Last Wednesday, Russ sent me an ominous text while he was out running morning errands. “When I get home, we need to talk.” Okay. What good conversation ever started out like that?

It was a busy morning. I’m taking a Publishing Class every weekday morning in February at 9:00 a.m. Additionally, that morning, I had a Mining The Motherlode class with Darnell Arnoult at 9:30, so I was already leaving the Publishing class early to do Darnell’s class. And at 11:00 a.m., seats for the 2024 80’s Cruise were going on sale and I needed to get our reservations made for that. The morning was frenzied, at best. And now “we need to talk” came forth from my husband’s fingers electronically??? Then he followed up with, “It’s nothing bad.” (He knows me so well.)

He arrived at the door around 9:20 a.m. and dumped a load of $100 bills on my writing desk. My jaw dropped and my eyes widened as I looked up to him for an explanation. “I hit a little jackpot at the casino this morning. Nothing huge, but still a jackpot.” He was so calm. Of course he was; he’s Russ.

“Oh, my gosh!” I picked up the money and ran it through my hands luxuriously, squealing, giggling, laughing, crying. “How much is it?” He told me the amount. “What are we going to do with it?”

“Well, that’s what we need to talk about.” He edged closer to the desk. “We can take it on the cruise. We can use it as a down-payment on a new vehicle for you. We could pay it on some bills.”

My heart pounded hopefully. “Could we really use it as a down-payment?” You guys know that I love Rupert. I would keep Rupert in perpetuity if I could. Rupert is a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe purchased from our local Friendship dealer in July 2010. The first place I took him was the Appalachian Writers Workshop in Hindman, KY, like two or three days after he was purchased. He has 18,000 miles on him when we got him. He had just under 220,000 on him as of that day. He had been burning oil for months, maybe a year. An ominous blue cloud of smoke formed nearly every time I started him, and sometimes at other times. People would seriously come to investigate, thinking he was on fire. Most recently, during the really low temps we had in early January, the driver’s side window got stuck going down. It eventually moved again, but it squeaked and hung in the frame. Going to the drive-thru for food, banking, etc., was painful and embarrassing, at best. But I loved Rupert. Seriously. We had been everywhere together for over 12.5 years. Writing Conferences. Writing Retreats. Writing Workshops. And more concerts than I can even think of at the moment. Road trips galore! He was my rock. Only, my rock was rolling much more laboriously these days. My old friend was showing his age. And Russ kept saying, “We don’t have the money for a car payment.” But I knew we were going to need one. And soon. Maybe within the next 5000 miles.

“I know it’s time. There’s about $5000 here,” Russ told me. It was enough for a down-payment. I’ll admit. I had been cheating on Rupert a little. I had been looking for other Santa Fe’s online through Friendship, just to see what they had. For a while, the answer was “not much.” The brand new models were out of reach financially, even with a $5000 jackpot. I found one that looked a lot like Rupert, though. I slightly brighter blue, called Stormy Sea. Which actually made me smile. Back in high school and college, my pen name for writing was “Stormie C.” It seemed like there was a connection between that vehicle and me already.

We went out a couple of days later to look at test drive some cars at Friendship. They had three on the lot. One had way too many miles on it for a used car. One had some dings and scratches, and I didn’t like the way it sounded when it ran. One was left. Stormy Sea. It was so pretty. But a lot has changed about vehicles since 2010. No six-cylinder Santa Fe’s are made now (this is a 2020 model). And this particular one doesn’t have front-wheel drive, much less all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, which Rupert had. Which I also used flagrantly to shove it into overdrive to haul us into the side yard when it was muddy, so we could park behind the house to make access to the back door easier for carrying things in and out.

There will be no such “gunning it” in the new vehicle to gain that higher ground. Heaven forbid we get a good snow. But I love the vehicle. Yes, we bought it! Well, we went in debt for it. And that’s okay. Russ brought home winnings two more times, much smaller, just a few hundred each time, two more days last week. It’s not our new financial plan, but it’s helpful when it happens. (Now, if only I could learn how to make this magic happen, lol!) It will be a week tomorrow. I thought I wanted a Scottish name for the vehicle. I was certain of it until I brought it home. I was even certain that it was a male until I brought it home. I was thinking Jamison. Like the whiskey. Or possible even Skye, like the Isle of Sky. I briefly entertained “Johnny Gage!” but now, I’m coming back around to what drew me to the vehicle in the first place. I know it’s the paint color descriptor, but what if I named it “Stormie?” Would that be such a bad thing? It would resonate with my creative self. It would echo the time of my life when I was becoming who I am today. And there aren’t a lot of other Stormies out there. I think I need to spend some quality sitting and riding time with her in the next few days to decide for sure, but I think now, that’s where I’m headed. I turned 39,000 miles on her yesterday – “her,” did you catch that? That’s a couple hundred miles in the first week. I think we’re gonna make a great team, whatever name I choose. Russ’ Cadillac is Cassidy. Stormie and Cassidy work, don’t you think? A new age love story of metal and wheels. What I know for certain is that I have an amazingly generous husband, without whom, I’d be in a much different life situation. I truly love that guy. Russell, Peters, YOU ROCK!