The blower motor in Robert Brennan’s Plymouth Fury was on full force. With hot air blowing like a hurricane on my snow-covered boots, the heat of the Fury did little to defrost my feet and toes. No, once again my boots felt like two blocks of ice, and it would certainly be a while before they’d feel warm again.
“Let me show you how she rides Ronnie, this ones real heavy duty”
With that Robert put the Plymouth Fury into gear and stomped on the gas. The huge 440 four barrel suddenly came alive and moaned a loud throaty sound. With the rear wheels trying desperately to grip the cold frozen asphalt, the Fury started to wildly squeal and fishtail in front of my house. I just held on to the dashboard for dear life until the Plymouth finally found its way and started rocketing up the block in a straight line.
“I told you she’s heavy duty” “I told you”
The Plymouth barreled up East Fourth at about fifty-five miles an hour and then suddenly screeched to a stop at the corner of Avenue C. The little air freshener pine tree that Robert loved so much swung crazily from the radio knob.
“And she stops on a dime too”
“ Robert, she started skidding about six houses back?”
“Don’t worry kid, she’s seen all kinds of action”
Now Robert Brennan was one of my best friends from the block, and for some reason he always liked to buy old worn out police cars at the city auctions up by Willis Point. And because Robert was a couple years older than the rest of the guys, he was the first to own his own car. And when you can’t drive what you don’t have yet, you just get into anything your friends are driving, no matter what.
And for my cousin Pete and I, it was a 1970 Plymouth that Bobby drove around all the time. A retired New York City undercover police car that drove like a tank and flew like a rocket.
“How about a trip to White Castle Ronnie?”
Oh God, that freaking White Castle up on Fort Hamilton Parkway. The place had bulletproof glass where you ordered, white tiled walls and floors, and the most horrible looking stainless steel tables and seats. And to top it off, it was always filled with the scariest looking people Brooklyn ever produced. Just a perpetual “freak show” that made any thing over in Coney Island look like kids stuff. Just shoot me and preform the autopsy on one of those stainless steel tables, but just don't forget to clean up the blood.
Oh, and they also had an armed guard inside the place, just standing in the corner with a black handgun in his holster. A real nice place to take the kids for a night out in Boro Park.
“ Robert why do we have to go there?” “Why not the new Burger King over on Dahill Road?” “One day we’re going to get killed over at White Castle”
“Ronnie, there’s nothing to fear, you got me and we have the “car”
Now because we drove around in an old unmarked police car, the truth is everyone thought we were cops. Including all the freaks over at White Castle who looked like they just got out of the Brooklyn House of Detention.
Even the security guard who worked there used to salute us. So when it came to feeling safe, I guess there was nothing better than driving an old police car and looking like a bunch of undercover cops.
And Robert, well he stood at six feet five inches and bigger than a bear. Yeah, I never felt tall or big around Robert, no not even at six feet three and two hundred pounds.
Robert always seemed like an older brother to me too, and in many ways reminded me a lot of my brother Joseph who passed away just a few years before Bobby became one of my best friends. He was loud like my brother, he sometimes bossed me around like my brother. And he always had the last word like my brother. Yeah, maybe a friendship that would never work for others, but somehow oddly worked wonders for me.
Yes Robert filled the void that was left after my brother died, and I certainly loved being around him all the time. But most important, I always felt safe around Bobby no matter what.
We made the left on to Fort Hamilton and drove past the brand new Burger King on Dahill road. I could see the blue and white logo of White Castle way in the distance by Forty-second Street in Boro Park.
“Oh God, that freaking place again Robert?”
“Don’t worry kid, you’ve got me and we got the car”
Robert made a hard right into the parking lot of the White Castle. And as usual the place was chock full of “hard nighters” and the scariest residents of Brooklyn. The Plymouth made an abrupt stop against the concrete slab by the front tires. Once again the little fragrant pine tree swung wildly on the radio knob. Robert shut off the now hot 440 engine, my feet were finally warm.
“You ready for action?” “I guess so, lets do it” We both opened the door and walked into White Castle. Just another night in Brooklyn, the year was 1973.
The other day I was in an auto store with my son, we were standing by the counter when I happened to notice one of those little green pine tree air fresheners. I picked it up and threw it on the counter with the rest of my stuff.
"Dad who's that for?"
"It's for an old friend son, it's for a very old friend"