howard. I was lying in bed one Friday night and the plan came to me. Saturday, I woke up and started detailing the '34 Vicky. It took all day and part of Sunday, but it looked like a brand new car when I got through with it. I had called and told Howard of my plan and he met me at the Ford dealership Sunday evening.
Monday morning arrived and Zimmermann employees were all delighted to see Mr. Zimmermann's '34 Vicky sitting on the showroom floor for all to see and appreciate. Bob Zimmermann rushed over to me and threw his arms around me and thanked me over and over. He loved it being there. Now he, his employees, and all the customers can enjoy it. And me, a guy who just drove an old damn hot rod, well, the '34 sitting on the showroom floor―that made me a happy man.