My Car Quest

August 19, 2019

Fiction: Bobbi and the Berlinetta

by Wallace and Warren Wyss –

In the beginning, Bobbi just wanted to keep Forrester, her one and only husband, happy. Forrester was an engineer, and even before they were married, Bobbi realized engineers were numbers types, not big on showing emotion. It was hard to tell when he was happy or sad. He was just Forrester.

He had been her first college boyfriend, a senior when she was a freshman, and she stuck by him and waited tables when he’d gone off to Georgia Tech to become a mechanical engineer. He promised to return, and so he did. After graduation he came back to Madison and married Bobbi.

Life was good but not exciting. Forrester never mentioned anything about her looks, so Bobbi never knew if she was dressing right for him or not. But she had to admit that over the years she’d become frumpy, with a little, uh, how did the guys say it, “junk in the trunk.” Forrester didn’t seem to mind. Or notice. He was, after all, married to his work. A new job meant a move to Southern California.

Life was good but not a thrill. And so it went for eighteen years, until one day circa 1983, when Bobbi was down in the den, dusting things off. She didn’t dare move anything in the den, as that was Forrester’s Holy Sanctum. But she was allowed to dust. That’s when she discovered the Ferrari stuff. She had also found the photos of the college cheerleaders.

Apparently, Forrester had been lusting after the cheerleaders all the time he had been dating her. Well, no matter, Forrester had married her, not any of them. Besides, she imagined the cheerleaders must be all hagged out now, every one of them married and cranking out kids like nobody’s business. They had one, of course, a boy, who was just as much of a nerd as his Old Man.

But the Ferrari stash was the surprise. Forrester always liked cars and went to a car show now and then, but Bobbi was never sure exactly what kind of cars he liked. He drove a Chevy for business and owned a beat-up International Harvester Scout that he used for deer hunting, but an International was about as far from a sports car as you can get. Bobbi dug through the chest of Ferrari books and articles and pictures, and it was clear that Forrester lusted after a Ferrari even more than he lusted after those college cheerleaders.

* * *

Bobbi Anderson, now on the dark side of 45, thought she might have been a trifle frumpy but she was no dummy when it came to investing. She had learned about a new company called Apple. At first she liked the name because it was the same as the Beatles recording company. That meant it had to be cool, right? She put most of her modest inheritance into the stocks right after they went public, though she never told Forrester about it for fear that he would not approve of her choices. However, Apple stock proved to be a very smart decision.

Ferrari 250 SWB art by Wallace Wyss

Art by Wallace Wyss

Bobbi had often dreamed of buying something for Forrester, something big he’d never forget. Her Apple shares would allow her to do just that. Since the accidental invasion into his sanctum, she now knew what it would be. For their 20th wedding anniversary, she would buy Forrester his very own Ferrari. Some time passed, Forrester got promoted and his employer sent him to Hong Kong, Ethiopia and other places Bobbi couldn’t even find on the map. She’d man the ship, saying, no sweat, Forrester Jr. is in college and she’d keep busy. She had no idea that Forrester would be gone as much as it turned out. In the meantime, she knew it was going to be easier now to secretly get that anniversary present.

Not knowing much about Ferraris, Bobbi joined the local chapter of the Ferrari club and had her membership card sent to the same PO box she had her investment info sent to. Forrester would never catch on. At the first Ferrari Club meeting, Bobbi felt out of it.

There were only a couple of girls there among twenty or so middle-aged men. They were so young and pretty, she was sure they just had to be “arm candy,” kind of what you expected to be on the arm of guys who drove $200,000 cars. Bobbi rarely if ever saw the wives. But the younger girls accepted her. In fact they needed a club secretary. Bobbi volunteered and did such a good job that they also put her in charge of the quarterly newsletter.

After a few meetings, Bobbi found she wanted to be one of the girls. She started going to the gym to get rid of the junk in the trunk. “Frumpy” and “Ferrari” , she had found, did not go together. It didn’t take too long to get down to size 6, and her new friends from the club took her downtown to the expensive stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. Ferrari, so it seemed, went with names like Armani and Calvin Klein. Her friends said she could almost double for Bo Derek.

Ferrari 250 SWB and woman

The men in the club discovered that the once frumpy Bobbi was now just downright sexy with more than a hint of class. Forrester’s taste in clothes was, well, let’s just say Sears was a store made for him. He really liked those wash-and-wear short sleeve shirts and pre-tied ties. She thought it best if Forrester did not see her in her new clothes. Not yet, anyway. Bobbi had always heard the saying “good things come to those who wait.” She had to admit it was true because of what happened with the ad.

As editor of the Ferrari club newsletter, it was her job to insert the classified ads for club members, and one fateful day Ted Cummings, one of the few remaining old timer original club founders, wanted her to place an ad for his old Ferrari. He called it a “SWB 250GT.” She had no idea what “SWB” meant but took down the information anyway. The photo Cummings gave her looked neat, just like one of the Ferraris Forrester had circled in the magazines in the den. She decided not to ask other members about it, as they might pounce on the discovery. Let them wait until the newsletter was mailed out! Like her ventures into the stock market, Bobbi had learned to keep such information close.

Cummings had scheduled the ad for the next issue, but Bobbi thought “Why wait?” and went to the brokerage the next day, cashed out on just enough Apple shares to buy certified cashier’s check and, changing to new pants suit that flattered her new trimmed down figure, went out to Cumming’s house and bought the car right on the spot. The old man was a little surprised when she knocked on the door but the ensuing conversation said he respected a woman who knew what she wanted. She suspected she was his first woman visitor in years.

Then came the problem of hiding it. Her garage was full of Forrester’s toys and her own car, so Bobbi rented a secure garage downtown for the Ferrari. When she got home, she did some research on the car. Forrester’s books made it clear that “SWB” meant “short wheelbase” and that “berlinetta: meant “little coupe”. This particular car had been Ted Cummings’ pride and joy for some 30 years. Cummings was your typical engineer, just like Forrester, and typical of the slide rule set, he didn’t care much about looks. It was under the hood where it counted.

The car looked like it needed a paint job. It was a dull grey, almost like the primer on Bobbi’s old boyfriend’s Ford back in high school. On the trunk lid, Cummings had left a faded decal of the Italian flag with some sort of a coat of arms in the center. It was getting exciting, and she hoped that maybe it was true, that the Ferrari had been owned by an Italian count and raced as one of the cars in his Scuderia.

Most beginners in the Ferrari world thought Rosso Corso was the only way to go for a racing Ferrari, but Bobbi didn’t think Forrester was a Rosso Corso kind of guy. Maybe she should just keep the original paint job, and leave the decal for Forrester to figure out. The club-recommended mechanic recognized the car right away because of its aluminum body. He said something good about “SEFAC hot rod”, and “SNAP extractors” which Bobbi gathered. The mechanic looked it up in some books just like Forrester’s and said it had probably been entered at Le Mans years ago.

He also said “it was one of 18,” and to her 18 sounded like a pretty small number, which she hoped Forrester would appreciate. The mechanic tuned it up and recommended that the car be returned to its original specifications with hotter cams like the “Comp 61″. She looked up the specs and figured well, would Forrester want them, and then decided yes. The car was loud and when Bobbi drove it she always wore her custom tailored Ferrari racing suit, the lambskin mesh backed driving gloves and the wrap-around sunglasses circa early ’60s. She was careful only to drive it at club events.

She was determined that Forrester would never know about the car until she surprised him with it on their 20th anniversary. By the year of their nineteenth anniversary, she had the car mechanically perfect, in fact better than new. She had debated doing the whole car cosmetically and decided against it, having entered the temple of the worship of patina. Real tifosi, she was told, didn’t bother with fancy paint and chrome plating. By now, every one of the guys in the club cursed himself for not knowing the car was for sale.

Bobbi was careful to never divulge the details of the purchase, sure that there would be nasty rumors of what it had taken to swing the deal with Cummings, a diehard bachelor.

For her reputation, ol’ Ted had obligingly died soon after the purchase, so there was no one left to tell the tale. That year Bobbi discovered the existence of classic car tours and that discovery enriched her life. She learned from others who could not enjoy these tours that they were trips for rich people, who cruised along in their fancy cars, stopping at gourmet restaurants and four-star hotels, blasting along the highways with contempt for the masses, who looked on in astonishment as one exotic after another blasted by at full chat in top cog. But those were the nay-sayers, she in fact found the tours exciting. There was the California Mille that she enjoyed so much, that she signed up soon after for the Colorado Grand.

She was in Italy on yet another tour, having some Lambrusco out on the deck of the Cavallino restaurant in Maranello across from the Ferrari factory with other club members when she realized guiltily that it was the exact day of her and Forrester’s 20th wedding anniversary. Out on the piazza sat the berlinetta, with the racing roundel on it with the same race number it had worn in competition.

Well, she thought, it was really Forrester’s car and damn it, he, by all rights, should be here to enjoy it on the very same roads the car had been raced back in the day.

But Forrester was in Brazil on another big project. He sent her faxes and called regularly, talked of playing golf or going fishing. She loyally answered back, but wondered where their life together, no longer all that good, had gone.

Bobbi was understandably miffed when a girlfriend, Colleen, sent a picture she had taken in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, of an older guy with a young blonde by a hotel pool. The old man looked dazzled by the blonde in the adjoining deck chair and didn’t see Collen as she shot pictures with a telephoto lens. She had to admit that the guy in the picture was a dead ringer for Forrester. She zoomed in on the deck chairs and read the name of the hotel, and five phone calls later, Bobbi found out “Mr. & Mrs. Forrister Anderson” were in Room 70 for a week now, not too coincidentally the day after he had left for Brazil. She enlarged the picture more to see his left hand. No wedding ring!

* * *

Finding a hit man wasn’t hard. Some of the Italian mechanics who worked on her Ferrari knew people who knew people. Finding someone who could do it in Argentina made it a little more difficult but cash talks and bullshit walks and it was done. Of course they made it look like an accident–brakes went out on the rental car just as he crossed a narrow bridge. It was a long way down to the water. Hey, shit happens.

Back in the U.S., Bobbi had just received Forrester’s new vanity plates reading “MY SWB” from the DMV when she got the call about Forrester’s demise. She called upon her amateur acting experience to conjure up some tears each time another friend called to offer condolences. It hurt suddenly being called a widow but the insurance company telling her about the check she would receive helped her her cope with the pain.

Forrester Jr. was away at college when she telephioned him the news. He was, of course, devastated. Or so she thought until she heard him pick uo his electric guitar and play a riff that sounded surprisingly upbeat. Junior was taking his finals and couldn’t make it home for the service.

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There was a bit of worry about Colleen, but when she called her on a “burner phone” (Colleen had sent her one, a phone registered to a non-existent person) Colleen was cool about it, saying Forrester “got what he deserved.”

Bobbi felt a pang of guilt–she could have shown Junior the proper way by going personally to Argentina to accompany the remains, but there was nothing she could have done for Forrester anyway. And she had, after all, made reservations a half year ago at the Del Monte Lodge for the Monterey weekend. And as anyone who goes to Monterey Car Week every year can tell you, reservations at Monterey during that time are flat impossible to get.

* * *

On her way to Monterey that weekend in the Ferrari, Bobbi brought the jar along. It was over the Laureles Grade road. the one that joins Carmel Valley Road with Highway 68 leading off the Peninsula, that she deftly downshifted to second, swung the tail of the berlinetta out and drifted around a corner, meanwhile uncorking the jar between her legs.

She lifted the jar and thrust its open mouth out the window and what remained of Forrester flew over the pristine Monterey landscape, suffusing nicely with the early afternoon fog.

“Forza, Forrester…,” she said softly…”you SOB…”

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHORS: Wallace Wyss, author of 18 car automotive histories, is shopping around film rights to his action thriller novel Ferrari Hunters. He can be reached at Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com.

Warren Wyss is an educator, actor and playwright, based in New York City.

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Fiction: Bobbi and the Berlinetta
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Fiction: Bobbi and the Berlinetta
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She was in Italy on yet another tour, having some Lambrusco out on the deck of the Cavallino restaurant in Maranello across from the Ferrari factory with other club members when she realized guiltily that it was the exact day of her and Forrester’s 20th wedding anniversary.
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