The Dog Who Caught the Car by
(97 Stories)

Prompted By The Crush

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I am well aware of that maxim to the effect that you cannot find something that you did not lose in the first place.  And that, accordingly, a good argument could be made that writing — or, actually, republishing — a Retro story about getting together with and marrying my wife does not properly qualify for a “Lost and Found” prompt.  But, to be fair to me (something I am always happy to do), I think a fair reading of my story makes clear that, requited or not, Kathie was my first true love. And I sure as Hell found her again, even if she just found me for the first time.  Everyone OK with that?

When I think of crushes, and their implicit unattainability, I always think of the adage about dogs who chase cars. But what would they do if they ever caught a car? 

Anyhow, just to bring this story a little bit more down-to-date, here is a photo of Kathie from our wedding:

And, smart ass that I was and am, in my toast to Kathie at our reception, in noting that we had first met when we were both twelve, I stole Oscar Levant’s great line about Doris Day: “I knew [her] before she was a virgin.”

Incidentally, for those who are interested in perhaps truer versions of  “lost and found” romances, a fun read is a book by Rudy Giuliani’s former wife, Donna Hanover, about her own re-connection with and then marriage to her Stanford boyfriend after breaking up with Rudy.  (The title, no doubt in homage to Suzy’s use of song titles for her Retro stories, is “My Boyfriend’s Back.”)  She also writes about other couples’ “rediscovery of love with long-lost sweethearts.”  Of course, after Rudy, even the biggest nerd in her high school chemistry class would have seemed an improvement.



When I think of crushes, and their implicit unattainability, I always think of the adage about dogs who chase cars. But what would they do if they ever caught a car?  Well, though the metaphor may be less than exact, I caught the proverbial car.

In junior high school, I had a mad crush on a classmate — a girl I will call Kathie.  She was petite and cute and funny and, of course, unattainable.  I mean, we knew each other and were friends — she even took tennis lessons from my mother — but, as they say, just friends.

Of course, I did all the stupid things a junior high school kid would do in pursuit of the unattainable.  I memorized Kathie’s course schedule and knew when we were likely to pass each other between classes, so I could nonchalantly utter a cool “Hi yuh, Kath” in the hall.  And I made her a Valentine card by hand — a drawing of her home (I had been there once for a pool party) with a line of guys outside the front door and the caption: “I would have delivered this in person… but I hate waiting in long lines.”  Cooly self-deprecating, right?  And somehow I lost/threw the card out before sending it and had to stay up half the next night re-drawing it.

All for naught, of course.  I mean, Kathie liked me, but she was dating older boys at prep school already. And, once we were in high school, she was dating Yalies (including her future first husband). I didn’t moon, and had a normal high school social life and a girlfriend or two of my own, but Kathie still took my breath away every time I saw her or chatted with her.  (I annex as the feature image a photo of Kathie in high school.  I wasn’t crazy, was I?)

Kathie wrote a very sweet note next to her picture in my yearbook, saying “You must be about the most outstanding boy in our class,” but, far more importantly, also saying her main memory of me was giving her the Valentine card I had made in eighth grade.  (Melt!)

And my crush was hardly a secret.  One of my best buddies, Artie, an editor of the yearbook, made sure to post a photo of us and a few of our guy pals doing an impromptu can-can right next to Kathie’s yearbook photo; see below.  (I’m second from the left; that’s Artie’s nice note to the right.)



Fast forward twenty five years to — duh — our 25th class reunion. Kathie is there, still wonderful and beautiful and now unmarried, but I am very much married.  We do have a nice chat (under my wife’s watchful eye) and discover that we are now both lawyers, but that’s all there is to it.

Fast forward again about nine more years.  From out of the blue, Kathie contacts me, albeit strictly on the up-and-up.  She is practicing law in Connecticut but looking to switch firms and, knowing I’m a lawyer, is networking to see if I know of any good legal headhunters. Bad news/good news ensues. My efforts to help Kathie professionally go nowhere, as I am only plugged into New York corporate law firm headhunters, which are useless for a family lawyer in Connecticut. But my marriage has by then fallen apart and — mirabile dictu — Kathie suddenly notices me in a whole new light.  Details can be spared here, but the bottom line is that the dog has finally caught the car.

Kathie and I were married in 2004.  In my wedding toast, I noted that one of the best things about marrying someone who knew you in junior high school is that you don’t have to worry about your old pals telling your wife what a jerk you were at that age; she already knows. And Kathie loves to tell the Valentine card story — though she admitted to me that, when her mother came across it many years later going through her stuff, she told her,after a little hesitation, to throw it out.  She also tells me that she was mortified when I once asked her if I could carry her books in junior high.  I don’t remember that specifically, but it sounds like just the the sort of stupid thing I would have done.

Anyhow, so much for the unattainability of crushes.  And please feel free to fill in the obvious “old dog/new tricks” references.



Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Howzabout lucky dog? What a great story, John. Love the part about the past knowledge that a mutual junior high school brings. Maybe there’s something there: if the someones who knew us then are attracted to us now they must really like us.

  2. Wow, just wow! Love the title, the details, the flow, and especially the happy surprise ending! And yes, she’s a beauty! But I have to ask: did you cleverly trick us when you said “a girl I will call Kathie” or is that her real name?

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Barbara. Kathie is her real name (and she is sort of obsessive about having it spelled “right,” so I am very careful about this.) I just did the “a girl I will call…” bit as part of a running — albeit stupid — gag with myself in my Retro stories. I have always either given real names or not named people if I thought that was the wiser course. Haven’t been sued yet.

  3. Suzy says:

    Great story, John, and very clever title! That picture of Kathie is breathtaking! With those looks, I would think every guy would have been after her! Your joke in the valentine about not wanting to wait in line makes perfect sense! I also loved the “Choreography Club” picture in the yearbook, guess Artie had a pretty good sense of humor too! Thanks for the story about a crush that actually worked out, even if it took almost 40 years. And now I’m wondering why I wasn’t invited to the wedding!

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Suzy. Yeah; I was hardly the only guy to notice Kathie, though I think I got the idea of the card from one I saw in a store. Artie had/has a great sense of humor. I’m hoping to work into one of my stories our adventures at a McDonald’s one evening after a soccer game. (Or maybe you had to be there.) Sorry about the wedding — very small; but every now and then we joke about renewing our vows at an Elvis chapel in Las Vegas — and you’re definitely on the list for that one!

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wow, John, no wonder you had such a crush on Kathie; it was well-deserved, based on that photo. She was a real looker. And how utterly sweet all your valiant efforts to be noticed were. LOVE the Valentine’s card (nice touch being homemade). Hope she has lived up to your dreams, now that you caught her. Delightful story.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    I love this John. What an amazing story of how you finally did catch the car, and it all worked out well. It’s really romantic!

  6. Fabulous tail [sic], John! And what a great love story. I didn’t know that could really happen, but you did a convincing job of taking us up, down, over and through The Rollercoaster of Love. I had so bought into the dog, the car, and the crush that I (1) thought it was weird that you would have a framed pic of your unrequited junior high love; and (2) was 100 percent surprised by your wonderful real-life ending. Life should be so good!

  7. Wonderful John, love happy endings!!!

  8. Marian says:

    Great story, John, and isn’t it wonderful when that crush on someone unattainable works out? It might take time but we can wait it out. I have had just one brief experience with someone, who I thought was way out of my league, being interested in me. When he asked for my phone number I nearly fainted. Didn’t work out in the long run, but it was really fun while it lasted.

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