Better Than A Cardboard Box

by Vinnie Mendes

My mentor all through school was a neat old guy who was an actual rocket scientist before it was fashionable. He was chief chemist at the Naval Air Rocket Test Station in Lake Denmark, NJ. His mid-life crisis in 1955 caused him to buy a new MG TF 1500, which he drove around for the next 30 years. When he passed away, he left me the car in his will.

Doc’s next of kin was his live-in girlfriend of 25 years, a stubbornly helpless creature who couldn’t drive or even change a fuse because she was “only a woman,” she said. And yet she kept my friend Doc happy for 25 years.

The girlfriend was a total basket case when Doc died. I had to handle all the arrangements. Now Doc was very blasé about death. Once he turned 50 and people started contacting him about a mausoleum space and perpetual care, he would say, “If you leave a body alone long enough the board of health will do something about it.” He had arranged to get a “smoke job in a cardboard box” and have the ashes put in a tin can all for $160.

I was at the mortuary picking up the death certificate to probate the will when UPS showed up with the ashes. The director asked what I wanted to do with them, so I took them with me. This was really a sad time for me because I realized that he was truly gone. When I got back to the girlfriend’s house I said, “Carla, about the ashes…” She responded, “Not another word! I do not want to hear it! I can’t stand it!” So I put the ashes, still in their tin can, in the MG. They are still there, although I’ve painted the can Tartan Red to match the car and applied a New England MGT Registry sticker to it.

Since the late-1980s I have taken the MG to many rallies and car shows with the local British Car Clubs. People brag that they have the original manual or the original tool kit. Well, I have the original owner! My dear friend’s remains are tucked safely in the boot of his old MG. People ask why I don’t put him in a mausoleum or sprinkle him in the ocean? I could do that, but this is classier. I feel he is still doing what he loved to do all his life: ride around in his MG. MM

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