Everything you read in newspapers is absolutely true, except for that rare
story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge.
“HEY, it’s here!”
The newspaper hit the table in
front of Hutch. He caught his orange juice just before it tipped over.
“Check it out! Front page of the city section - they got a picture of us and everything!”
Hutch reached for his reading
glasses, picked up the newspaper, and squinted at the photo. Evidently by “us”
Starsky meant himself and his Torino. Hutch paused for a moment, caught by an odd sense of dislocation. He’d seen this picture before, or one very much like it. Except
that photo had been taken years ago, outside Parker Center. In this photo Starsky’s hair was grey, and age had thickened his middle. Only his smile was the same as always, unchanging.
Reading the headline out loud,
Hutch said, “Orphaned cars find a family.”
Starsky perched on the edge of
the table and leaned forward over the top of the paper. “We get our names
in the paper, we get famous… before you know it, we’re touring Las Vegas…”
Hutch briefly wondered if Starsky
was still referring to himself and his Torino. Quickly
squelching a disturbing image of the man and the car - both in sequined spandex - on stage in Vegas, Hutch continued to read.
Starsky is retired now, so he can attend faithfully to his true calling in life: foster
dad to all the world’s unwanted Ford Torinos.
“Okay, so it’s
a little soapy,” said Starsky, uncomfortably. “But it’s a human
interest story, ya know? People like cars.”
Hutch scanned the article, flipping
to the next page. “I don’t think this story’s about the car,
Starsk.” He paused, read one paragraph more closely, and blanched. “Ah… you know what? I don’t
really think this is all that interesting.” He folded the newspaper in
“What are you talking about?” Starsky made a grab for the paper, and missed.
“Hey! Give me that!”
“You’re slowing down
in your old age.”
“Whining won’t get
you anywhere. Trust me, there’s nothing you want to read in this.”
Starsky slid off the table and
glared down at Hutch. Propping his hands on his hips he said, “You know,
if I have to I’ll go and get myself another copy. So, give!”
With a sigh, Hutch handed over
“Logic will get’cha
every time,” said Starsky smugly. He snapped the paper open. “Now, what’s the problem?” He scanned through
the first several paragraphs, mumbling to himself as he read. “Retired…
rebuilding… abandoned Torinos… Hey, wait a sec!” Starsky’s eyes narrowed. “What’s this…?
just look at our yard,” mutters his partner, Ken Hutchinson, out of Dave’s earshot in the kitchen of the couple’s
renovated farmhouse. He reaches over the sink and tenderly lifts a small yellow
pot, containing a tiny green plant. There are two dozen other plants, identical
except for the color of the pots on the windowsill behind him.
was just planning an extension of the garden,” said Ken, still not beyond incredulity after all these years. “When I looked outside and saw that there was another one!”
Starsky lowered the paper. “You were talking behind my back?”
Hutch shrugged, feigning innocence.
“And what’s with
this ‘couple’ business? I mean, sure we live together, but I told
him we were partners, not…” Starsky
shook his head. “Must be a typo.”
He kept reading.
us at this point. He seems amused by Ken’s irritation. “I’ll have you know I got free towing on that one.”
Dave is 72
years old, as is his partner, whom he calls Blintz, apparently one of Ken’s nicknames, though he prefers Hutch.
Starsky laughed at Hutch’s
sour expression. “Aw, c’mon!
It’s not that bad. Everyone already knows about the ‘Blintz’
thing anyway. What I want to know is, when’s he going to start writing
about my cars?”
would not specify exactly what year they became life partners.”
“What the hell?”
muttered Starsky, his smile disappearing.
Hutch discovered a sudden fascination
with the contents of his coffee mug.
were partners before we were partners, if you get my drift,” says Dave with a twinkle in his eye.
him. “Oh, not this story again!”
close to me, and in an exaggerated whisper says, “I was the only one who could put up with him then, too.”
his index finger at Dave. “I’ll have you know, you’re not the
easiest person to live with!”
“I meant we were police
partners, before we became partners in the real estate business!” Starsky
looked appalled. “That kid made us sound like fruits!”
Hutch said, “I always thought
you were a little fruity.”
Starsky folded the paper in half
and smacked him with it. “This isn’t a joke! You know what this’ll do to our reputations?”
said Hutch with conviction. “Half the city already thinks we’re gay. Even if it’s the whole city, does it matter?”
Starsky pulled a chair out and
slumped down in it, his chin hitting his chest. “Well… yeah, it matters. What if the ladies down at the senior center read this? Who’s gonna date us now?”
“Honestly?” Hutch shook his head. “Those gals
are so desperate for a date, I don’t think they’d care if we were doing
each other. They’d probably offer to make it an orgy.”
Starsky started to answer, and
then paused. An odd expression crossed his face.
“You know… there was a time I would have thought that was disgusting.
When did fifty year olds become hot?”
“When we passed seventy,
and all the younger ones started talking to us like we were kindergarteners.”
Starsky grimaced. “Yeah, that pat-pat, aren’t you a sweetie, thing. God,
I can’t stand little girls.” He sat up straighter and unfolded the
paper once more. “Well, let’s find out the damage. Can you believe that so-called reporter still hasn’t mentioned my cars?”
observer, one who doesn’t know these men well, might think they were on the verge of a knock-down drag-out brawl. But all this time, Dave has been glancing around the kitchen, as if he’s looking
for something. Still arguing, Ken reaches across the table and strokes the top
of Dave’s arm with the back of his fingers before standing to retrieve a small prescription bottle from a cabinet near
he says, placing two white pills and a small cup of water in front of his partner. “Every
morning I tell him, ‘don’t you dare bring home one more Torino. I won’t be responsible for my actions if you do."
“Aw, geez, Hutch! No wonder he thinks we’re fruits! Did
ya have to do that in front of him?”
Hutch pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Did you remember to take your heart meds this morning?”
Starsky started to protest, and
then deflated. “No.”
Hutch stood and began to rummage
in the cabinet.
But Dave is
incorrigible. He tours Bay City’s
junkyards almost every day, and usually comes home with spare parts, if not a whole car.
president and founder of the Torino Appreciation Society.
Fetishists Anonymous,” corrects Ken.
“Why do you always got
to be so mean?” asked Starsky.
Hutch didn’t bother answering. They both knew it was a rhetorical question.
He handed Starsky his pills and sat back down at the table.
he returned with most of the chassis of a lemon-yellow and rust colored 1976 Ford Torino. Yesterday, he found an engine and ordered paint.
makes 15 now, lined up in the back yard, all of them in various stages of repair or reconstruction.
“Finally! Something about my cars!”
you ever go to the Trash-a-rama? The one near Venice
Beach? You should see the stuff they
got there!” says Dave, in a tone that borders on reverence.
his eyes. “Have you seen my garden?
I’m guessing you haven’t. Because it’s buried under
is a retired police officer, with about thirty years on the force under his belt. He
was partnered with Mr. Hutchinson for fifteen of those years, and if times had been different, one imagines that they might
have become the first openly gay cops on the city’s payroll.
“No, one doesn’t imagine,” snapped Starsky irritably, glaring at the newspaper.
“Because we weren’t, and we aren’t!”
“To be fair…”
Starsky cut him off. “This is all your fault! If you hadn’t gone on
about your garden…”
“What? Because candy apple red cars are so much more manly?”
“Well, they are!”
Hutch sighed. “Starsky, he saw two old guys who live together. Who
call each other ‘partner’. Who fight like an old married couple. What’s he going to think?”
“He might’ve asked,”
Hutch scratched the side of his
nose, hiding a smile. “And do you think he would have believed us, if we
said we weren’t? Or would he have just figured we never came out of the
closet?” Starsky looked so crestfallen, Hutch had to ask, “Babe,
what is it? This stuff’s never bugged you before.”
“It’s just… I really thought he’d write about my car.”
“Well, read some more. Maybe it gets better.”
Starsky looked doubtful, but
he turned his attention back to the paper. “Mr. Starsky… retired
police officer, yadda-yadda… Oh, here we are!”
Dave is famous
in Bay City for his car, a 1976 Ford Gran Torino in candy-apple red with a white stripe down the side.
tomato,” says Ken.
bottle on wheels,” suggests Dave, cheerfully. He’s obviously heard
When he drives
down the street, people always stop to stare at the striking antique car.
Ken says they’re
constantly being honked at, or waved at, peppered with questions, or even photographed on camera phones by passing motorists. He gets cranky sometimes about the attention, and has been known to use inappropriate
language at times.
“I like that,” said
Starsky. “Inappropriate language.
Yeah, we can call it that.”
Hutch reddened, embarrassed. He pushed his chair back from the table. Standing
again, slowly this time, he stretched the kinks out of his joints as Starsky continued to read.
all the time,” Ken says. “If we go to the beach, they want to know
where he got the car and how he keeps it running and if it’s even safe to drive.
And then he’s got to show them all the stuff he’s done to it, and before you know it, he’s up to
his elbows in car guts.”
Safe to say,
he pretty much hates the thing.
don’t like all those people staring at us,” says Ken.
during the interview, he has moved around behind Dave, and is now standing with is hands on Dave’s shoulders. His fingers are working, kneading the muscles beneath the skin, and Dave has an expression of supreme contentment
on his face.
Starsky stopped abruptly, and
looked up at Hutch, the back of his head hitting Hutch’s stomach. Hutch
froze, his hands still on Starsky’s shoulders.
“You know,” said
Starsky. “I never noticed before how much you do that.”
“Do you want me to stop?”
asked Hutch, nervously.
you figure, Ken probably likes all the attention. But my, he does a good job
of hiding it.
you’re gone and in the ground,” he said – kidding, surely, Mr. H – “I’m donating every
last one of them to the nearest Demolition Derby.”
“Would you really?”
asked Starsky, putting the paper down on the table.
Hutch, still working on Starsky’s shoulders. Then he paused. “Well, except for one.”
“You’d keep one?”
“Sure, what else would
I bury you in?” Hutch leaned forward and planted an affectionate kiss on
Starsky’s forehead. Then he straightened and headed for the back door.
Starsky beamed. Then he frowned. “Hey, wait! Who says I’m dying first?”
Hutch opened the door and stopped. His voice dropped into a growl. “Oh,
you’re definitely dying first. What’s that on our lawn?”
Starsky’s eyes widened
and he hurriedly scrambled out of his chair. “Oh boy, look at the time!”
“And it’s sitting
on my new tulip bed!”
“I’d better get going...” He backed out of the kitchen, towards the hallway.