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Saturday, May 21, 2011
Taking a Chance on Love by Nancy Goldberg Levine
“Bea, that guy’s a loser, and not good enough for my little girl.”
Bea Shapiro thought about her father’s words, and the text message her ex-boyfriend had sent. It had been more than a month since he’d broken up with her by cell phone, and she was still hurting. Why couldn’t things be the way they were in old-fashioned love songs? Why did the world have to move in giga-bites instead of moments? As far as love songs went, people her age preferred Lady Gaga to her choices of the classics -- Michael Feinstein, Frank Sinatra or Rosemary Clooney.
She listened to a Michael Feinstein CD as she moved around the empty car dealership where she worked with her dad. She’d always loved cars, and was happy that the dealership had weathered the storm of the bad economy. As she listened she couldn’t help herself, she danced. She glided around the dealership showroom, eyes closed, imagining herself in the arms of a handsome bachelor who wouldn’t break up with her by text message. She thought about the dance classes she taught at the senior center. The men and women who attended knew a lot about life and romance and great music. She had the feeling she was had been born in the wrong time, and was a throwback to those who had lived during through two world wars and the Great Depression.
A knock at the huge showroom window interrupted the dance and her thoughts. She looked out and saw the handsome…bachelor?…she’d been thinking about. Okay, maybe he was married. Whoever he was, he’d shown up after business hours.
“We’re closed,” she called through the window.
She heard the man groan and looked him up and down. He was tall and rugged-looking, and all dressed up. What if he was on his way to meet his wife for dinner? He had straight, sandy hair, blue eyes and looked like he had a nice smile, though he wasn’t grinning now. “My car broke down. I’m on my way to work, and I know absolutely nothing about cars.”
“I’ll be right out,” Bea said. Her father would kill her for offering a free repair to a stranger, but she didn’t meet guys who didn’t know anything about cars very often. Usually, they thought of her as a damsel in distress, and were surprised when they saw her changing a tire or heard her talking about shocks and pistons.
”Thank you,” the man said. Bea felt like she was looking at a modern-day Fred Astaire, right there in her father’s car lot. “I don’t know what happened to my car, but all of the sudden, it stopped.” They walked to his car, and he looked up at the roof of the dealership, where a huge statute of a cougar stood perched above, next to the “Shapiro Motors” sign. “I like the mascot. By the way, I‘m Will Maxwell. William, actually, but my friends call me Will.” He held out his hand for her to take, and Bea liked his strong grip.
Bea smiled, his comment bringing back memories of her father and that cougar statute. “I’m Phoebe Shapiro, but my friends and family call me Bea.”
“Bea,” Will said. “I like that.”
“Thanks. There’s a story about the mascot.”
“I can’t wait to hear it.”
They made their way to the car, Bea talking as she walked. “Rosenthal Lincoln-Mercury was my dad’s biggest competitor when I was growing up.” She remembered envying the boisterous Rosenthal clan, especially the oldest daughter, Tess, who was about her age. She always wore the latest fashions and jewelry, and had the biggest parties. Bea had been an only child, and her mother had died when she was five years old. She had plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins, but it wasn‘t quite the same. “My dad wanted that statue, even though Shapiro Motors didn’t sell Lincoln-Mercury cars. Well, the kids grew up and none of them were interested in the dealership. When their father died, their mother gave up the business and the statue just sat in the back parking lot. Finally, my dad got it.”
“I’m glad. It fits right in with Las Vegas.” She liked Will’s husky voice. They had reached his car. Bea checked under the hood. It didn’t look like anything was wrong with the battery, and she looked around, but decided she couldn’t tell what was wrong. “You might have to leave it and we can put it up on a lift and have a better look. You said you needed to get to work, though. I could drive you.”
“That’s very nice of you.”
“So, where do you work?”
“I play the French horn for the Las Vegas Symphony.” She led him to her car, and he held the driver’s side door open for her. When she got in, she turned on the DVD player, and the music of Michael Feinstein singing “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” started to play.
“What?” Will said. “No Lady Gaga?”
Bea wrinkled her nose. “No, thanks. Give me Michael Feinstein any day.”
“I feel the same way. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century.”
“So do I! In fact, I teach dance classes at the senior center, and I love music from the 30s and 40s.” By the time they got to the concert hall, she felt like she and Will were old friends.
“They don’t write any songs like that nowadays. It’s rap or hip hop or bad remakes.”
“I agree. There’s no way a song like ‘Poker Face’ can compare with ‘Taking a Chance on Love.’”
“Definitely not. Thanks for bringing me to work,” Will said, with a smile. “I think I can get a ride back with one of the other musicians, but I’ll be seeing you on Monday about my car.”
“Okay,” Bea said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“Are you kidding me?” Alfie Shapiro, Bea’s father, asked. “You almost gave this guy a free repair job, and then you drive him to work? You didn’t know him. What if something would have happened?”
“Nothing happened. He’s trustworthy, as you’ll find out when you meet him later. The starter went out on his car, and he’s coming over this afternoon to pick it up.”
Her father shook his head, and went back into his office, muttering about her being on the rebound.
For Bea, the afternoon couldn’t come fast enough. She was thrilled when Will came back to get his car. She was even happy to introduce him to her father. Maybe then Alfie would see what she was talking about.
“Nice to meet you,” Will said, shaking her father’s hand, with that strong grip of his. Her father had to be impressed by that handshake.
“Mmm,” Alfie said. “Don’t hurt my daughter. The last guy who hurt her disappeared, if you know what I mean.”
“Dad,” Bea warned. “Will doesn’t know you yet, or your sense of humor.” “Mmm,” Alfie said again.
“I have an idea about your sense of humor from the cougar statue. Bea told me how much you liked it when the Rosenthals had it at their dealership.”
Her father broke into a smile. “Really? She told you about the Rosenthals, eh? They were a bunch of good-for-nothings. The kids never cared about cars. And that Tess…” Alfie rolled his eyes, and Bea couldn’t help laughing. He was right about Tess. She’d always been a little out there.
After he paid for the car, Bea followed Will out.
“Thanks for taking such good care of my car,” Will said. Bea saw him gaze back at the showroom window, where her father still had his eyes on them. “It’s obvious that your father wants the best for you.”
“I wish he wouldn’t be quite so obvious,” Bea said.
“Well, I enjoyed meeting you…and your father. And I’d like to spend more time with you, if you don’t mind.”
“Mind?” Bea said. “I’d love spending more time with you. You and I get each other.”
“All right. How about coming to the symphony concert next Saturday, then dinner, and maybe dancing. I know this great place where they play 1940s music.”
“No Lady Gaga?”
“No Lady Gaga.”
About the Author: Nancy Goldberg Levine is the author of Tempting Jonah, and is currently working on a sequel to that book. She is also the author of more than fifty short stories.