Home > Drive Me Wild

Drive Me Wild
Author: Melanie Harlow

One

 

 

Griffin

 

 

A watched pot never boils, but a watched mechanic will.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard my dad say it, but damn if he wasn’t right. There was nothing worse than a hoverer, and old man Dodson was a serial offender.

“Are you sure you need to hit that so hard?”

Clench jaw. Count to three. “Yes.”

“Is that really the right way to do it?”

Take a breath. Don’t throw things. “Yes.”

“Are you going to be done soon?”

Not if you keep standing there asking me stupid questions.

My temper was nearly at the boiling point, but since I really couldn’t afford to lose customers, I turned around and attempted something resembling a smile.

“Shouldn’t be too long now, Mr. Dodson. Why don’t you take a walk? Maybe grab a cup of coffee and a donut at the diner? By the time you get back, I’ll have your vehicle all ready for you.”

The old-timer scratched his head and hitched up his kelly-green pants. “You know, Swifty Auto said they could have this done in half an hour. And their price was cheaper than yours.”

I gripped the wrench I was holding even tighter.

Fucking Swifty Auto. The fast food chain of automotive repair. High volume, low value, shitty rush jobs done on the cheap—but customers didn’t seem to care. Apparently, a chandelier in the lobby, glossy TV ads, and free cookies were more important than good service. “Well, they’re a bigger shop. And they’ve got a different philosophy.”

“But I’ve always brought my cars here, and your dad was a good honest guy. Knew what he was doing. I figure you’re a good honest guy too.”

“He taught me everything I know,” I said. In other words, I too know what I’m doing, asshole. Now go get a fucking cruller and let me finish this up. You didn’t even have an appointment—I squeezed you in as a favor.

Dodson exhaled and gave up. “Guess I’ll take a walk then.”

I watched him wander out to the sidewalk and begin his old-man shuffle down Main Street, then got back to work.

“Damn, that guy is annoying,” called McIntyre, the other mechanic at Bellamy Creek Garage. I owned the place, but he’d been working there almost as long as I had. We also had a helper—a “stack the tires” guy—whose real name was Andy, but we referred to him as Handme, since we were always telling him to hand me that wrench or hand me a towel or hand me the 10mm socket I just dropped in the engine bay and couldn’t fucking find if my life depended on it.

“Yeah, he is. But he pays his bill, at least.” I checked the clock on the shop wall. “Hey, where the hell is Handme? I thought he was supposed to be here by seven. It’s almost nine.”

“I think he had to take Lola somewhere.”

“Oh, right. He mentioned that yesterday.” I shook my head as I went back to work under the hood of Dodson’s Buick. “Poor kid.”

“What do you mean, ‘poor kid’? He’s getting laid all the time.”

“I mean, he’s a fucking mess over that girl.”

“So?”

“So it’s Handme. She’s gonna eat him alive and spit out his bones.”

McIntyre laughed from beneath a Ford Mustang. “He might enjoy that. I know I would.”

“You and Emily fighting again?” McIntyre was engaged to be married in six months—if he and his high-maintenance fiancée could stay together that long.

“She broke up with me last night.”

“What was it this time?”

“Hell if I know. I think her words were something like, ‘Because you’re an insensitive asshole who doesn’t care about anything important.’ But by important, she means shit like what color the flowers will be at the church or what flavor the wedding cake will be, or who sits where at the reception. What do I care about that stuff? It doesn’t matter!”

I couldn’t agree more, but I kept my mouth shut.

“It’s all bullshit,” he rambled on. “Why can’t we just say ‘I do’ at city hall and go drink beers afterward like normal people? I’ll even wear the suit.”

I laughed. “Got me. You’re the one who asked her to marry you.”

“I know, but it’s like she lost her mind with all this wedding stuff. She used to be so fun. We used to hang out and listen to music and talk about shit that matters, like cars and baseball. Now all we do is argue. I have to say I’m sorry like ten times a night.”

“So stop apologizing. Let her crawl back to you for once.”

“That could take weeks, Griff. I can’t wait that long to have sex. Not all of us have the discipline to be a celibate monk like you.”

“I’m not celibate, asshole. I’m just not a slave to my dick like everyone else who works here.”

“But don’t you miss it?” McIntyre asked.

Was he kidding? Of course I did. But needing something or someone so badly made you weak, and I prided myself on being strong. Sure, I was human like anyone else, and occasionally a cute ass in tight jeans got the better of me, but I always followed my rules: I was a one-night-only attraction, I always used protection, and I never slept over.

“There are more important things in life than sex,” I said.

“Like what?” McIntyre sounded genuinely curious.

“Like keeping this business alive despite the fact that we’re bleeding customers and Swifty Auto is soaking them up. Like finding time and money for hands-on training so we can stay up to date with advanced diagnostics. Like getting that small business loan so I can afford advertising, another mechanic, and better tools and software.” I straightened up and grabbed a blue shop towel. “Like winning the league championship.”

He rolled out from under the Mustang and looked at me, his expression somber. “Amen, brother.”

McIntyre and I played for the Bellamy Creek Bulldogs in a league my sister referred to as “old man baseball.” It’s true, we were all over thirty, not as agile or fast as we’d been in high school, and we consumed a lot more beer, but we took it very, very seriously. We lived for those Thursday night games, celebrating every victory—and drowning our sorrows after each defeat—at The Bulldog Pub, the bar that sponsored us. And it looked like this summer’s championship game would be a match-up between us and our most bitter rivals, the Mason City Mavericks. We’d won the title the last two years, and they were anxious to get it back.

“You’re coming to practice tonight, right?” I asked. McIntyre was our center fielder. He wasn’t a big hitter, but he was quick and had a good throwing arm.

“Definitely.” He paused. “If Emily says it’s okay.”

I shook my head—the guy was a hopeless case—and tossed the towel aside.

 

 

After closing the shop just after five, I locked the doors and re-entered the building from a door on the far left of the façade, which opened onto the staircase leading up to my apartment.

The garage was actually an old firehouse with two bays. It had been vacant for at least a decade before my grandfather bought it in 1955 and repurposed it into a service station. My father took it over in the early 1970s when my grandpa retired. Back then, they used the second story over the lobby as storage, but after I got out of the Marine Corps four years ago, my father offered to let me convert it into living space.

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