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Stop Or Go?
When I was a kid, nobody ever told me about Cinderella or Snow White. In fact, I didn't know about those kinds of fairy-tales until I got to grade school, and my teacher actually had to sit down and tell me some of them in front of the entire class! "Good Lord, Sheri! Doesn't your mother ever read you stories before bed?" my teacher had said on the first day of kindergarten. "I never heard of a five year old who doesn't know any fairy-tales!"
Well, my parents told me stories before bed, alright. But not from the pages of a book-- from good old memory lane. I would fall asleep with the lingering words of my dad's escapades in high school or Vietnam, or the multitude of anecdotes my mother recalled just in time for eight thirty. But there was one tale my mother was particularly apt to spin. It was a fairy-tale of sorts, you could say, though it had no princess with a long, flowy satin dress and a silver tiara. It didn't start in an exquisite castle built on a moat or a tranquil meadow boasting flowers in bloom, centuries ago. It started with an average girl donning a pair of worn-out bell-bottoms and a letter jacket, at her Vanderhalen High School locker in June 1963. Jody Matterton's very own fairy-tale was about to begin.
So was class, if Jody didn't hurry! She rummaged through her locker in search of her algebra notebook. Mr. Fletcher was going to be mad if she was late again today! All of a sudden, she heard a loud cry. "Jody!" Jody turned. Who did she see but her best friend, Candace Nakahara, rushing towards her locker with great excitement. Jody grinned. "Hello, Candy!" she said.
"Oh, Jody, I was out on my bike," Candy explained. "And I just happened to ride past your house. When did your father get the Mustang? It's boss!" Jody laughed exasperatedly, her notebook in hand, and slammed her locker door. "It's mine," Jody sighed. Candy's eyes widened. "I'm learning to drive. It's not exactly a gas." Candy concernedly began to place a hand on Jody's shoulder, but then drew it back, because of the grime on her letter jacket. Nevertheless, she was worried for her friend. "But what will Ken say about that?" Candy inquired solemnly. The girls felt chills run down their spines when a booming voice called, "What will Ken say about what?"
Well, very fairy-tale has its own conflict, right? You might guess this one's to be a dragon. An evil stepmother. You would be wrong, for it was Ken Roger whose shadow loomed over the story. Jody's boyfriend, the football star. His brawn made up for his lack of manners and sensitivity.
Ken hulked over to Jody's locker, and Candy gulped. "Hi, Kenneth," she said. Ken nodded at her. Then his gaze turned to Jody, who sighed sharply and blurted out, "My father bought me a car." Ken was perplexed. "Don't you like riding in my car?" he questioned Jody. "I'm a great driver. Ain't I a great driver, Candy?" Candy nodded briskly in feeble agreement, but in her mind, she shouted "No, no, no!" Ken had a very angry style of driving, turning sharply around the corner, and almost always ending his nighttime trips with getting pulled over for going over the speed limit!
"So don't be a square, Jody," Ken told her. "My women don't drive." Candy's eyes were practically ablaze. Jody's arms were crossed, and her brows furrowed. She knew he'd react this way-- and she was angry. She wasn't exactly enjoying learning to drive, but she was deeply insulted. His women don't drive, Jody thought. What am I? An object? Ken didn't seem to notice, and if he did, he didn't care. He didn't think that Jody was going to do anything about it; he thought he was the judge and jury.
All of a sudden, Jody spoke up. "Ken, that's so outdated!" Ken's shadow had descended. His eyes narrowed, as if to say, "Well, sock it to me!" Jody answered to the invisible question with a resounding, "I'm a girl! I'm not stupid! I'll make sure I don't drive like an idiot stick-- like you!" She unzipped her letter jacket hastily and threw it at Ken's face, over his gaping mouth. It fell to the floor. So Ken picked it up, clenched his fists, and shouted, "Don't sweat it, Jody. You ain't gonna have to hang around in my car no more!" He stalked off, and Jody went her own way.
Jody tried to keep herself from crying as she made her way to algebra, and her voice broke out in a low whimper. "What have I done?" she wondered aloud. Candy put her arm around her friend and tried to comfort her. "Don't worry about Ken," she told Jody. "He's a filthy, no-good skuzz." A tear trickled from Jody's eye. She wasn't so sure. Later that day, she saw Ken with Abigail, from her chemistry class, treating her the same way he treated Jody when they began dating at the start of the school year. Gentlemanly, like she was made out of porcelain. But it was the same attitude towards girls in general that really made Jody's blood boil-- everyday. Only she wouldn't admit it.
Jody walked home that day, her inevitable sadness slowly turning to passionate anger as she stomped down Westminster Avenue, thinking things over. So Candy was right. Ken was a real skuzz. She'd miss him, but all in all, he was a skuzz, and she would have to move on. Her first order of business, as she arrived home, and marched into the garage? To prove Ken wrong.
Mr. Matterton was in the garage as well, working on Jody's Mustang. The tire had gone flat, and he was filling it with air. "Dad, can I take the car out for a drive tonight?" Jody asked. "Uh, Candy and I wanted to pick up some burgers." Mr. Matterton looked slightly pained. "But your mother's making meatloaf," he said. Jody shrugged. Mr. Matterton laughed, and nodded. "That's fine, dear," he said. "Just don't be out too late, eh?"
Then Mr. Matterton added, "I'm glad you noticed the flat this morning. You're going to be a good driver, Jody; you're very precise. Slow and steady wins the race! I don't like the way Kenneth drives. It worries me. Now that you've got your own car, I can breathe easy."
Jody smiled. "Ken and I broke up, dad," she said. Mr. Matterton looked at Jody, confused. "Hey, doesn't Ken work at the burger shop?" he asked. "Why go there? It'll be awkward, won't it be?" Jody laughed weakly. "Oh, he got fired," she said, as she climbed up the stairs into the house, waving.
But as Jody fixed her hair and makeup, she thought of her real motives. She pictured it: going through the drive-thru in her new Mustang, and meeting Ken at the window, and slyly remarking, "I'd like one helping of sweet revenge!"
She called Candy, made her plans, and at six 'o clock, she rushed into the garage once more to fire up the engine and floor it, her Mustang soaring down the road to the Nakaharas' house to pick up Candy before getting on the highway to go to the burger joint.
As they rode into the night, the two best friends sat in silence. Candy wasn't so sure that she liked the idea of Jody's little scheme. It seemed... stupid. But she said nothing, and the ride proceeded to thrive on silence, as Jody tossed her hair every once in awhile, smiling at the other cars and riding to her place of revenge.
All of a sudden, Jody and Candy yelped as the car ran over a sharp rock, and the ride came to an abrupt halt. "What was that?" Candy cried. Jody heaved a sigh, got out, and took a look. "Another flat," she reported. "Oh, no, wait-- the rock poked a hole in the tire!" She rolled her eyes. "What do we do now?" asked Candy nervously. "We can't just go on sitting here like this in the middle of the road."
Jody sat on the hood of the car, her arms crossed, and looked out into the night sky as she silently cried. Candy sighed, and went outside to sit with Jody. "For what it's worth," she said, as a van swerved around the lone Mustang and the driver beeped the horn. "I think the plan was sorta, you know... Squaresville. You shouldn't have to prove anything to a guy."
"Maybe you're right," Jody said, shrugging, her eyes gloomy and watery. "Let's swear off guys, Candy. They're nothing but trouble." Candy's eyes widened, and she blushed. "Jody," she said, shocked. "I didn't know... I mean, are you..." Jody lit up with laughter, and she playfully nudged Candy. "Oh, stop it!" Jody cried. She giggled, and jumped down from where she was sitting. Briskly, she made her way to the trunk, opened it, and produced two cans of cherry cola from the cooler.
She returned to her seat, and the girls opened their drinks. "A cheers," declared Jody in a goofy British accent. "To the decline of Ken Roger and Jody Matterton!" Candy laughed and they clinked their soda cans together. "And how!" Candy said resoundingly.
As they sipped their cherry colas, Jody thought about what to do next. "I was going to pack the spare tire later," she thought aloud. "Why did I delay?" Candy nodded. "You have a lot to learn, Jody," she said. "But at least you learned now. My parents say I have to save up for my wheels. I say I'll drive when I'm about... forty. Give or take." Jody chuckled.
After awhile, a little brown Chevy pulled up to the scene. Jody and Candy turned to see a young man get out from the car, and walk up to them. Candy clapped. "Finally, someone to help us!"
The boy took a look at the car as if it were an Egyptian treasure at an auction, with great curiosity and interest. That's what cars do to some people. "Hey, nice Mustang you got there," he said. "Too bad about the tire, though. You girls wanna hop in? My old man has an auto shop. He can fix you up with a spare." Jody smiled weakly and shook her head. "Oh, no, sir," she said. "We'd better stay with the car. But thanks for--"
"You're right," the boy agreed, nodding. "That's a good idea. Listen here, I'll go back to the shop and get a new tire for ya. It'll only be fifteen minutes. You'll be okay until then, right?" Jody and Candy nodded. The boy didn't leave just yet, though. He sauntered up nearer to the car and took a closer look at Jody. "Do you go to Vanderhalen?" he asked her softly. Jody nodded. The boy smiled. "I graduated there last year!" he said. "You're... Jody Matterton. Aren't you?" The name was familiar. The face was familiar. "That's my name, don't wear it out," Jody teased. "I heard all about you!" the boy cried. "The smartest girl in the freshman class!" Jody grinned and blushed. "Well, sophomore class, now," she said, nodding. "Almost junior, in fact."
"Well, wouldn't ya know it!" the boy laughed. "Hey, the name's Roy Cavallo!" He reached out to initiate a handshake, which Jody accepted with vigor. He nodded at Candy in greeting, and turned to leave. "I'll be back soon!" he called. "Then you can get back on the road."
Jody's first encounter with her Prince Charming, her knight in a leather jacket. Where was their castle? As it turned out, my house. I'm their daughter, Sheri Cavallo. I grew up not only with this family fairy-tale, but a mother who came to foster independence, and a quirky father who's always had a love of cars. Dad's out in our garage fixing up the old Mustang now so that I can learn to drive, too.
I guess it all comes down to this: when life throws disappointment at you like a football to the face, you've got two choices. To mope around and spend your days dreaming up vengeful plans in your self-pity, or to pick up the pieces and move on towards a happier tomorrow, your dignity intact, with a sense of freedom. On the road of life?
To stop or go.