A New Acquaintance

Not long after I moved to town, my car needed a service. I took a stroll down to the garage at the end of the street. It was a two door affair with a cracked office window. Both doors were up but only one of the bays was holding a vehicle. I stepped in through the other doorway, looked at the tools resting neatly on the workbench and cork board behind it. The floor was clean and recently swept.

“Hi,” I addressed a pair of scuffed work boots sticking out from under the car. One boot was untied, the lace trailing away across the concrete floor like a line trolling for trout.

“OK, hold on,” a high, thin voice floated up from under the car.

After a minute he rolled out and stood up, wiping his hands on a rag. His coveralls were threadbare but had clearly been clean that morning. He was tall and fit, weighing maybe 150 lbs. Sandy hair flew long from under the ball cap, curling over his ears. His fingers were yellowed by nicotine and his hands and wrists looked strong.

It was his face that caught my attention. It was marred by a long red scar that ran from the hairline at the top of his left ear, across his nose and finished under the outer corner of his right eye. He saw me looking and one hand moved in reflex to shield it.

“Can I help you?” He was curt but that voice would have a hard time in a crowd. His pale blue eyes met mine briefly and then danced away as he ducked his head to look at his hands. The shadow of the brim of his cap fell across his face.

“I’m just checking to see if you’d have time and to ask what you’d charge to do an oil change and rotate my tires.”

He looked over my shoulder. “What sort of car do you have?”

“6 year old Camry,” I said, “six cylinder.”

“Well, I’m a little busy.” He sounded less than interested. Maybe he had jobs lined up for a couple of days and didn’t think mine was worth the interruption.

“OK, well, any suggestions where I should take it?”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it!” He shook his head in frustration, busily rubbing his bicep and then both hands flew back to the scar. His right hand stayed to tug and fiddle with his left ear, his elbow high, casting a shadow across most of his face. I wondered if his tone was more about nerves than impatience. He seemed uncomfortable with a new contact and I guessed that I wasn’t the only one to get this sort of reaction.

“Oh. well, could I bring it in tomorrow morning then? Would it be done by end of day?”

His eyes skittered to mine and then away as he ducked his head again. “I guess. I open at 8.”

“If you’re too busy…” I let it hang.

He became agitated. “No, no, I can do it,” His eyes rose to meet mine, “I charge $45 an hour plus parts and fluids,” he became a little defensive, his voice rising a bit, “I give all your old parts back to you.”

“That’s fine. It’s good to find a place so close to home,” I said quietly, trying to soften the conversation. I knew it was a good rate. “I’ll bring it by in the morning.”

He paused, as if surprised. He wiped his hands again, suddenly sticking one out to shake. “I’m Marvin,” he said, “I’ll show you where to park the car and leave the keys. Then we can go into the office and I’ll take some details.” ©

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