The ritual had begun with a small, pudgy hand grasping tightly to his finger as the two of them had walked down the street together. In those early days, his nephew had commented on everything he had seen; the parked cars, the window displays, the dog that just walked by... At the time, Jim Rubens had often considered paying his sister's kid to be quiet for just five minutes so he could have some peace.
The difference between that little boy, and the sullen child that shuffled beside him now, was immense. There wouldn't be any hand holding on this walk, and Jim was fine with that; the boy was too old for that sort of thing anyway. But he did miss the talking, which over the years had grown more focused, and more complex in interests. He ran his eyes over the kid's skinny, eleven year old frame. Twelve, he corrected himself; almost twelve. Had it really been that long?
"Link," he said pointing out toward the street where a blue and white Star Chief was cruising down the street, "check out that lowered '55." His nephew's eyes watched as the car drove slowly by, Little Richard's Long Tall Sally pouring from the open windows.
"Pretty swell," Link said, non-committal, and Jim started to seriously wonder if he should have bothered with their tradition this year. However as they approached the Cadillac Dealer, its windows blocked out with brown paper and painted up with teasing sales pitches, he could see the kid start to perk up with a touch of excitement.
It was a good sign.
It was still less than a year since his sister had passed away so suddenly, leaving her family alone and in shock. The three men to whom she had been a life centering force seemed to skitter off recklessly after she was gone. Edward Larkin, her husband, had thrown himself relentlessly into his work, staying gone all hours of the day and night. Jim supposed he couldn't blame him. It would be hard to come home to a place where Annie's voice used to ring, to rooms she used to dance happily through; only to find them hopelessly empty without her there. Hell, he was only her brother and he couldn't even bring himself to remain in town; instead taking off for other parts, trying to clear his head and kill the pain.
Of course as the grown men ran and hid, they left Link - her son and only ten at the time - to face those empty rooms and empty spaces; to walk the streets she'd once walked, completely alone.
It was a mistake Jim was trying hard not to hate himself for even now as he watched those blue eyes, so like Annie's, sweep up to the covered windows. Finally, there was a spark of life behind them.
"You think there'll be anything really new?" the kid asked, placing a slender hand on the glass and looking for any cracks there might be to peek through.
"I don't know. I've been hearing some buzz though." He peered down at his watch and looked about as other people started gathering around them, talking excitedly. "We'll know in a few minutes," he said.
They waited together, standing side by side. Jim used his height and breadth, along with his well honed intimidating look, to make sure the kid had first view of the display to come. When they finally pulled the paper down from the inside, the street was filled with a collective gasp of awe.
Link's eyes grew wide and he stepped closer to the expanse of glass, his hand reaching out to trace the lines of the car in the window. "Wow," was all he said; but Jim heard it even over the people crowding in around them. People were talking loudly, pointing to each vehicle in turn, but Link was intently focused on just one: the new Eldorado.
Its black paint gleamed in the mid-September sun and the light reflected brightly off the highly polished chrome. It was a redesigned body style, reminiscent of the old but still altogether new; and Jim had to admit it was a beautiful car. The curve of the twin headlights, the brushed stainless steel hard top; every part of the thing was a work of art.
"Holy mackerel," Link breathed, and Jim laughed and tousled his dark hair.
Apparently, for the kid, it was love at first sight.