Do you ever look at gravestones and think about the life contained between the two dates inscribed on stone? This is my whimsical way of weaving a story about the adventures in the dash.
The first Monday of every month, I’ll feature a gravestone (or two) along with a fictional story depicting what a piece of their lives might have looked like.
In the interest of privacy, I’ll give only first or last names, not both. I hope you enjoy this fanciful peek into what might have been.
Previous stories can be found on the Graveyard Tales Archive
More Than a Car
Name: John and R. Lurene
Dates: John: 1919-2003; R.: 1921 – 2010
Note: Served in U.S. Army in WWII and received a purple heart
Inspired Fictional Story, placed in the late 1930s:
John paused in his labor to look up at the passing car. A 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow. He grimaced, leaning down to scoop up yet another shovelful of dirt before straightening, stretching with a hand to his aching back, resentment rising. Here he was, stuck building another road, and he had to watch more fortunate people pass by in the cars that would be driving over it soon. People who were not him. If he had to build roads, shouldn’t he have the benefit of driving on them as well?
“Taking a break already, John?”
John cast a scathing look at his friend, Shaw, who had paused his own work to raise an eyebrow at him. He didn’t bother to hide the anger in the glare, but it didn’t phase the other man, who shrugged at him.
“Be grateful you have a job, John. And I’d appreciate it if you put a little more heart into it—I had to pull some strings to get you this.”
“I know.” John turned back to his work, trying to tamp down his emotion a little at his Shaw’s reminder. “Still, doesn’t seem right that some people have all the luck, and you and me are stuck here, working.”
“By luck, I assume you mean a car?” Shaw dug into the dirt as he spoke, but John could hear the amusement in his voice and it stoked his ire even more.
“Is there anything wrong with that? I only want what everyone else has. Is that too much to ask?”
“’Everyone’ is a stretch,” Shaw replied dryly.
“Yeah, well, it seems like—” John stopped talking as another car rattled past . 1936 Auburn 852 SC. “See that?” He motioned to it with his shovel. “It’s like someone’s trying to rub it in.” He rolled his eyes towards the heavens. “That’s my dream car! How can people already afford that kind of car?”
Shaw shrugged. “The economy’s getting better every day. Someday you, too, will be able to buy a car. You just have to have patience.”
“Not with all my money going to the family.” John muttered as he continued working.
“Your dad still out of work?”
John grunted in response.
“Maybe if you said you were getting married, you could argue to keep some of the money.” Shaw chuckled at the responding look John cast him. “What? It works for me.”
“But you are actually getting married.”
“True,” Shaw acknowledged.
“Besides, nineteen is too young to get married.”
John shook his head and rolled his eyes. “For me. You can do whatever you want. Me, I want to live a little first.”
“Wait till you meet the right girl,” Shaw grinned. “Then you’ll change your tune.”
“Just watch me,” John growled, pushing his shovel in a little deeper.
“Come on, let’s go get some water.” Shaw stuck his shovel down in the dirt and removed his gloves, tilting his head toward the work truck.
John didn’t argue, though he couldn’t resist keeping an eye on the road for any more passing vehicles as they marched past the other workers toward the jug of water in the back of the truck.
“You boys have excellent timing.” A round, rosy face poked out from around the truck, followed a moment later by a petite figure in a floral cotton dress. For once in his life, John was too distracted watching the fabric sway around the confident young woman as she walked toward them to look around and see which car was passing. Then his eye caught on Shaw’s smug look and he forced his gaze away from her to glare at him.
Shaw gave him an I-told-you-so shrug and turned to the woman. “Hey, Rachel. About lunch time?”
“You are always the first in line,” Rachel smiled up at him, her short dark blond curls swinging around her ears. “And I see you brought a friend with you this time.” She turned the smile on John who, despite himself, straightened his shoulders before offering his hand.
“John. I just started.”
Instead of responding, she turned her head back to Shaw. “The one obsessed with cars?”
“Yeah, but I thought maybe we could convince him there’s more to the world than cars.” Shaw winked and Rachel shook her head at him. She turned a mischievous grin back towards John. “Ignore him. He’s been trying to set me up ever since he got engaged to my sister. Now, let’s get you hungry men some lunch.”
She swung back around and headed to the front of the truck, John’s eyes still following her.
Shaw nudged him with an elbow. “Hey, a Cadillac just passed.”
“Huh?” John’s head came around, and Shaw laughed.
“Told you there’s more to life than buying cars.”
John wanted to argue, but for the first time, wasn’t sure Shaw was wrong. He had a feeling he had just found a new reason to keep working.
Note: I took some liberties with this one. The depression was starting to ease in the late 1930s, but apparently throughout the great depression it was common for teens to stick around and help support their families through any work they could find (unless they left home early to reduce the burden on the family altogether). I can only imagine that not all of them appreciated this expectation, however reasonable I find it. According to someplace online (did I save the reference? No, no, of course not), President Roosevelt had created at least some jobs for young men building roads and bridges; however, I could find very little on exactly how roads were constructed. Most pictures I found online involved men with shovels and often had some sort of truck in the picture, but there’s no guarantee that there was a work truck with water available for them. Nor have I any idea whether someone actually brought them lunch or if they were required to provide their own food. Someday I may put more research into it and find these answers, but for now, try just to enjoy this imagined snippet of John’s life.