Electra 225

Bernard Mendillo



It’s usually a good idea to start with the basics.
My grandfather’s name was Salvatore Scalabenfro. That’s a mouthful, even in Italy.
My father’s name was Vincenzo.
And my name is Andy.
My grandfather was 73 when he died.
My father was 86.
I’m hoping to make it to 90.
I don’t have a job, unless you count substitute teaching. My wife, Christi, is a CPA in the Public Defenders Office.

We have two teenagers—a boy and a girl—Henry and Morgan. Our house is in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island. It’s an unrestored, late-Victorian mansion. It’s not really a mansion. It does have six bedrooms. But it’s not a mansion. It’s more of a bother.
Another thing I should explain is that I couldn’t type this. I mean that I couldn’t write on a computer. I looked at the blank screen and it remained blank. I could only write this story longhand, in those black-and-white, fake-marble-covered composition notebooks. The kind with the wide line spacing. Then I had to have them typed. I couldn’t do that myself either. I tried. But as I typed along, I wondered about every word I had written and became paralyzed. I couldn’t stop myself from reading the stupid story instead of just typing it.
So I hired Agnes. I’ve never met Agnes. I’ve never spoken to Agnes. She’s a widow. Living alone. In Cranston. With more Facebook friends than Lady Gaga. Agnes is a computer whiz—which is remarkable since I’m sure she’s about 103 years old. I could be wrong. I hired her because of her son Clarence. He runs the little coffee counter in the lobby of the building where my wife works, and he recommended his mother. Agnes and I communicate via mail. Actual mail. In envelopes. With stamps. Unlike me, Agnes had no problem typing the words. Even if I wrote her a note—she typed the note. If I wrote in all caps:
Then Agnes typed:
Anyway. Having filled up 17 of those black-and-white, fake-marble composition notebooks—and with the hiring of Agnes—my job is done. I’ll leave it to you, Dear Reader—how I love sounding like Nathaniel Hawthorne!—whether it is a story worth reading. It was, I think, a story worth typing.

Electra 225 Description:

Electra 225 is a funny and heartwarming novel about a man who inherits his father’s classic Buick and convinces his troubled family to take a summer trip to the Pacific Ocean—for lunch.

When his father, dies, Andy Scalabenfro inherits a 1959 Buick Electra 225. A massive Buick—with holes on the side! The high point of America’s love affair with the road.

Andy and his wife Christi are barely doing all right in their life in Providence, Rhode Island. He’s lost his job and is filling in by substitute teaching. Their teenage kids, Henry and Morgan, talk to them a little less than most teenage kids. Christi is a CPA, who has never really gotten over the one lost opportunity of her life.

Andy decides that they should use the summer to take a car trip to California, see the Pacific Ocean, have lunch and then come back. “You can pick the restaurant,” he tells Christi.

No one wants to go, naturally. So Andy makes a list of PROs and CONs. There are a gazillion CONs. But under PROs there is only one item: “Who Are We?”

They’re off. Reluctantly. But off, nonetheless.

For about twenty minutes. Then the car breaks down and they have to pull off the highway in Johns Towne, Rhode Island. And they can’t leave. They can’t go home because they rented their house for the month. And they can’t get the car fixed because parts for a 1959 Buick are not easy to find. So they check into a sleazy motel for what they think will be a day or two. They are the only motel patrons that actually sleep overnight in the rooms. The place is a front for a revolving brothel.

As the days mount up, revulsion turns to fascination. The kids discover a bowling alley and become league champs.Christi discovers an odd bond with one of the women at the motel. And Andy re-discovers his affinity for good Cognac.

Adventures follow. Salvation may be at hand. Oddly, everything seems to focus on Detroit.

Underneath it all, there are flashbacks to Andy and Christi’s families—as colorful characters come to life in their pasts and reveal a lot about their present.

Then there is Agnes, the octogenarian who Andy has hired to type his handwritten manuscript. They never meet, but converse through notes in Andy’s writing. Slowly, Agnes and Andy find a way to do what has to be done.

Electra 225 is a literate story—a warm, episodic, humorous saga of human beings on the road. Even if the road doesn’t go too far.

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