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Of Carburetors and Creampuffs

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      Cracking her knuckles, Laura looked down into the engine bay of a 93’ Mazda B series with determination. She WOULD get the stupid timing belt and water pump replaced by lunch even if it meant she didn’t have time to get to the corner store for her cookie break. She had promised her dad she would meet him for lunch and she had cancelled last time so flaking out wasn’t an option. Even if it meant no cookies. Laura sighed and twisted her hair up and out of the way before rolling up the sleeves of her coveralls and diving in head first ‘cause really, was there any other way to do things?

 

***

 

      Laura scrubbed her hands over her face in frustration. Her parts distributor had given her the wrong water pump for the vehicle. The vehicle required one whose pulley had 20 teeth, NOT 25 like the one in the box sitting in front of her. Of course she hadn’t looked at it closely before taking the stupid truck apart. The fan, shroud, timing cover, and old water pump were all removed as well as the rest of the belts loosened and alternator and AC unit out of the way. She was halfway through the job and now didn’t have the right part. 

      She trudged toward the front desk, passing Lafontaine and Danny who were doing all the drive through oil changes for the day to allow Laura to focus on the mechanical work. They made a good team even though they seemingly had it out for each other. It probably had something to do with the fact that Laf was better with the customers which meant Danny was resigned to pit duty which didn’t really work well with her stature. She had to hunch over so as not to bump her head on the undercarriage of the vehicles above her head.

      Pushing through the shop door and behind the front counter, Laura was greeted with an ever frazzled Perry and a customer standing on the opposite side. Perry looked at Laura with a tight smile, “Laura! Thank goodness. This customer was just asking to speak to a mechanic about a strange sound his vehicle is making.”

      Looking towards the middle aged and fairly rumpled man Laura put on a bright smile and offered her hand, “Hey there! I’m Laura the owner and certified heavy duty mechanic.” The man just glared at her and didn’t raise his hand. Feeling a little off kilter Laura lowered hers and inquired “So what exactly is the problem with your vehicle? Could you describe the sound for me?”

      “I think you’ve misunderstood me. I wanted to speak to a mechanic yes but I was under the assumption that a man worked here. I want to speak to him, not..... you.” At that he sneered and waved his hand in Laura’s general direction. 

      Feeling her jaw setting Laura looked at the man with hardened eyes. “I’m sorry that I failed to live up to your expectations sir but I am the only red seal mechanic working at this establishment. And even if I wasn’t, we don’t need business from the likes of you. I will kindly ask you to leave my shop right now and don’t expect to be served here. Ever.”

      The man’s face had turned a blotchy red and his jowls were shaking in a comedic display of aggression. “Do you know who I am you little bitch? You and little Annie here need to treat me with the respect I deserve and I won’t have you speaking to me that way!”

      Perry had stiffened at the taunt and that was the straw that broke the camels back. Laura’s day was already trashed before coming in here but being cruel to her employee, her friend had just made it that much worse.

      “Okay first thing? You are going to apologize to Perry here, and then you are going to get. Out. Of. My. Shop. I don’t give a rats ass who you are, you don’t have the right to to speak to me or my employees that way.”

      “But-”

      “No. I have the right to refuse service and I am doing that right now. Apologize and leave.”

      He looked at Perry with a sneer before turning on his heel and striding out the front door. Laura turned and grabbed hold of her friends hands. “Hey, you okay?” Shaking a little Perry put on a brave smile “I’m a little upset but I’ll be okay. Thank you Laura for standing up to him. I couldn’t have done that myself.” 

      “Don’t worry about it. Do you need a break? I have to call my parts distributor anyway so I can cover the front for a bit if you want to get a breather.” Perry looked at her with a grateful smile and slipped through the second door in the front which lead to the office.

      This hadn’t been the first time a customer like that had come to the shop. Up until now though Perry hadn’t had to deal with any head on. Either Laura, Laf or Danny had been there to take care of it and they all had considerably thicker skin than dear Perry. Laura was sorry it couldn’t have stayed that way.

      Heaving a sigh she sat down at the stool and picked up the phones receiver ready to deliver a thorough tongue lashing to whoever answered her call.

 

***

 

      Finally having received the correct part from the hands of a delivery boy who was clearly resentful that he had to make a second trip that day, the truck was together again and Laura had just finished filling the cooling system with fresh coolant. She cleared the lines of any air and hopped in the drivers seat and started it up. She climbed out again to check for any leaks and finding none, she deemed it a job complete. Shutting the hood and opening the bay door, she drove the truck out into the lot and parked it before going back inside.

      It was a bit of a lull and everyone was taking advantage of it and were cleaning up any spills before the lunch rush came in.

      “Hey guys, I’m heading out for lunch. I won’t be long. Danny you’re in charge.” The girl in question beamed at Laura and lifted her chin proudly. She then side eyed Laf as if to make sure they had heard. Lafontaine rolled their eyes at the taller redhead, “Sure thing boss, say hi to papa Hollis for us.” 

      Laura smiled at her friends and headed to the little pub a block away to meet her dad.

 

***

 

      All things considered her day was going alright as of that moment. Lunch had been nice and she had finally put that awful incident out of her mind.

      She walked back to the shop and brought in her next project. A ford F-150 that she saw at least once a month for this or that. She kept trying to convince the owner Kirsch that he should just junk the poor thing and get a chev if he insisted on owning a vehicle made this decade. He always shrugged her advice off with a dopey grin and a laugh. The emergency brake had failed this time. Stupid thing had stuck which meant new bearings, drum cover, brake pads, the works. She had to hand it to the machine, when it failed it failed hard. 

      She was wrenching with all her might on the drum when she caught notice of the car that just pulled in for an oil change. It was a black 68’ camaro and in mint condition. At least cosmetically. She had to see if it looked as good under the hood so she got up and dusted her hands on her now admittedly filthy coveralls. 

      “Hey Laf, I’ll take the top on this one if you want to give Danny a break in the pit.” 

      Lafontaine grinned at the tiny brunette “How did I know you’d want to take point on this one? I swear when any old muscle shows up you drool puddles.”

      She swatted her friend on the arm with a smile while they headed downstairs. Laura grabbed a pen and paper to take the vehicle information and walked toward the drivers side of the car. Before she got there the door opened and out stepped the owner. And if she wasn’t drooling over the car already her reaction would have been embarrassing. The girl was as jaw dropping as the muscle machine. All black leather, red button down over a black tank, and combat boots to complete the look. Lightly curled black hair framed a pale and angular face with red lips and sinfully smokey eyes. Laura stood dumbly with her hand poised over the pad of paper.

      “You gonna stand there all day or are you going to ask me for my information cutie?” The girl smirked at Laura and propped her hip on the side of her car, arms crossed. Well shit.