orange Plymouth Horizon

New York: A Helluva Town

By Ken Van Camp

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them this story, but it’s true. They tell me not all inhabitants of New York City are cruel, and my brain tells me they are right. But my heart says otherwise.

It was a bleak day in November more than forty years ago, and Mary Ellen drove us to The City in her car, a bright orange pumpkin of a Plymouth Horizon. If only we had taken my car, this wouldn’t have happened.

She was my fiancée then, still a poor college student, but I landed my first job out of college and could afford tickets to Phantom of the Opera. We were excited at the prospect of our first Broadway show, and we chatted on the way about the amazing things we would see.

We couldn’t believe our luck at finding a parking space on the street, less than ten blocks from the Majestic Theatre.

The show was everything we imagined and more: the vocal ranges of Crawford and Brightman, the towering set designs of Björnson, the haunting melodies and rich orchestrations of Lloyd-Webber. Walking to the car as we relived the powerful performance, the ten blocks felt like two.

It was the glass on the sidewalk that I noticed first. I stood transfixed as she fumbled with her keys. It wasn’t until she opened the driver-side door that I uttered, “Oh no,” in a voice barely audible.

She looked up and saw me staring at the missing window before she ever looked down and saw the shattered glass on the seat and floor of her little pumpkin. Her attention immediately turned to the empty back seat.

“My book bag!” she exclaimed. “All my textbooks and notebooks.” We searched the floor and the hatchback compartment. She even looked under the car, hoping for a miracle.

“What will I do without my notes and papers?” she sobbed.

I scanned the dark, empty sidewalk for any sign of her belongings. A small pile fifteen feet from the car was only detritus.

“And my tapes,” I heard Mary Ellen say in halting gasps.

Returning to the car, I saw the glove compartment open. They had found her collection of music cassettes. But as I looked more closely in the dim light, I saw tapes strewn about the floor.

“No, wait,” I said brightly, trying to convince my beloved there was a rose among the thorns. “They didn’t get them all.”

I picked up a half dozen tapes in their cases and held them out to show her.

And that was when the dark reality of the situation hit me. A reality that would later wake me up in a cold sweat croaking “Come back,” like Rose floating on a door in Titanic. “You missed some.”

I knew then that Lucifer himself had directed the perpetrators, for they had not taken all of her precious music. They had left behind all the Barry Manilow tapes.

Ken Van CampKen  is a freelance writer, voiceover artist, and audiobook producer based in The Villages, Florida. He has written on a variety of subjects, from sailing to personal profiles to software development.

Ken is a member of Writers of The Villages, Pen, Paper & Pals, The Writers League of The Villages, and The Florida Writers Association.

He can be reached at https://vancamp.info

7 thoughts on “New York: A Helluva Town”

  1. Ha! Thieves with good taste!
    Think we can all relate to events that hit without warning and suddenly everything changes.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. Glad it had “sort-of”a happy ending.
    Sounds like a typical New York City story, and reminds me when my sister went to N.Y. City in the 70s to see our brother where he was performing .
    She was standing in a line outside the theater and was mugged. She didn’t get hurt, but had her handbag stolen.
    Our brother heard about this, came out from the theater and said to her “Welcome to New York City.”!!!!

  3. Love it, Ken. NYC, through and through. And it’s so nice to have Barry Manilow to kick around–a lot more fun than than, well, you know who.

  4. Intriguing story opening, making readers want to know more: “Most people don’t believe me when I tell them this story, but it’s true.” Mentioning Barry Manilow is classic – a cultural reference, while the word cultural is used loosely. You’ve assisted the artist to remain timeless, at least for Baby Boomers. Ending with Lucifer on a story titled, “New York: A Helluva Town” is very clever! Love this story, Ken!

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