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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"L" is for "Lucas, Walter" & a Musical Miracle...

Welcome to Week Three of the A-Z Challenge !!

My theme revolves around the soon-to-be published memoir I wrote for opera singer, Donald Braswell.

"L" is for "Lucas, Walter"

In this 2005 scene, Donald's professional singing career is a distant memory. He works as a car salesman, and smiles one day when he sees a scruffy man locking his beat-up Miata next to a Ferrari and a Jaguar. Knowing no one else will help the guy, Donald introduces himself.

“Hello sir, I’m Donald Braswell,” I said, handing him my business card. “Is there anything I could do to help?”
“I knew you would come over.”

I glance around. There’s no one else in sight, only me, and my trusty, saber-sharp smile.
Lucas, Walter Lucas. Nice to meet ya,” he said, as I pump his well-calloused hand.

“Mr. Lucas, is there any way I could help?”
“I would like to test drive a Jag, please.”
“A Jaguar?”
“Yes, please.”

The sureness of his situation intrigues me. I invite him to my office and ask if he wants a water, soda or coffee.
“No expense spared here,” I said.

“You’re a good salesman,” said Walter. “A nice cup of coffee, a cappuccino, yes, would be great, thanks.”

After reviewing several brochures, Walter decides on the new 2005 S-Type. With six years dealership experience under my belt, I am, by this stage, a good car salesman, a great judge of character. Unless he’s flush with some family money, or a new lottery winner, Walter won’t be buying an S-type, or perhaps any car, today.
When scruffy-looking individuals like Walter appear, I know the done thing, in many dealerships, is to politely ask the person to leave the lot or showroom, but I don’t hesitate.
“Let’s do it.”

I borrow his driver’s license, and against standard procedure, I bypass the office and make a copy of the small, laminated card

“At least it’s not expired, eh Walter?” I say, handing the license back to Walter.
“Yeah, but I gotta tell you, I’ve not got any current insurance.”
"I appreciate you being honest and sharing that with me, so I’ll be honest—I’m buying into your enthusiasm. This is against all sorts of rules, but I can tell you really want to drive a Jag.”
“I do.”

I pull an S-Type around to the front and lean over to open the passenger side door.
“Jump in.”

With a smile that makes him look ten years younger, Walter slides into the passenger seat with a long sigh. His brown eyes roam the interior and his large hands discover the bells and whistles of the Jag’s center console.
With no need to close a deal, there’s also no pressure and having asked what he does or did, I let the old musician drink in the dashboard while we drive in a comfortable silence. Several minutes later, I check my mirrors and pull into a business parking lot.

Putting the car in neutral, I leave the engine running, open my door, and walk around to the other side.
 “Are you sure?” asks Walter as we swap seats.
“Of course,” I said, buckling in. “Your chance to drive.”
We later switch again and when we return to the dealership, I park and we sit in the purring car. Walter turns to look at me.

“Thanks again, Donald. I guess you can imagine several other dealerships wouldn’t let me near their cars, let alone take a test drive.”
“Walter, if you don’t mind me saying, you don’t look or act like a prospective customer, so that comes as no surprise. But, I thought you wanted to specifically drive a Jaguar?”
“I did. By the way, why did you?”
“Why did I what?”
“You know. Why did you let me drive—” he wipes his hands down the front of his chest, as if they were wet, “—when I look like this?”

“Because you asked if you could.”

He nods slowly and lets this sink in for a moment.
“I can’t afford this car, or any car, but I really wanted to drive a Jag because, well, I never have—until now. Thanks to you.”
“My pleasure, Walter. I enjoyed making your acquaintance.” I walk Walter to the exit and we repeat our goodbyes. I remember some paperwork and run back to my office, but when I open the thin door, he’s back.
“Is it okay that I look around a little more?”
“Please make yourself at home.”

My Juilliard degree is the usual conversation-starter, especially after Walter sees it’s mine.
“What kind of musician are you—were you?”
“I was an opera singer.”

The traditional what happened? was followed by so many questions that Walter soon knows the entire story of how I wasted my career—leaving me to wonder if his last name was “Cronkite.”
“Can I hear something you’ve done?”
“Really? Why? It was a long time ago.”
“I’m curious.”
I look hard at Walter who sits opposite me, a Mona Lisa-type smile on his face.
Donald Braswell
 Again, I don’t hesitate. I walk Walter past the new, shiny cars to the dusty employee-owned models of less repute. I play some CD samples from the glove compartment.
 “You don’t sound bad at all. Actually, you can sing. That’s great. What’s holding you back?”
“I’d love to be a professional singer and earn a living that way, but there are so many obstacles and I’m no spring chicken.”

“Donald, there are no obstacles if you believe; only ones we create from our fear of the unknown.”

He looks at me for a moment, then his head tilts to the left, he nods and writes something on the back of one of my cards.
“Thanks for what you did earlier, letting me go out for the test drive. I appreciate that more than you will ever know. You need to call this number. The person who answers will help you, but please call. Call as soon as I leave. ”
I decide, however, not to make the call. Who would Walter know that could possibly help me?

Tomorrow: "M" is for "Michael Morales" (and the angry return of Walter...)



Elephant's Child said...

I loved this addition to the talented man you are starting to reveal. A good man, a kind man.
And I am looking forward to the next installment.

Tammy Theriault said...

I guess you'll never know. He should have called!! Agh

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

After such a unique experience, why not call?

Unknown said...

Donald's personality really shines through in this piece; well done.

Pat Hatt said...

Seems a bit unfortunate not to call.

Tamara Narayan said...

Ooo. Very intriguing. Why wouldn't he call? Now I'm dying to know who it was. I guess real life isn't always like a novel or movie. But maybe the story doesn't end there?

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hey, Mark....

Good excerpt! Well done! I am surprised though that he did/t call....

Lisa said...

Oh man! I wanted him to make that call. And The Return of Angry Walter? Uh oh. I'm hooked. I'm so glad you are blogging about Donald's story! Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Missed opportunity, I'm thinking. Never really cared to drive a sports car like a jag.

David P. King said...

This is awesome, Mark! Calls can be such a stresser! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark - great story telling .. I love it .. cheers Hilary

Jo said...

I loved this story. Beautifully told. I can imagine it all and even see the car lot.

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