The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 5: “The Ballad Of Derecho Dan” Continues
Little Dan sure had his work cut out for him if he was to save the Gas & Lube. Everyone said he was in over his head and doomed to fail. Little Dan’s secret weapon against such pessimism was his own youthful optimism. He didn’t yet know where failure lived and he sure as hell wasn’t roaming the town in search of it.
Aside from the storm danger, the second biggest and most immediate problem facing the Gas & Lube was its need for a master auto mechanic. Little Dan knew how to pump gas, change tires, and tow the cars, but a first class mechanic he was not. No one could ever fill Big Dan’s shoes, but they had to hire someone.
Big Dan’s extended family was replete with grease monkeys. Virtually all of his uncles, nephews and cousins worked in the automotive trades. Wilmena called them all for help, at least until they could find someone. Sadly, none were willing to move to storm-tossed Rockport for the half promise of an uncertain future. This angered Wilmena because Big Dan always came to the aid of every single one of them when they needed help. “The human race is overrated,” complained a tearful Wilmena.
Then, as he slept that night, Little Dan had a fitful dream. He dreamt that he was standing alone in a raging storm amidst the wreckage and ruins of the Lincoln Casualty Insurance building. As purple lightning flashed across a nervous sky, Little Dan raised a clenched fist to the heavens and in his best Scarlett O’Hara voice screamed out: “AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, I WILL TAKE THE FALLEN BRICKS FROM THIS ASSHOLE INSURANCE BUILDING AND BUILD A GREAT WALL THAT WILL SAVE THE GAS & LUBE!!!”
The dream was so vivid that he awoke screaming at the ceiling fan in his bedroom. His loud shrieking woke up Wilmena and caused little BD to scramble under the armoire. By the time Wilmena got out of bed and came running, Little Dan was sitting up with his face in his hands. “What is it, honey?” she asked, “Did you have a bad dream?” Little Dan uncorked his face from his hands and looked up at her. “No,” he said with a rare smile, “I had a very good dream!”
A demonstrably relieved Wilmena plopped down next to him on the bed. “How ‘bout I make you a little tuna salad and you tell me about it?” she asked. Eating tuna salad at 3am was not unusual in the Newman household, and Little Dan readily agreed. Together, he and Wilmena spent those pre-dawn hours slapping tuna onto Triscuit wafers and discussing how a great wall could save their bacon.
It was commonly known back then that the city would not pay for the clean up of the Lincoln Casualty site that lay in ruins next to the Gas & Lube. If the hundreds of thousands of fallen bricks could be repurposed into a great wall that protected the Gas & Lube, wouldn’t that be a win-win for everybody? Rockport’s Mayor Robert “Fat Bob” Franklin thought so. He gave the idea his enthusiastic blessing.
The first thing Wilmena did to get the ball rolling was contact a company in Cleveland’s Little Italy. Big Dan always said that when it came to masonry, it took an authentic Italian to do the job right. The very next morning at 7am, three young Italian men from the Rosalie Construction Co. arrived and started working. Their names were Joe, Joe, and Joe. “That makes it easy to remember, at least,” said Wilmena.
The first order of business was to salvage all reusable bricks from the Lincoln Casualty site and stage them in a pile behind the Tire Corral. Within a single day, they had piled up enough bricks to build a wall that was 25 feet long and 25 feet high. Large enough, they determined, to shield the entire northern side of the Gas & Lube building from storms coming off Lake Erie. As the first milestone of Little Dan’s dream became a reality, Wilmena gave her boy a big motherly hug. In turn, Little Dan gave little BD a hug and also the second half of his tuna sandwich.
The Three Joes washed up and pledged to return the next day to begin work on “da greatest wall you ever will see-ah!” For their parts, Little Dan, BD, and Wilmena went home exhausted, proud, and happy. Everyone in the Newman house slept soundly because it was the first night since Big Dan passed away that they went to sleep with a little hope in their hearts.
Then, in the middle of the night starting at 3:15am, Wilmena, Little Dan, and the 36,000 remaining residents of Rockport were suddenly woken up by the city’s emergency sirens.
Storm 5.4 was on its way.