Bad News About Your Car was the title of the email my husband forwarded to me. Our 1990 convertible Corvette that was plucked from obscurity to be featured in an HBO mini-series starring Mark Ruffalo had been on set for just three days when we learned the news.
My first thought was the car got in a fender bender. Maybe a gash or dent blemished the cars near perfect white, shiny facade. I kept reading.
Forgive me for the impersonal email but I have some unfortunate news to share with you—at 1:30 am this morning, the set at Ellenville caught fire and burned to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But, most of the property and many of the vehicles have been damaged or destroyed.
I call my husband, “What happened?”
He is laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” I am confused by this reaction. I can see him in his office, muffling his laughter so his secretary can’t hear he is having a good time at work.
“Well, what else can you do? Cry?” he asks.
I am nodding my head in my office, “Yes, yes you cry!” I demand, but realize I have a smile on myself that is building into a laugh or a shout or some kind of grunt, “You call the car place and ask what the hell happened?”
While on the phone, I frantically Google “Ellenville, NY fire” and up pops three news posts about the fire. I had a sliver of hope that maybe the car was outside and not in the car dealership burning up in towering flames. The scene was a mirror image of “The Towering Inferno, “ only missing poor Faye Dunaway running for dear life.
Fortunately no one was hurt, aside for forty vintage cars. Witnesses commented that it was one explosion after the next. Each car filled with oil and gas popping like giant kernels of popcorn in a kettle.
All I could do was shake my head, thinking about the weekend when we were excited to leave the car with the HBO crew, walking around the dealership, marveling at the set and its period look of 1990.
“Those ugly El Caminos probably didn’t get a scratch,” I say to my husband.
“Oh no, those are gone too,” he assures me.
We hang up the phone and go about our work day. I think about all the prep work my husband lovingly did to the car. I see him gently wiping the car down before we left it in the hands of strangers. In the smoldering TV footage, there is just burnt-out metal carcasses. The Camaros, El Caminos and Corvettes are unidentifiable — a hot scrap heap waiting to be bulldozed and recycled.
That night, I peaked at the garage bay where the Corvette once sat. It is empty, a vast cavern of nothing. No fast rides on a hot summer night to Dairy Queen, no Sunday morning jaunt with the wind in our hair. Summer is still a month away and our symbol of youth is burnt to a crisp somewhere in the Catskills.
I go to the family room to see how my husband is doing. There he is watching Fast and the Furious on TV and scrolling on his laptop, searching for cars.
“What are you doing?” I ask, still waiting for some kind of pout or tear trickling down my husband’s face.
“Oh hey! I’m thinking about getting a Viper, what do you think?”