The morning after my senior prom I drove my date down to Horseneck Beach in my VW Beetle. My schoolmates were having a beer bash, but I couldn’t find them in the dunes and Patti suggested that we cruise the beach road.
“Maybe they went someplace more secluded.” The junior’s blondish brown air was sweeping back from her face. The sunroof was open and air smelled of ocean.
“Did anyone tell you that you look like Faye Dunaway?”
“You’re joking?” Patti had accepted my invitation to the prom after I had broken up with my high school sweetheart. I had no idea where Kyla was today.
“Maybe not her age, but something like her if she was 17.”
“I loved THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.” The diamond heist movie had been set in Boston.
“Me too, especially the dune buggy scene, where Steve McQueen blasts over the beach. You know that buggy was just a modified VW?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“I bet if I let out some of the air from the tires, we could ride on the beach.” I pulled to the side of the road.
“You think that’s a good idea?” Patti was a junior at the local Catholic girls school with my sister. She both had good girl reputation.
“What’s the worse thing that can happen?”
“We turn over and die.”
“I’m no Steve McQueen, but we’re not dying today.”
I got out of the car and deflated the tires. Getting back behind the wheel I asked, “Are you ready?”
“Yes.” Patti snapped on her seat belt.
“THeh let’s do it.” I shifted into first and steered the VW onto a path leading to the beach. I pushed it into second and we flew down the hard-packed strand with Patti laughing with every turn. A shallow inlet blocked our way and I twisted the wheel to return the way we came, however the sand higher on the beach was soft and the tires sunk into the sand bringing us to a halt. I tried to rock the VW out of the trap, but succeeded in burying the tires deeper.
“I think the tide is coming in.” Patti was right.
“You wait here.” I ran to the West Beach Bar. A derelict towtruck was parked outside. I entered the bar. The three men inside laughed at me and the oldest said, “Let me guess. You got your car stuck in the sand.”
“You’re the second one today. $15 to get it out.” His face was lined with worries. Few of them were his own.
“I have $10.” I guessed a lot of young men thought that they were Steve McQueen at this beach.
“Ten is it.” He put his beer on the bar and walked out to his truck. We returned to my VW. The water was up to the engine in the rear. The man attached chains to the front chassis and hauled my car to the road.
“Thanks.” Patti was grateful for the help.
“You wanna drink some beer with me.” The older man was asking her.
“No, I came with him.”
“Just thought I’d asked, because if you’re stupid enough to go with someone who gets stuck in the sand, then I thought you might be stupid enough to go with me.” The tow truck driver pulled away from us and Patti laughed with relief.
“I guess I’m really no Steve McQueen.” I felt like a loser.
“But you were for a minute and I felt like Faye Dunaway. Thanks.” She kissed me on my cheek and we went for fried clams in Westport.
I dropped her home before dark.
I never touched her.
Patti was a good girl and I was just a boy getting stuck in the sand, but for the briefest of time I was Steve McQueen and I went to sleep dreaming of Faye Dunaway at 17. She looked a lot like my prom date and that wasn’t my imagination.