Adventures in Editing

In the early 2000’s, shortly after we purchased the Tucson house, a family member got a new job that came with not one but two company cars, making their Ford minivan, one on which they were still making payments, superfluous. So we offered to take it off their hands.

When it came time to head north for the holidays that year, we removed the back seat and used a piece of plywood to create a carpeted storage space that allowed our golden retrievers, Aggie and Daphne, some comfort while still providing space in which to stow luggage. The trip north was totally uneventful. Before heading back down in January, Bill took the minivan in for an oil change and a complete mechanical check up, during which everything seemed to be in order.

But …. Yes, I’ll bet you already saw that but coming, didn’t you! The trip back south was anything but uneventful. Just north of Grapevine on I-5, the engine gave a lurch. Bill managed to steer us onto the next exit to get off the freeway, but that particular exit, the one to Labec, had no services—as in zero. We finally managed to summon a tow truck.

Some tow truck drivers are just plain nuts, and that guy was a case in point. What followed was a harrowing seventy-mile drive to the nearest Ford dealership in Santa Clarita, with Bill and I jammed in the cab of the truck with the driver and with Aggie and Daphne sitting wide-eyed in the front seat of the minivan.

If you’re going shopping for a new vehicle, having the smoking remains towed into a dealership isn’t the best way to start a negotiation. Because of the dog and luggage situation, we obviously needed another minivan, and they had one on the lot, but purchasing it wasn’t easy. It took the remainder of the afternoon, and Aggie and Daphne were far better behaved than the two kids belonging to the couple at the neighboring desk who were also buying a car that day.

When it finally came down to brass tacks, the salesman offered us five-hundred bucks for our broken minivan, but only if we retrieved the missing back seat. Why the hell he needed it is more than I can understand! But off we went in our new minivan. We spent the night in Palm Springs on the way back to Tucson where we unloaded some of the luggage and loaded in the back seat. Then we drove back to Santa Clarita the next day.

In terms of car deals, that one came close to an old-fashioned shotgun wedding, and from then on, we referred to that minivan as our Ford Fiasco. Two years later, we traded it in on a Dodge minivan, which 285,000 miles later and handed down to our daughter is very close to giving up the ghost.

So yes, I name cars. The first vehicle I ever purchased on my own was a two-toned green Ford Falcon that I named Sidney, after a professor at the U of A, Sidney Schiffer. His was a night time class, and he had a headful of beautiful silver hair that took on a greenish tinge in the glow of the classroom’s overhead fluorescent lighting. The fluid drive Plymouth in which I learned to drive a standard shift without having to fully master using the clutch was Betsy.

In Nothing to Lose, you may have noticed Beau referring to his rented Ford Explorer as a Ford Exploder. Yup, that was me putting a few of my own oddball ideas into his head. And when I met my first Ford Focus? That name quickly morphed into Ford Ficus.

So what does this have to do with editing you might ask? I’ve spent the last several days doing another word-for-word reading of Blessing of the Lost Girls as I installed Bill’s corrections. And what did I find? Toward the end of the book, Lani Walker Pardee climbed into her “Ford Ficus” and headed into town.

Usually editing is a pain in the butt, but that one gave me a good laugh, and I hope it gave you one, too.