David McHugh

My son’s life was saved today. He wasn’t injured, it wasn’t a close call, he didn’t even know it happened. A sixteen-year-old behind the wheel of his first car doesn’t think much of past or future. The thrill of moving that machine is one of the ultimate in the moment experiences of that adrenaline-filled period of growing up. Certain schools of philosophy and physics hold that time is a construct of the human mind. There is only the moment. All events happen simultaneously. The accident that my son may have had did not happen. It was wiped from the books. He’s OK. He’s cool.

He also was pulled over for going fifty-three in a thirty-five mile zone. The standing radar, as the officer referred to his little speed-buster, clocked him at fifty-three, but he cut him a break and wrote him up for doing forty-four. He’d have to put up with four hours of traffic school, pay ninety dollars in court fees, ten for the ticket, forty for the class, and seven for a copy of his still blank, six-week-old driving record. The total was one-hundred-forty-seven dollars.

As Mom and I were not able to get our son to establish a close relationship with his speedometer while out with him practicing his driving, we were grateful for the enforcer of laws giving him a dose of awareness and shocking him into a relationship. Unfortunately, the young offender of “agreed-upon driving speeds determined by the adult constituents of society” did not have a job, and the impact of the experience would be dulled—no, nonexistent—if Mom and Dad paid the costs.

There was only one solution: he had to use the money in his savings account. This was not your average savings account. This wasn’t a few dollars put aside from a paycheck, or a disciplined stash of two dollars a week for three years. No. The money that aided in saving his life was from years of events, big and small, that occurred throughout his young life. I’ll try to list them as best I can.

There were about thirty dollars from one grandmother, forty from the other, and money from birthdays, Christmas, and Hanukah; there were twelve bucks from the sale of his first bike to the kid down the street (we tried to get him to give the money back, but the kid’s parents were quite happy with the deal); there were nine dollars from his penny collection, which represented many hours of filling those stupid coin paper wrapper things that never come out right; eight dollars for a slammer pog (he said it wasn’t his best) left over from when we lived in LA; eighteen dollars for cutting the dog pen lawn, (the eighteen dollars, representing six cuts, actually made it into the bank during a from now on I’m saving all my money tirade—God knows for what, since he doesn’t come from one of those families—he passed out of that stage rather quickly); four dollars from some duplicate baseball cards; two dollars for an illegal bet on a basketball game he played in and won when he was eight; seven dollars from a ten-dollar bill he found in Will Rogers State Park (he bought himself, his brother and sister ice cream cones); and finally, seventeen dollars from the tooth fairy.

One could get sentimental about using his childhood fortune to bail himself out of trouble, but it seemed poetic, in a way, that all that kiddy loot be cashed in to pay for one step into adulthood.

©2000 David McHugh

David McHugh, a native of NYC, began his career as a classical composer, moved into the commercial arena, wrote numerous jingles, musicals, and theater underscores in NY before moving to LA and writing film and TV scores for fourteen years. Among his better-known scores are MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, MYSTIC PIZZA, MR. NORTH, THREE FUGITIVES, and THE DREAM TEAM. A prolific songwriter, he received a platinum record for the Pointer Sisters cover of his song, Freedom, and a gold album for Roberta Flack’s cover of his song, Where I’ll Find You. He left LA in 1995 with his wife and three children to develop and head a Master’s Degree program at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has taught for seven years. The move has proven quite productive and resulted in a commission for an orchestra/choral piece, 12 Waltzes for Piano, (published by the Mel Bay Publishing Co.), as well as underscores for a number of plays, including Yerma, Dracula, a ballet, The Little Prince, and numerous pieces for modern dance. There are also two plays being circulated for producer interest: My Mother, the Fish (a two-act comedy) and Estelle and Angelo (a musical). Mr. McHugh also has a company that markets his patented inventions. His hobbies include building furniture, cooking, and creating sculpture from metal. David can be reached at davemchugh[AT]earthlink.net (replace [AT] with @).

"First Ticket" photo ©Joanne Warfield

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