Love Blossoms the Karmann Ghia Way — One Dog Day of Summer
In spite of mischief, social class differences, and a kidnap mishap — love finds a way.
The magnificent Dog Days of Summer arrived just in time to enjoy the unveiling of my freshly restored VW Karmann Ghia.
A far cry from the typical muscle cars I’d previously restored. A real beauty for those who had imagination. While I thought it cute, it hardly compared to the Ferrari 308 GT I’d just finished for a friend.
The Ghia, pearl sea-foam green with tobacco leaf interior and the tan top pops — making it stand out. What it lacked in beauty it made up for in fun, one of the biggest reasons I brought it back from the dead.
I loved the fact it felt like I was breaking speed records while remaining within the speed limit. I was done donating to the police department with a steady stream of speeding tickets. I finally had my license back and planned on keeping it.
The new paint had been given time to cure and harden so I could seal and protect it from the elements. I gave the VW the same treatment I used on every customer’s vehicle. The interior glimmer almost matched the exterior, making it look brand new.
I wanted to use the fresh Ghia for a date with someone I recently met. While not a fancy auto, it was clean and provided the perfect space for two. Most importantly, it was paid for; two years of sweat equity and about fifty trips to the boneyard for parts.
I had no intention of doing the car show circuit. My plans were all about life and enjoying it. The last several years had been trying. All I hoped for was someone to share time with. That wish, turns out, is easier said than done.
Until Liv, that is. She unexpectedly made herself known the day her father picked up his Duesenberg. She dropped him off and commented on how he must trust me. I still can’t believe he allowed me to detail it. Liv later told me she was not permitted to even sit in it.
I was fortunate enough to live in an area of avid auto collectors. My specialties, repairing and detailing, were my bread and butter after walking out of the corporate world. I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into a fanatical anal auto owner with the VW project. Now that the car was done, I understood some of their behavior in primp and pamper of their babies, but as I said, I was on a new chapter in life.
Liv and I had chatted it up on the tele quite a few times, laughing about her father and other owners’ over-the-top behavior around their cars. She was easy to talk to and didn’t seem to mind I was in a different world from hers. She had a storybook childhood, living what seemed a Disney tale within a castle, yet somehow turned out to be a wonderful person.
I finally asked her out, and she foolishly agreed to see what life in the blue-collar world was all about. I never once felt slighted around her or uncomfortable with the fact our portfolios were like the great divide. Even academically, we were on opposite ends of the planet. Still, she seemed to enjoy our time together.
I had had a week of ear-bending from my buddies about where to take her, what to buy her, what to say, what to do. Until I had enough and tossed all of them out. I knew secretly they couldn’t understand why she had chosen me and not one of them. I didn’t hold it against them; I was equally confused.
Her neon green eyes against ebony hair grabbed attention everywhere she went. Not that her slender athletic build went unnoticed, either. She had a bit of Princess Grace about her while making you believe she was the girl next door. She reminded me of a Persian cat for some reason, meaningless I suppose, considering I was a dog person.
We both enjoyed the outdoors, had sailing interests in common, a love of the forest, and being near the ocean. Music and the arts? — our genre was polarized, but we both agreed old school country was not on the table.
Our phone conversations made it clear Liv had already visited most of the landmarks I only dreamed of. She rubbed elbows with individuals of fame, yet preferred to remain locally planted. She confused and fascinated me. It was a recipe akin to the French countryside.
I asked her to pack enough clothes for a three-day weekend, promising to be a perfect gentleman. Her response in jest was, “I wish it hadn’t come to that. I’ve had my fill of gentlemen.” She never asked the where or why; only what time I would be picking her up.
I’m not a wealthy man. Having no plans to act like one, I selected what I thought might be an enjoyable weekend for us. I planned to pick her up and deliver us both to the dock of a tall ship for a 24-hour cruise aboard a clipper. I imagined it might present an opportunity to learn more about each other, away from life's distractions.
As alluded to, I reserved two rooms. A small fortune was spent, but the expenses of the remaining plan paled in comparison, and I looked forward to our time together.
I packed my duffle bag in the bonnet storage area, which shared a space with the spare tire. I rolled my dress slacks and shirts before placing them in the bag, with dress shoes below, a service trick well learned in my youth for my officer dress attire. The memory of shoe polish transfer to my navy whites made me smile as I gingerly closed the hood.
I ran back into the house to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything, took a quick look in the mirror to make sure I was presentable. My blazer, polo shirt, and slacks all looked crisp. Hopefully, the boat shoes wouldn’t give away the surprise. I locked the door behind me, raised the top on the car made sure the trunk and bonnet were secure, checked the gas, and took a deep breath.
I was as nervous as prom night. Who would have imagined then, this moment now? My high school sweetheart and then-wife never made it back. She was one hell of a fighter pilot and woman. She had made me promise; I was now doing as she asked.
I tried to push back the tears by planting the gas pedal to the floor; I was headed into a new beginning. I love early morning drives before the swarm creates frustration. I reached the expressway ramp and enjoyed the challenge of maintaining control while flooring the gas pedal, shifting, and keeping the engine well fed.
I slingshot onto the straights with thoughts of the weekend ahead cheering me on. Life was to be lived. I’d died a thousand deaths in vain. She was never coming back. I edged over to the right to catch the exit; I wanted to make a stop before greeting Liv. I pulled up in front of Sone florist. I wondered if Mrs Sone would remember me. Mr. Sone had passed while I was away at the academy.
The fresh smell of rose and vanilla-scented candles greeted me as I walked through the doorway. The shop was nothing like I remembered.
“Mr. Aunaie. My number one! Where have you been?”
“I apologize, Missus Sone. I haven’t had much need for flowers.”
“Please, call me Ayame. You’re like a son.”
“You honor me. Only if you also call me by my first, Robert.”
“Yes, Mr. Robert.” We both laugh, knowing we will revert to past callings.
“How wonderful. You have a need now?”
My smile says it all. Mrs Sone drags me over to the refrigerated area.
“You must visit me each week now. Yes?”
I nod, knowing it is a request and recommendation. Mrs Sone wants my heart happy.
I leave with a dozen red roses. Mrs Sone refuses to let me purchase anything else, replying ‘trust me’ each attempt.
I secure the flowers next to my side of the seat and drive off.
The Baker’s home is blocks from the flower shop, hidden behind the foliage of the hill. I ring the driveway monitor; the camera swings my way, then the gates open. Reaching the mansion takes longer than the drive from the shop.
I quickly exit the car and try to maintain my anxiousness.
Liv is out of the house, and down the stairs before I reach the passenger side.
I hold out my arm before realizing I’ve left the flowers in the car.
“Relax Robert. We can go as slow as you like.” She hands me her bag.
I open the door for her, wait while she sits, then close it softly.
Checking under the bonnet, Liv’s bag is just a little too big to squeeze in so I place it on the carpeted shelf behind the seats as I settle in.
“Thank you for the roses. They’re beautiful.”
“Wait. What? I’m sorry, um…”
She leans in and softly kisses me.
“Just rattling you. No apology is required. I love them.”
She lifts the bunch to rest them on her lap. “Very thoughtful of you, Sir. Very thoughtful indeed.”
I am just sitting there watching her in disbelief. I can’t believe we're dating.
“Where are we off to, love?”
I laugh nervously, and then we both laugh.
“Robert, I’m the same girl you just spoke with on the phone yesterday. Relax, I’m here because I want to be with you.”
I feel that crazy-ass smile spread across my face.
“Now, now, that’s better. Let’s be off,” she jokes.
The little green machine heads back down the driveway as Liv does her best to get information out of me.
“I’ll give you one clue. You’ll have a stellar view of the stars tonight.”
Judging from the quiet of the next few miles, Liv is thinking or irritated.
The sun has risen enough for us to put on sunglasses as we drive to meet it. The sky is clear, and the air is warming.
“Does the convertible have anything to do with the view of the stars?” she asks.
Clever means of finding out if driving will continue into the night. I think for a moment.
I reply, “It could, or not, depending on if you’re in the car.”
“You’re dreadful. Another clue please.”
“OK, I guarantee there will be little traffic around us when we look at the stars.”
“So the car will be parked?”
“Yes, but the real question is. Will we be in it at that time?”
“I plan on teasing you in return, Robert.”
Oh, I’m not sure what she’s planning, but I suspect frustration’s getting the best of her.
She remains silent until we’re near the oceanfront.
“You’re taking me sailing! I’ll need to change my shoes.” She’s fishing for information.
“You know I don’t own a boat. I thought you would enjoy the beach.”
She grows quiet once more, almost despondent, looking out the passenger window. I can feel her disappointment.
She doesn’t even spot the ship until the car comes to a stop.
After a moment, she turns her head to the windshield, then screams in excitement, throwing open the door and running around to my side of the car. She opens the door and pulls me from my seat.
I see the roses on the ground on the passenger side of the cabriolet through the still-open door.
“Seriously Liv, you need to calm down. Those roses aren’t going to vase themselves.”
She smiles, “Touché. You are a worthy opponent.”
“Nice fencing. Points will be down the remainder of the weekend,” I add.
We collect our things, lock the car, and walk to the dock.
As we near the ship Liv looks back and says, “We’ll be back Ruby, sleep tight.”
“I’ll give you one clue, small.” She smiles and begins climbing the stairs.
Once aboard, we’re both taken with the size and beauty of the ship. Not until Liv is sitting on the bed in her room does she realize she has forgotten to change her shoes.
She kicks off her street shoes. “Your room the same as mine?”
“Thank you, Robert. This means a lot to me.”
“I wanted to do something different for you.”
“No, I mean not making assumptions. I would have gladly shared your room, but this makes it special.”
I feel awkward. I’m not sure how to respond, so I just smile.
We enjoy an enchanting evening, an unbelievable meal, and an outstanding ocean view in each other’s company. We enjoy conversation with the other guests while still managing to remain somewhat distant from the crowd.
Most onboard retire to their rooms as night approaches, but we continue to walk the ship. At one point, we mistakenly make our way into the galley, then proceed to share time and coffee with the chefs.
The night ages on and we progress to champagne with strawberries and chocolate fondue. The captain happens in and asks why we are not enjoying our cabins. We continue to talk at length until both the captain and chefs let us know they are closing up shop.
We ask permission to admire the stars on the bow. The captain winks and hands me a bottle of champagne with glasses. He reminds us of all the forward-facing windows, then bids us goodnight.
One of the female chefs takes the champagne glasses from me, replacing them with thermal tumblers. She explains they have a better chance of staying in place while we study the stars, then laughs and says goodnight.
We stop off at our rooms to grab blankets, then head up to the bow. Twilight and then sunrise grabs our undivided attention until we head back to our rooms to shower to prepare for leaving the ship.
Neither of us is tired or looking forward to dry land. We’ve been charmed by the presence of the sea — and each other.
“What’s next? I can’t imagine you topping this, Robert.”
Neither can I.
My hand rests on her right hip while my left hand slides behind her head. Drawing her to me, looking deeply into her eyes.
First tasting the nape of her neck, then nibbling her earlobe. Her hair has the faint scent of sandalwood, which intoxicates me as I softly hold her face between both hands.
I can wait no longer. Pressing my lips against her moist sweetness, I brace the small of her back, pulling her tightly to me.
My tongue tip slides across the smoothness of her teeth until she allows entry. I slowly retreat as she plunges hers into me — seeking my soul.
A moment. Time stands still until we return to our senses.
“I stand corrected. You’re a love,” she whispers.
We make our way back to Ruby.
“Hey, I need another ruby clue.”
She’s smiling ear to ear, “Paybacks a bitch.”
“That it is. If only I could tell you our next stop,” I counter.
“If you’re expecting another touché, I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
“Do I detect frustration?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. I’m buying time while playing you.”
“Snap! You’re good, girl.”
“Good enough to know our next stop?”
“Pretty too.” She knows banter, and I’m taken with her.
She giggles as she seats herself in Ruby.
Strangely, now both our bags fit under the bonnet in storage.
The ride back is blissful as the sun rises to the occasion, and we both begin to feel sleep calling.
I pull over abruptly to lower the top. Hopefully, the fresh air will keep us crisp.
“You don’t mind, do you?” I ask.
“Not at all. We can imagine we’re still on deck.”
The cool air combs our hair, splashing our faces as we head back towards home.
On the outskirts of the city, our pace is slowed and we begin to take note of the homes along the block.
Liv spots a small dog near the street edge and cautions me to slow down. I pull over just shy of the dog and park against the curb.
“What’s up?” she asks.
“We have another hour of driving. I thought this would be a great excuse to stretch our legs?”
Just as Liv is ready to respond, I hear scratching outside my door. As I open it to take a look. In charges a little K-9 — across my lap, then jumps onto the carpeted shelf behind us.
I leap out to take a look at the door exterior, then all the homes on my side of the street. Liv joins me, but our visitor remains firmly planted within the vehicle.
“Robert, we just can’t leave him here. We should help get the little guy back to…”
“Are you sure your father hasn’t hired a spy?”
She laughs for a minute, then adds, “I wouldn’t put it past him.”
We check the collar but find no name or owner information but, after observation, discover the dog is a male.
“He’s intelligent,” Liv adds.
“OK, I’ll bite.”
“Cute! He jumped in to ask for directions.”
“Ouch, hey let’s find a place to eat and get him a drink.”
Walking back to the car, the little guy acts as if he’s known us a lifetime. He’s pretty cute with spike hair and one side of his face a different color than the other or his body.
As we drive, he seems to get excited as we pass each fast food place; we decide since we can’t bring him inside a restaurant, McDonald’s is probably best.
I park as far away from the other cars as possible to protect the dog and my little vehicle. I have no idea what he’ll do while I run in to order and get our food.
“Liv, what would you like?”
She has an odd look on her face before announcing, “Taco please.”
Once she sees my reaction, she laughs and looks down.
“You haven’t been to McDonald’s before, have you?”
“Robert, I don’t frequent fast-food establishments. Please forgive me. I trust you. Please bring me back a surprise.”
“Will do.” I head in. I look back to see the little dog and Liv staring at each other like old friends. Odd little fellow.
I decide on soft drinks and cheeseburgers without condiments since I’m unsure of Liv’s likes, and what is toxic to the furry one. Then I get bottled water and an empty sandwich container so the dog can have a drink.
As I approach the car, I’m convinced the dog is joyous to see me, until I realize he recognizes the bag.
Sitting down to get situated is difficult because the little guy is hopscotching our laps, then returning to the rear shelf.
Liv holds out her hand, “I can’t wait for a French fry, please.”
I laugh at myself, to which Liv says, “No. Really.”
I explain I didn’t get any as I unwrap and break up the first cheeseburger for the dog.
I just finished setting down the last piece, but he has inhaled all of it already.
Liv asks, “Did you see that? He must not have eaten for days. Give him another.”
So the process continues until furry has eaten all of them while Liv and I sip our soda.
“I dub thee, Hoover, champion of burger theft and consumption,” waving my hand over the dog.
“Poor little fellow,” Liv sighs while tossing the garbage into the container.
We spend the next hour driving up and down the surrounding streets, where we found the little furry vacuum.
Each time we are near the spot where I originally stopped, the dog would grow excited.
“Robert, may we find another restaurant? I need to use the facilities. I’m sure the little guy is hungry.”
Back towards the strip, we head, this time finding and pulling into a Dairy Queen. Liv heads in first to address her needs, then returns with two soft cones, and three plain hamburgers.
Again, our little visitor is ecstatic doing laps within the vehicle by imitating a bouncing goat, using Liv, myself, and the rear deck.
Just as last time, the dog has eaten all the hamburgers, and we’re left with only the ice cream cones.
“I don’t know how he does it,” I say as I’m pouring him water.
He lays down on the carpet shelf as we make another pass up and down a five-block area.
I decide to return to the original crime scene. As I open my door, the dog bolts out past me.
Liv and I both exit the vehicle in pursuit. Furry runs around the side fence of a nearby home then scoots under a dugout area.
We’re both just standing there staring at each other when we hear the voice of a woman behind the fence.
“Are you all right? Where have you been? I have been looking everywhere for you?”
We realize it’s the dog’s owner and that we’ve spent the day rescuing an animal we kidnapped.
“Oh dear, this is so unlike you to not want to eat dinner, Hoover.”
Liv and I can’t contain ourselves. We burst out laughing as we run for the car like high school students. Once inside the car, I floor the green machine, and we peel out towards home.
I feel cold for a moment, as I imagine my high school sweetheart telling me I did well.
“You know Robert, it is very strange, but I feel like I haven’t eaten a thing all day.”
We laugh, and I promise Liv a meal fit for a queen.
Liv reaches over to hold my hand, then reacts, “Oh no.”
I pull over quickly. “What is it?”
“I’ve left our roses on the ship.”
“I’m very sorry, Liv. Not the best date to start, is it?”
“Quite the contrary, Bobby. Best, that is, once you feed me.”
I am speechless, uncertain if I have heard her correctly.
“Kiss me, you fool.” She blurts out.
I seize the opportunity to lean over for another peck, but Liv picks up where we left off previously. I’m losing myself in her.
My past is struggling with the joy of the present.
We finish and she whispers in my ear, “I’ll be supplying dessert at your place.”
The pearl sea-foam green Ghia races the sun's pastels back towards our homes, as the first page of the Dog Days of Summer has turned for us.