WHEN RUMMAGING with a friend through a box of junk at a fire company car show last summer, my buddy came across a memory keepsake from long ago. It was a sailing ship hood ornament, like the one that once perched on the nose of another favorite friend’s car. At the time, the Plymouth symbol reminded me that friends, cars and fire trucks mix, blended together in memory like ashes and water. I remember that this is a particular truth proved out during a mid-week reunion ride.

 As I remember it, the vehicle my friend Mike rode in during that night was driven through our shared hometown. Mike was seated in the passenger side of a faded, old black, 1940 4-door Plymouth sedan.

 In that old car, the headliner was torn. The inside floorboard was typically littered by empty Coca-Cola bottles and a few crushed Winston cigarette packs. Worn with high mileage, the Plymouth had a flathead six-cylinder that smoked a little. It was definitely not a hotrod engine. However, the old six managed enough speed at one time to make the dirty, old sedan suffer a few dents. Because of those dents, Mike’s buddy had purchased the high mileage car cheaply using cash money he’d saved from working a paper route. He bought it outright… a tired old police car.

 Though motoring through town in that

near junk, Mike was glad to be home on leave from his military service. That night, he was to thoroughly enjoy a reunion with our friends. He felt that he needed those moments. His mind was bothered considerably as he got ready to head toward his next air base assignment.

 You see, after enduring a year’s worth of technical school in Mississippi, Mike had come home to find that our friend had gotten a driver’s license. Several years younger than Mike, Harvey had been quite busy while we’d been away. In Mike’s absence he’d managed to quit high school, dated Mike’s sister… and had also tried to enlist in the Army. He'd gotten a job at the local steel mill, which raised his spirits high.

 Thankfully, he failed at only two of those three things. Mike’s sister strictly thought of him as a brother, so they quit dating. He also found that he couldn’t serve in the Army because of a previously unknown physical malady. This last was soon revealed as providential, in that

Sifting the Ashes?