humor column I wrote, circa 1998:
I couldn't find my left glove. I must have looked under every car down Bell Boulevard in Bayside, but it stayed hidden. I racked my brain trying to remember if I might have left the glove on the train. Perhaps when I had thrust both into one pocket, the left one accidentally fell out. In any case, the glove was gone.
I recounted this bitter experience to Vin and Hank, while Hank was puttering around under the hood of his car (again). Vin gave me a sideways glance and shrugged. "Oh well," he sighed, tugging at the collar of his Evan Picone shirt. "At least you've got your health."
For as long as I can recall, adults had been imparting this particular piece of advice. This was an august occasion -- the first time a peer in my age group had chosen to use these sage words.
"Vin, do you realize you now have something in common with my mother?" I gasped.
He paused, shoke his head, and replied, "Let me tell you something -- she's right. For you, it was a glove. For me, it was a shoe."
Voice choked with emotion, Vin told me and Hank how, last winter, he had fallen in love. Not with any mere woman, but with a darling pair of Rockport BusiPlex Shoes. Knowing the weather wouldn't be right for such a purchase for at least another few months, Vin ignored the tempresses. They stared out at him from the shoe store window, but he stayed firm in his resolve.
Then one morning on the 7 train, the playing field changed. The store was running a 30 percent off sale. Vin's beloved shoes were suddenly at a bargain price. Faced with man's eternal dilemma, he caved.
That evening, Vin unwrapped the Rockport BusiPlex Shoes and walked them around his apartment. "I was airing them out," he explained. "You need to break these puppies in slowly."
He repeated the procedure for the next week or so. Vin managed to keep the purchase secret from the rest of us the entire time, a new record! On the eighth day, Vin dressed and wore the shoes when he went to meet us for dinner. Although it had rained that morning, the afternoon heat had evaporated all puddles. Vin was satisfied that nothing could destroy the pristine nature of these Rockport BusiPlex Shoes.
Stepping off the curb, Vin looked both ways. Auto traffic was far in the distance. The road ahead was gravelly and dry. He took the first step, right into dog droppings.
Vin could go no further when he reached this point in his tale. Hank took off his hat and we both bowed out heads in respect. "So you can see, gentlemen, that your health has to remain most important, to keep everything else in perspective."
Hank nodded solemnly. "A couple of years back, my aunt got real sick," he said. "I mean, my folks were talking in hushed tones and I caught my mom crying."
"What was wrong with her?" asked Vin.
Hank thought this over, scratching his back with a socket wrench. "We never did find out," he answered. "All I know is that she drove a 1972 Corvette, with the six-cylinder engine, and that she was going to leave it to me in her will."
For Hank, this would have been a better legacy than any amount of cash. Cars were his passion, and he practically had oil in his veins.
"Anyway, she finally passed on, and after a spectacular funeral, we were all summoned to the reading of the will," Hank said.
Every member of his family was there -- wizened Grandpa Milburn, heart-broken Uncle Al, self-centered cousins Deacon and LeRoy, and Hank's immediate clan.
The lawyer went down the list, checking off items left and right, but Hank's name never came up. He kept track, and the 1972 Corvette was never bequeathed to anyone.
After the session, Hank approached the lawyer. "Oh, yes, the car..." the legal expert said. Hank almost belted him, out of respect for the Corvette. "Your aunt had specified certain conditions for her funeral. In order to pay for them, your uncle sold the car."
Hank said the next thing he remembered was waking up in his bed, fully-clothed, pages torn from car magazines strewn around his bedroom. "Your health.... be thankful for your health," he gulped.
I went through my pockets to try to find them both tissues to wipe their teary eyes. Hidden in the lining, I discovered something -- my left glove!
"I found it! I found the glove!" I shouted, pulling the glove from my pocket with such force that my arm rammed the wall. "Ouch! I think I broke a finger!"
Vin walked over and took a look. "Yep, I think you have to go the emergency room and have it set," he affirmed.
I clutched my damaged digit and started for the driveway.
Hank shouted after me, "At least you found your glove!"
I privately wished him a bad case of smallpox.