blog,  short story

Short Story: “You’re from out of town, we’ll help you.”

“Okay, love. See you soon.”

The man put down the corded phone and spoke to my husband in his Cuban accent. “He’s on his way back. It took him so long because you told him it was a full kit, not just the pump.”

Jesse put out his hands in earnest supplication. “I’m so sorry. I got confused.”

“Yeah yeah. It’s no problem. We got you the new pump under the warrantee.”

Making his way back to me and the kids who were sitting in the waiting area, my husband looked as stressed as we all felt. We had been stranded in Tallahassee for four hours and it was now 8pm.

Jesse took off his hat and sat down beside me, putting his head in his hands. “This car is going to be the death of me.”

“Was that his son on the phone?”

“Yeah,” Jesse sighed. “He’s on his way back. It’ll still be a while.”

I shifted my laptop on my knees and looked over at the kids. Their tablets had finally ran out of battery, and they were sitting huddled next to the outlet with their chargers plugged in. The kids had done so well in the small auto shop thanks to the entertainment, and I had been able to finish up some work with my phone’s hotspot.

“I like that he called his son ‘love,’” I said. “I love when fathers are affectionate with their sons.”

I’m not sure Jesse could hear me over his anxiety.

We had driven the car out of the shop twice thinking everything was fixed before having to turn right back around and drive it back in. A whole bunch of system errors had made the whole ordeal a mystery. Finally, we had figured out it was the fuel pump Jesse had just replaced a few months back. Thank goodness it was still under warrantee.

A while later, the son made it back with the new fuel pump. Walking in the door he said, “You told me it was the full kit.”

Jesse sighed. “Yeah I know. I’m sorry.”

“It’s no problem.”

The son walked over to the father and was greeted by a kiss on the forehead. “Let’s go get this settled, yeah?”

From what I picked up, the father had worked at a dealership for 25 years before his son opened up this shop. The son ran the business while the father oversaw the mechanics. When we had to turn the car back around for a second time, the father investigated it himself and found the issue.

Just when we were making plans to have some friends in the area pick us up so we could stay overnight, the men insisted they would make this situation right and get us back on the road. “You’re from out of town, we’ll help you. We got to get you to your Granny’s 90th birthday party on time, right?”

They were my new favorite people in the whole world.

Jesse followed them into the garage to help get the backseat out of the car. I turned back to work before I smelled cigarette smoke floating into the waiting room.

Looking up, I saw the father smiling at the kids with a cigarette between his fingers. “They are beautiful children.”

“Thank you,” I replied smiling.

“I have a new granddaughter. We just got back from Miami to see her. She wouldn’t stop crying, wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop. My wife passes her over to me and boom.” He snapped his fingers. “No more crying.”

I laughed and set my computer on the chair beside me.

He continued to look at the kids. “You know, I never understood this new technology stuff. We’ll be gathered together as a family and everybody is on their phones.”

“Right,” I said, seeing where this was headed.

“Even the young children! They know how to do all this stuff on the phone. They don’t know how to be bored.”

“Mmm.”

“People gotta talk to each other, ya know? And everybody complains about not having enough money. Maybe they’d have enough money if they stopped buying all this new technology. Everybody’s working so hard and then they buy the newest gadget. You have to keep working to keep buying the technology …”

He continued ranting about new technology for a few minutes. Eventually, he made his way to me being on the computer and the kids being on their tablets. Feeling a little judged, I had to hold my tongue. He couldn’t know I was working and that I can literally work from anywhere because of the technology he is wary of. I could have tried to explain what I do for a living, but even people who get computers have a hard time understanding it.

I had to let out a little chuckle when he talked about the kids being on their tablets. Maybe he felt like a six and four year old could sit still for 5 hours in a small auto shop without anything to do. I could have defended my parenting choices.

But I liked his voice. I liked that he called his grown son ‘love’ and kissed him on the forehead in greeting. I liked that he had just returned from Miami to visit his granddaughter. I liked that he gave up three hours of his free time after business hours to help people he didn’t know.

So, I let him talk until he walked back into the garage, putting out his cigarette as he went.

Half an hour later, the trio walked back into the waiting room

“Fixed!” said the man.

“I want to thank you both for all your help. You have no idea how much we appreciate it,” my husband said.

“Listen,” the father put his hand on my husband’s shoulder; which was downright hilarious to me, as my husband is not a touchy person and I could see his shoulders stiffen just slightly. “Once, I was driving when I saw a man stuck on the side of the road. I’m a mechanic, yeah? I knew how to fix his car. So I picked him up, drove him to get the part, and then fixed the car. It took hours out of my day. A few weeks later, I got a flat tire with my whole family — with my little ones — in the car. You know how many people stopped to ask if I was okay?”

“No one?”

“No one. But, that’s not what it’s about, yeah? Just because some people aren’t like you doesn’t mean that you stop doing good. That’s the kind of person I am. I must help, I must fix. And so, I stayed late. It’s who I am.”

“Well, thank you.” My husband said.

“Eh.” The man waved his hands. “It’s nothing. Let’s get you out of here.”

We followed him outside to check how the car started up this time. Jesse cranked it and I saw the first smile on his face in hours.

“Now, this is starting up much better than when you installed the fuel pump yourself, yes?” Asked the man.

“I think so,” Jesse said.

“No no no. I know this. It’s much better.”

We loaded the kids and their tablets in the car and, this time, we didn’t have to turn around.

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