Friday, August 14, 2009

Barbara Bretton's Rolls-Royce

I am eating lunch at the counter in Atlantic City when Nicky DellaNova sits down next to me. I know he is Nicky DellaNova because he bellowed his name to the hostess at the entrance to the coffee shop.

“You got a cigarette?” Nicky asks.

I shake my head. “I don’t smoke.”

“You got a match?”


“So what are you doing here?” Nicky asks, as if smoking were the only possible reason a woman would be in the coffee shop.

I gesture toward my salad and iced tea. “Having lunch.”

“Have a burger why don’t you? Get some protein.”

"Plenty of protein right there," I say, pointing toward my chicken Caesar.

"You call that protein? You want protein, you eat beef. Case closed."

He wears a dark blue velour running suit with wide white stripes running up the sides, virgin running shoes, black socks, and serious bling. This is Atlantic City. He blends right in.

Nicky is a big man who is good-looking in a loud, Brooklyn kind of way. We had his type in Queens, too, when I was growing up. There’s a sweetness buried beneath the bravado. You just have to get through the bluster to find it.

“Bacon cheeseburger, fries, cuppa coffee,” Nicky tells the waitress then turns back to me. “So what’re you doing here?”

I tilt my head in the direction of the casino one hundred yards away from where we’re sitting.

“Yeah,” says Nicky DellaNova. “I’m a big gambler. That’s why I’ve been married four times.”

“Ah,” I say in my best noncommittal voice. “A romantic.”

“Yeah,” he says. “It’s a curse.”

“My grandfather’s a romantic too,” I say. “He was married five times.”

“You a romantic like your grandpa?”

“Not me. I just have one husband.”

“That’s too bad,” he says and he laughs.

“Why is it too bad?”

"That's like eating salad every day for the rest of your life."

"Lots of people eat salad every day."

"Okay, babe, then it's like driving one car for the rest of your life. Can’t do it.”

“Sure you can,” I say. “You find a car you like, you keep it tuned up, it lasts forever.”

“Nah,” says Nicky DellaNova. “Sooner or later it rusts out and you’ve got to start shopping around again.”

“Not if you have the car rust-proofed,” I say. “Lifetime guarantee.”

Nicky laughs again. “No such thing as a lifetime guarantee. Not in this world. Besides, don’t you ever want to trade up? Just because you start with a Chevy don’t mean you gotta end up with one.”

“What if you like Chevys?”

“Nothing wrong with liking Chevys, but sooner or later everyone wants to own a Caddy.”

I’ve never been much of a Caddy fan myself. Too flashy. Too easy to come by. “What if you already have a Rolls? What then?”

He peers at me so closely that I can make out the faint outline of soft lenses resting against his corneas. “You got a Rolls?”

“What if I do?” I say. “Let’s say I went out and bought a Rolls the day I got my license.” Let’s say I found that Rolls the first day I walked into my very first showroom and let’s say I still like sliding behind the wheel.

“You gotta love a Rolls,” he concedes. “Even the old ones.”

“And they look great,” I say. “Especially the old ones.”

“I hear you, babe, but even a Rolls gets boring if that’s all you drive.”

“If driving a Rolls gets boring, maybe it’s not the car,” I say. “Maybe it’s the driver.”

Nicky DellaNova considers my words while he folds a handful of fries into his mouth. “My Uncle Joey had a showroom on Utopia Parkway. He had Chevys and Fords and Buicks and Chryslers and even some of those Mercedes jobbies.” He takes a bite of his cheeseburger and continues talking. Little bits of pinkish beef dot his lower lip. “One day a guy comes in, one of those skinny guys with the fancy suits like you see in the city. So he walks up and down the lot with Uncle Joey right behind him. 'Take a test drive,' Uncle Joey says, pointing to a big white El Dorado. 'How ya gonna know what you like if you don’t get behind the wheel?'” He gulps down some coffee, folds in another fry. Nicky DellaNova knows more about pacing than most Hollywood screenwriters. “So this guy stops, he lights up a cigar, looks at Uncle Joey and says, 'Ya got any used Rolls-Royces around here?' And Uncle Joey says, 'You gotta be kidding. Once you get yourself a Rolls, you don’t go trading down to a Ford.'”

“Listen to your Uncle Joey,” I say to Nicky DellaNova as I catch sight of my husband standing in the entrance to the coffee shop. “After a Rolls-Royce, everything else is second best.”

Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than 40 books. She currently has over ten million copies in print around the world. Her works have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries. Barbara loves to spend as much time as possible in Maine with her husband, walking the rocky beaches and dreaming up plots for upcoming books. Her newest novel in the Sugar Maple series, Laced With Magic, is available now.


Unknown said...

Reading a character like Nicky is candy for my ears. Gorgeous vignette, thank you! Sometimes I get tired of hearing California accents all day. There's nothing quite the same as some characters I've met in real life on the other coast :)


Adrienne Bell said...

Love it! Thanks for coming round our way :-)

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