Monday, January 21, 2008


The soft white flakes had just begun to fall, each one floating gently, slowly down as if to prolong the time it had before it would melt helplessly on the quickly moistening ground. His boots routinely trudged along the familiar path to the side door of the garage.

Inside, he flicked the light-switch, the cold of the morning causing the ballast of the fluorescent lights to hum as the overhead lights flickered and struggled to life. In the slowly brightening chemical glow mixed with the sunlight from the windows, he made his way to the far side of the shop, weaving between the customers’ cars in various states of disarray. Today’s project sat in the corner, away from busy work that paid the bills. He slowly pulled back the tarp, looking at the familiar lines of the car he’d known for so long. He knew every angle and every curve as well as he knew himself, maybe better.

He put the tarp away, stealing a glance out the window. The snow was falling harder now, the flakes quickly giving up on their ill-fated attempt to stay afloat and plummeting to the rapidly cooling earth. Small patches appeared on the ground, expanding islands of white in a damp sea of the black asphalt parking lot.

He ran his hands along the car’s rear fender, his experienced fingers feeling the ripples of decay underneath - hidden from view only by a thin layer of green paint. At the workbench he picks up the orbital sander and pulls a circle of sandpaper from the roll. He sprays the disc and smoothes it over the head of the sander as he makes his way back to the car. The tool makes a familiar whir as he switches it on and soon it is covered in faded green dust that matches the car. The green gives way to gray and then silver - all surrounding the familiar pink hue of a years-old fiberglass patch and the deep umber of rust that has bubbled up around and through the old repair. More sanding reveals the extent of the damage, and the sander is exchanged for a wire-brush wheel.

A quick glance out the window shows a stark reversal in color. Islands and seas have switched places, now it is shrinking dark patches that struggle to stand up to an encroaching sea of white.

The wire brush does its job, digging out fiberglass and oxidized steel, leaving a hole-scarred, pock-marked, swath of silver metal in an expanse of green. He leans down and inspects the metal closely, removing his safety glasses and positioning himself in the best light. Deep within the marks, beyond the reach of the bristles, he can still see tiny pockets of brown. Another pass with the wire brush makes no difference. Neither does a different brush. The man sighs and hangs up the brush, he walks over to the mixing bench and gets down the can of fiberglass and the hardener. His hands scoop out the pink fibrous mud and he scrapes it absentmindedly onto a mixing board. Almost without thinking he measures out a portion of the hardener and begins to mix the compounds together and get the patching process started.

As his hands continue the familiar work, he looks out the window situated above this bench. From here he can see the whole parking lot and the street on the other side. Nearly everything he sees is white. It looks clean and fresh, unspoiled and untainted. No plow trucks have gone by, no footsteps have trampled the snow. From his point of view, the world looks perfect.

His hands still at work, his gaze moves closer to the shop and suddenly his eyes stop. There, in front of the far garage door is a spot, a blemish, a scar. He watches as white flakes continue to fall on the spot and instantly disappear into black - powerless to cover this one spot of ground. A month prior one of the mechanics spilled a basin of used oil there and the fluid soaked into the asphalt before it was sopped up. Now, the normally invisible stain was all too obvious and it glared at the man through the glass.

He looked at the spot and then at the silver swath of fender. He saw the invisible stain and the barely visible spots of rust. He saw the mix of green, gray and pink dust that had fallen throughout his work area and at the pink mixture on the board before him. He scraped the mixture into the trash and swept up the floor. Putting away the broom, he pulled out the die grinder and cutting wheel. The falling flakes of snow that had captured his attention in the window were replaced by shooting sparks of flaming hot metal that flew from the grinder’s wheel as he cut out the diseased section of metal from the fender.

As he searched through the sheet metal bin, looking for a piece to fill his newly created hole, he thought about his decision, the oil under the snow and the rust buried in the fender. This wasn’t someone else’s car, it was his. This wasn’t a paycheck, it was his passion. This mattered to him, it was important. He knew the only way to fix the problem was to get to the root of it, cut it out and rebuild it. Anything less would just be a temporary remedy, another patch that would have to be replaced in time. Things this important shouldn’t be patched, they should be fixed.

He picked his piece of metal from the bin and carried it with him as he walked back across the shop. He walked right past the cutting tools and right past the welding equipment. He set the piece of metal down and reached for the shop telephone. His fingers brusquely punched in the numbers and he scarcely breathed until someone picked up.

“Hey, its me.”
“Yeah it has been a while. And I’m sorry for that.”
“No, no excuses.”
“Uh... We need to talk - can we meet and talk? - I... I want to fix really fix us.”

1 comment:

cassandra said...

Did I ever tell you that this is beautiful?