Thirty feet of hissing rubber hose with two inches of stainless steel coupling on the end was threatening every mechanic in the garage. George Funk had already been hit in the temple and was down. Dale Crown was trying to get to the air compressor the hose was attached to, but slipped in an oil spill and tipped over a Craftsman tool chest. No one could get close to the injured man now. The garage’s owner calmly went to the electrical panel at the back of the garage and found the fuse switch. The lights, the radio and the air compressor all stopped working, the hose flailed another few seconds while the pressure escaped.
“George, you okay?” Brad Martin was next to the downed mechanic having flipped the fuse switch. He grabbed a couple of wadded up shop towels and put them under George’s head. “Can you hear me, guy?”
“Yeah,” George said, groggy and with his eyes closed. His left temple was purple and bleeding where he’d been hit by the errant air hose.
“Sandy’s calling an ambulance, man. I want you to talk with them and if they want you to go to the hospital, you’re going with ‘em, no arguments.”
“You’re gonna be all right. You see that Royals game last night?”
The ambulance came and the EMTs took George to the hospital. They left hopeful and Brad had the four garage bay doors closed, locked the access door from the garage to the office. The other five mechanics were standing in a circle as Brad came to them.
“What the hell happened, Bill?”
“I pulled the trigger on the air wrench and the coupling just blew off, Brad. It was secure when I connected, I know it was.”
“All right, Bill. Dale, will you check it to be sure? If it’s good, then fine. If not, well,” Brad said, “I’ll decide later. Who’s going to the hospital?”
That night after knocking off, Brad called the hospital. Bill and Sandy and Dale were all there already so he told George he’d come see him tomorrow. Despite being the owner for five years, and being a genius in automotive technology, he didn’t have the respect of his employees. He treated them fairly, paid them well and took care of them when things happened, but his relative youth and genuine social awkwardness caused some uncomfortable talk. Brad sought refuge in the library.
“You go on now, Raymond,” said the very pretty woman at the reference desk. “I’ve got work to do.” The boy with the coke bottle glasses took a book on riverboats off the desk and said goodbye to her as Brad passed them and made his way to the fiction section. He searched Burroughs, Peake, Moorcock, Bradbury and finally settled on a Heinlein that was new. He took his choice to the checkout desk.
The woman from the reference desk was there and took his card. He noticed her glasses midway on her perfect nose, how a couple of strands of her dark brown hair had escaped from the bun tied loosely on the back of her head. He watched the way the cloth of her blouse moved over her shoulder, across her chest and then, shamed, looked away. She pressed the button on the machine that took a microfilm picture of the card and the book then stamped the inside gently with the due date. “Here you go, Brad. It’s due back in two weeks.” He took his book and looked at her.
“What’s your name?” he said without thinking.
Spellbound, Brad scrabbled for a business card and handed it to her. “If you ever need any work done on your car, come on by. Ask for me and I’ll make you a deal.”
“Thanks,” she said, taking the car carefully. “It’s nice to meet you.”
The next day as Brad was unlocking and raising the first bay door, he saw the librarian waiting. “Good morning, Miss Sanders,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, I don’t have a car,” she said, “but I was hoping --- are you busy for lunch?”
Brad smiled. “I was going to have lunch with Deety Burroughs, but I suppose she’ll wait.”
She looked puzzled and said, “Oh.”
“I meant,” he cleared his throat, “I was only going to read out back here with a sandwich, but I’d much rather have lunch with you. One o’clock?” Another bay door opened behind him and Dale Crown turned immediately go behind the next closed door.
She smiled back. “Tin Pan Alley?”
“Yeah,” Brad said. “I’ll see you there.” She waved a little wave and he watched her walk up the street toward the library.
“She’s hot,” Dale said back in the garage, “but there’s something about her.” He shrugged and went to a tool chest.
“You’re not the one having lunch with her today. Maybe that’s it.”
Lunches became frequent and soon became dinners and then weekends became vacation getaways together. When he asked Marion to move in with him, Brad was so deeply in love with her that he whooped and jumped as high as he could when she said yes.
Dale Crown remained doubtful. “You’re sure about this? Seems awfully fast.”
“It’s the eighties, Dale,” Brad said. “Us youngsters do things a little differently. I’m going to ask her to marry me as soon as I think it’s right.”
Dale scratched the gray hair on the back of his head and flipped a switch. “Congratulations, I guess.”
The hydraulic whine of the lift moving upward with a foreign-made car atop it gave Brad a chance to consider. “Anything you want to share?” The lift stopped with a heavy clunk.
“I’ve known you a long time,” Dale said. “You’re not impulsive. You own your house; you’ve got savings and your own business.. This seems impulsive, not quite like you.”
“Eight months, Dale,” Brad said, “isn’t really impulse. Marion makes me feel like a whole person. I can’t explain it any other way. You know?”
The older man nodded.
“She’s amazing, a great cook, knows so much about so many things,” Brad said looking over the exhaust system of the car over his head. “Loose heat shield.”
“Check all the welds, make sure it’s tight” Dale said. “Those guys on 23rd street are good, but they smoke an awful lot of pot.”
Three weeks later, Marion moved in with more bookcases than anything else, except the books to go on the shelves. They made space in Brad’s little house for her library in the living room and more in the basement. “Have you read all these?”
“Mm hm,” she said meticulously arranging titles by author and subject. “I didn’t date a lot in my twenties.”
“Oh,” Brad said. He broke down the cardboard box she’d just emptied and folded it as flat as he could. “You sure you want to be here with me, then?”
Marion put her hands on the shelf in front of her and looked at him through her librarian glasses. “Do you really think I’d move in with you if I didn’t?” She smiled.
“I just want to be sure, is all,” he said. “You’re everything to me.” He kissed her and she kissed him back. They tore at each other’s clothes and lay down among the piles of books.
Two dreamlike months later, on a rainy Friday night, Brad and Marion were finishing as fine a bottle of red wine as could be bought locally when there came a loud knock on the door. “Awful late,” Brad said looking at the clock. “You expecting anyone?”
“No,” she said. “I’ll start the dishes, though.” She kissed him. “Don’t be long.”
Brad floated across the living room then flipped the switch that turned on the porch light. He pulled his hand back to his chest quickly. “Shit,” he said. Frowning, he rubbed his hand. “Static electricity or something. Better check it, though.” He shook his head, put on a smile and flipped the deadbolt. The door opened smoothly and quietly on well-oiled hinges.
The old woman on the doorstep was wearing a yellow rain coat and held a colorful umbrella point down and dripping rain on the Welcome mat. Her galoshes were probably two sizes too big and she looked impatient. The rain slick street was empty and thunder cracked across the sky. “Yes?” he said.
“I need to talk to her, boy. Where’s Marion?”
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Brad stepped fully into the doorway trying to block the visitor’s view of the interior of the house.
The woman on the porch raised her voice. “I’m in the right place and so’re you to get this umbrella to the side of your head if you don’t move. Now invite me in and run and tell Marion Beatrice Chandler’s here to talk to her.”
Behind him, Brad heard the distinctive sound of a wine glass breaking on the kitchen floor.
Click Here to Read Part 2
©2009, 2012 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States