Coop came back last week. I was in the backyard, weeding and fussing with my garden.
“Hey buddy,” he said, standing behind me. No mistaking the familiar voice. I stood and turned.
“Don’t just stand there,” he said.
I dropped the hand rake and embraced him. Here he was. My best friend. Best man at my wedding. Well, actually, both weddings. The one and only Cooper Wilson, back from the dead.
“Didn’t mean to disappear on you like that,” he said. “I had no choice, you know?”
“Come out front. I have something to show you.”
We walked around the house. I needed no prompting. I knew what I was supposed to see. The obvious giant object sitting under my maple tree. A familiar shape, hidden under a tarp.
“Go on,” he said, gesturing with his head. My heart was pounding. I had goose bumps up and down my arms. I nearly sprinted over to the object and stopped, staring. I was afraid if I removed the cover, I would be wrong. That there would be something else under there. At least for the moment I had the hope of sweet anticipation.
“What is this?”
“Take a look stupid.”
I reached for the tarp. As the corner of the chrome bumper peeked out from under the cover, I knew. “You sonofabitch,” I said.
Coop was standing on the opposite side. “Oh, this is nuts!” he cried. “Just take the damn cover off.” He reached down and grabbed the right corner. We peeled the cover off the gleaming black hood. There she was. My 1976 Dodge Challenger R/T with a 383 cubic-inch 335 horsepower V8.
“But how?” I said.
“I own a research company, dummy. Nothing to it.”
The keys were in the ignition. We threw the rest of the car cover on the ground.
“Get in,” Coop said. I reached for the door handle with trembling hands. The engine turned over and purred, bringing back every moment of my senior year in an overwhelming flood. Coop hopped in the passenger seat. “Where to?” he said.
I gave the obvious response. “To the reservoir.” As I pulled out of the front yard, I noticed Coop had a tear on his left cheek.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I was an ass.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “You were. But, hey, we’re all assholes at one time or another.”
Coop waived at Susan sitting on the porch swing. She smiled and tucked her legs up under her chin.
“To the reservoir,” Coop echoed.