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Restoration of Ami
Extract from the Opening Chapter of The Restoration of Ami
Studebaker Golden Hawk The Restoration of Ami
ASIN: B0CVQMH78C - Kindle USA
ISBN: 978-1-7385181-0-4 - Print UK
Pub: Hammer & Tong/KDP 2.29.24

• Sam Hawksmoor

Remy has one last obsession – to complete the restoration of his ’57 Studebaker Golden Hawk.  He’s planned a road trip to Montreal to find a part he desperately needs. It’s a long way from Florida; his Chevy truck is almost as old as he is. There are doubts he’ll be able to make the drive, doubts about his bladder, his heart, but he’s determined to go.


Restoration of Ami

Emergency Stop
It was raining hard. Remy was at the wheel of his old '57 Chevy truck. His head still preoccupied with his late wife's niece's warnings to him about this long journey. “You can’t go, Remy. You’re too old and it’s too risky. It’s dangerous, you’re dangerous on the road.” Thunder rumbled overhead. He cursed the heavy rain, the remains of Hurricane Cynthia currently battering the gulf coast of Florida and heading inland. After only ninety minutes on the road, he needed to stop already. He pulled over at the entrance to some place called The Farmstead. There was a long drive leading off into the distance, so he knew he’d have time to go and get back in the vehicle before anyone saw anything.
            Couldn’t avoid the rain. And, of course, it wouldn’t come out right away. The more urgent it was, the harder it was to get the flow going. He winced as he waited, rain soaking his cap and jacket.  He’d finally finished when a dog came running out of nowhere. Nice looking fella, a Collie mix of some kind, one blue eye, the other gray. Looked drenched. Seemed friendly. Looking at him and the truck expectantly.       
“Where the hell did you come from, dog?”          
“Wait up!” He heard a young voice shout out. “Waaaait.”
            Remy climbed back up into his truck to get out of the rain, the dog followed, just scrabbled up after him and sat on the passenger seat, as if he did this all the time. He keenly looked out of the window towards the long drive.  “Well, you’re a cheeky so and so,” Remy declared, surprised at the dog’s boldness. “Whatever you do, don’t shake.” Remy pulled out a tattered red towel which he threw over the dog and rubbed him down. “This was Rascal’s. You can probably still smell him. Dead three years now.”
            She was standing outside the truck looking for her dog. Young kid, soaked to the skin, inappropriately dressed for the weather. She stared with surprise to see him already in the truck.
            “Best get in,” Remy shouted through his driver’s side window. “Door handle sticks. Need to pull hard.” She moved fast – pausing only to stare at him – making a swift assessment that it was safe to get in with him, figuring the dog already made that choice.  “Come on, you’ll have to share the dog’s towel.”

She climbed in, the dog licked her face as if he’d not seen her for weeks. She hugged him back and Remy started up, checked his mirrors before rejoining the road.
“Where you headed? That’s some cheeky dog you got there. Just jumped right on up, like he does it every day.”
           
She didn’t reply immediately. She looked exhausted as she tried to regain her breath and rub the rain out of her hair.  She’d obviously been running from the moment she’d spotted the truck.  Remy judged she was around fifteen. Hard to know these days, but he reckoned he was right.  She smelled of roses which he thought was odd, but it was a lot better than what the wet dog smelled of.
“Not the easiest place to catch a ride I imagine,” Remy said. “Dog got a name?”     
“Does it matter?” The girl asked wearily kicking off her wet shoes.
“I imagine it does to the dog.”        
“Stan. His name is Stan.”  She brushed her dark brown hair away from her eyes and looked for something to blow her nose on.  Remy pointed out a box of tissues by her feet.

The rain was coming down in sheets now and he needed to concentrate. The wipers were pretty slow and primitive. They hadn’t really got windshield tech down to a fine art in ’57.        
“Can you actually see the road?” The girl asked, staring at him, clearly worried.          
“Not so much, but we’re only going twenty right now. If this thing hits anything, it will survive.”
            The girl rolled her eyes, wiped more rain from her face and shook out her hair. The dog leaned into her to get warm. “Stan seems pretty used to getting into trucks.” Remy commented.
            The girl hugged her dog. “He likes to ride the tractor on the farm.”      
“Have you got a name?” Remy asked as they passed a gas station.  He saw a sign for Brokenbrook 10 miles. He remembered there was a Diner there; or used to be. So many things weren’t there anymore. He could use a coffee and wait out the worst of the rain a while. “I’ll stop for coffee at Brokenbrook. You got a destination in mind?”          
“H- Haven Ridge.” 
He noticed a hesitation in her reply. A good two hundred miles or more. “Not a happy place since they closed the food processing plant. I seem to recall it was the town’s main employer.”
            The girl shrugged. She had no idea.         
“You won’t remember it, of course. Plant closed in 2009. Haven Ridge formula milk was sold right across the States. Never did understand why they closed it. Not as if people stopped having babies.” Remy glanced at the dog cleaning himself. “I had a dog just like Stan. He lasted sixteen years. Didn’t seem right to replace Rascal, though I wanted to. House never the same without him there.”         
“What he die of?”  The girl asked, then bit her lip realizing this might be a sore point.          
“Kidney failure but arthritis mostly. Gets most dogs in the end. People too.  Only we like to prolong their agony. I hate to see an animal in pain.”          
“Stan is two now.”
Remy smiled. “Two’s a perfect age for a dog. At their best. He loves you. That’s good. A person needs a good dog.
 “Where are you headed?” The girl asked.
“Montreal.”          
The girl didn’t know where Montreal was. Didn’t care. She stared out at the driving rain and hoped this old guy could see better than her and she couldn’t see anything. She wished she’d had time for breakfast. He’d said he’d stop but she didn’t have a dime on her. Not exactly planning this escape too good. She chewed on her bottom lip.  That was her worst fault according to Father Tresor. An inability to plan ahead.
           
Remy tried to make conversation. “I’ve been on this road many times; I don’t recall noticing any Farmstead sign before.” The girl didn’t answer or didn’t want to.  Remy kept on driving. Well aware the traffic was building up. He really hoped that the Diner was still there. Should have remembered the flask. He’d put it out on the table. He wondered what else he’d forgotten. Thank God he’d packed his pills the night before.
“You in trouble of any kind, kid? You seemed pretty keen to get away. No bags. Haven Ridge is a long ways away. I don’t want to be in trouble with the law.”
            The girl still didn’t reply. He shrugged and continued staring at the flooding highway. They passed a vehicle abandoned at the side of the road, hazard lights flashing, no sign of any driver though.
“If this storm keeps up there’s going to a lot of broken-down vehicles ahead. That Diner can’t come up soon enough.” He wiped the inside of the windshield, annoyed it was steaming up. He opened his window a little but soon regretted it as rain forced itself inside. He noticed she was shivering. "If you look behind the seat, you’ll find an old sweater of mine. It’ll swamp you but might stop you from turning blue.”
           
The girl didn’t waste any time in grabbing the old sweater out and pulling it on. Remy smiled as it swallowed her.
“Stinks a bit, but it’s wool, should keep you warm.”           
The girl snatched a glance at him. “No one’s looking for me. Not yet anyways.”
Remy noted the ‘not yet’.
“But you needed to get away.”
            The girl nodded and reached for another tissue to blow her nose. She stared out of the windshield again. “Yeah, I needed to get away. No one will miss me. That’s for sure.”      
“Someone will, even if they’re glad you’re gone.”
“They’ll be happy I’ve gone.”        
“And the dog?  They’ll be worried about the dog.”          
“He’s mine.” She asserted. “Always has been. Won’t do anything for anyone else.”
            Remy smiled. Rascal had been like that. Totally devoted to one person.
"You know anyone in Haven Ridge?”   
“My mother.”
Remy nodded with relief, happy to hear that. “That’s good.”

The girl stared at him a moment wondering where all these questions were going. When she’d finally found the courage to leave, she hadn’t really thought about questions and what she’d say to people. She’d had to leave. The way Father Tresor was always looking at her, stroking her. She didn’t want to be the next one and there was always a next one. Stan couldn’t protect her all the time.

Remy saw the turnoff for Brokenbrook at last and moments later a brightly lit diner still open after all these years. The faded ‘Breakfast Served All-Day’ sign was reassuringly still visible.
“You hungry?  Breakfast on me.  You can’t take the dog in, but we can take something out for him.”
The girl gazed at her benefactor in wonder. He was being nice to her. Why? People were never nice, let alone be nice to her dog.

She wasn’t at a table when he got inside, but soon reappeared from the bathroom looking less bedraggled. Only now did he notice she was a pretty little thing. Nervous as hell, like she’d never been in a diner before. She slipped into the seat opposite him and wasn’t sure what to do.
The waitress loomed over them suddenly with the coffee pot at the ready. “Coffee?”
Remy smiled. “We need it. When will this rain ease up huh?”
The waitress shrugged. “They say it’s set for the whole weekend. Breakfast special for two?  You both look starved.”
Remy glanced at the girl and nodded. “Yeah two. Wheat toast and an extra side order of sausages for the dog.”
The waitress glanced out of the window at his truck. “I thought I heard a dog howl. Breaks your heart, right? Hard to get them to stop once they get started.”
She glanced at the girl. “You alright girl? You’re shivering.”
The girl nodded. “Got caught in the rain.”
The waitress nodded. “Weather ain’t what it used to be and that’s a fact.” She poured them coffee and tossed a few creamers onto the table, turning her head to holler – “Two specials, both with wholewheat – extra side of sausages.”  Then she was gone.

The girl stared at Remy in wonder. She pulled open two creamers.  “I only had coffee once. You don’t get coffee at the farm.”
“Well, it’s diner coffee. Not like fancy coffee you get at Starbucks, but it will warm you up. Sip it, it’s hot.”
Remy opened a couple of creamers and poured them into his coffee. The girl had a red raw scar on her neck. He could see she was anxious about the dog, continually staring out the window towards the truck. He was beginning to form opinions about the girl and her circumstances.  “You don’t have to tell me much, I guess. There’s no law that says you have to, but I think you need to tell me something. Everything is new for you. So, I’m guessing you don’t get off the farm that much.”

She tried to hide behind the coffee cup, sipping it and wincing because it was so hot or bitter or both.
"What’s your mother’s name?” Remy asked casually.
The girl closed her eyes. She felt dizzy. Questions. She should have anticipated questions.  She guessed he wasn’t being mean. He seemed kind. Stan would have warned her if he was trouble.
“I don’t know my mother’s name. Not her first name. Only that she’s called Hannan, like me, I suppose.”
Remy digested that as he sipped his coffee, deciding it was too strong and needed more creamer.
“That’s a start. You have an address for her?”
The girl nodded. He only now noticed she had dark green eyes. “And I’m guessing she doesn’t know you’re coming, right?”
The girl nodded. “I …”

Remy put his hands on the table, taking a gentle tone. “Here’s the thing.  My late wife, bless her soul, ran a charity for separated kids.  She was big on getting broken families back together, devoted twenty years to it, or more, so I know something about runaways and broken families. I’m thinking you haven’t seen your mother in a very long time. That place you just ran away from is a care institution of some kind. And you’ve been thinking about finding your mother for years but only just recently found out where she lives. And now you want to know why she gave you up.  Correct me if I’m wrong.”

The girl stared at him open mouthed, astonished he could know this about her.
Remy sat back in his seat. Her reaction told him he was right.  “You wouldn’t be the first orphan who ran away to find a parent. You won’t be the last. I have no special insights kid. My wife was desperate to mend broken homes and hearts. I’ve seen hundreds of kids pass through her hands, every one of them banking it all on finding an answer, an explanation, an apology, something that will make sense to them as to why they ended up in care.”

He offered her a gentle smile. “I promise I’m not being cruel or cynical, kid. I’m trying to say I understand why you’re on the road and why it’s important to you. I guess you didn’t have time to pack a bag. Stan is the farm dog, right?”
The girl nodded. “But everyone knows he’s mine.”
Remy nodded. “Yep, that I do agree. But tell me, did you think about what your mother might say to you?  What happens if she has a new life, new husband, new kids?  You don’t know why she gave you up. When did you find out about her?”

The girl wiped a tear away. He was saying he wasn’t being cruel, but it sounded cruel. But then again, she was used to that and the name calling, the belittling. “Yesterday. It was my turn to clean the office.”
“Ah, and you found something.”
She nodded. “Found my file, didn’t even know I had one. There were letters. Not many. Five. Her address was on one of ‘em. They stopped when I was ten. They never gave ‘em to me. She kept saying how sorry she was that she hadn’t been to see me.”
“She may have had a reason. Did any other mothers turn up at the farm?”
She had to think about that. “Not that I ever noticed. No.”
Remy nodded. “So, the last time she wrote to you was what, four, five years ago? I’m assuming you’re about fifteen now.”
The girl exhaled. “Sixteen soon, don’t exactly know the date.”
Remy was surprised by that but didn’t query it.
“Tell me your name. Mine’s Remy.”
She hesitated. Her name was all she had left. For some reason she was reluctant to tell him. No idea why. It was the only thing she owned.
“How old are you?” She asked, for no particular reason.
“Seventy-five.”
She made a quick mental calculation. “You was born in 1950?”  It seemed impossible to her.

Remy laughed as he gulped some coffee. “A lot of people were born in 1950. Might surprise you to know a whole bunch are still alive, despite Covid and heart attacks and everything else that life throws at ‘em.”
The girl looked away at the kitchen hoping the food would come soon. She hadn’t eaten in two days.
The waitress was approaching with their breakfasts. Remy smiled as she laid the loaded plates on the table. “Looks good.” Remy remarked.
“New chef. He’s trying to impress the customers.” She answered. “Top up the coffee?”
Remy was about to nod then remembered. “Can’t dammit. Bladder says no.”
The waitress laughed. “Ain’t that a bitch. My husband’s got the same problem.”
“It won’t kill him, but sure as hell is inconvenient,” Remy confessed.
The waitress smiled at the girl. “Get eating girl. Your grandpa needs to feed you up.”
The girl grabbed some toast – she didn’t need prompting.
“Extra sausages will be out in a moment.” The waitress informed them as she departed.
“Eat slow,” Remy told her. “We’re in no rush to get back out into that rain.”
She looked up at Remy a moment. “My name’s Ami. With an i.”

The Restoration of Ami is available now
ASIN: B0CVQMH78C - Kindle USA
ISBN: 978-1-7385181-0-4 - Print UK

Pub 2.29.24


One old man, a troubled teenage girl and Stan the dog are on a road trip into MAGA America.  With each mile they travel Montreal seems to get further away.


 

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