Reasons for Mechanics


"Why do you suppose the car broke down?"
"Well, that fan belt was seven years old, so it was bound to break soon."
"No no no. That's a cause. I mean, like, what was the reason? Like why did God choose that moment to have it break down?"
"I don't think there was a reason. It just happened. Why do you always think there has to be a reason for everything?"
"Don't you believe in Divine Providence?"
"I thought Divine Providence was when God steps in and changes things because they aren't working out as they should."
"Oh. I thought it meant that everything that happens happens for a reason. Like God planned it that way in order to achieve certain things."
"So you think that our car broke down because if it hadn't, things wouldn't turn out the way God wanted?"
"Exactly."
"That's hogwash."
"Scott!"
"Penny!" he mocked her. "Really. It's a ridiculous idea. You actually believe that?"
"Well I have to. It's part of my religion."



They came to a door and Scott opened it for Penny. His glasses kept sliding down his nose. His forehead and red cheeks were damp. The light brown shorts and the T-shirt he wore had small patches of sweat on them. He watched Penny as she trudged through the doorway.
"You talk to them. I'm going to get a soda," she said, turning around and blocking his way. Her blonde hair was tied with a small black band into a sloppy tail on the back of her head. The sudden turn left it swinging back and forth. She stood with her hips slanted, one hand digging in a pocket for some quarters and the other dangling in front of her.
A sign on the wall behind the man at the cash register read

PLEASE ENTER AND EXIT QUICKLY. WE HAVE OUR REASONS.

The letters were black on a road-sign orange background.
Scott was looking at it while Penny spoke to him. He placed his hands on her shoulders and attempted to move her inside. She leaned against his hands, a smile creeping across her face. She lifted her free hand to his chest and pushed him.
"You want one?"
One of Scott's hands fell from her shoulder and grabbed the arm against his chest. He twisted her body toward the sign, but she resisted and remained facing him. Her hips had become level in the effort.
The cash register sat on a greasy counter top. It was an old register with mechanical digit indicators and dirty keys. The man behind it had dark wavy hair. Dirty grease splotches and oil stains decorated his denim overalls. The breast pocket of the overalls held a pack of cigarettes and a pen. Under the edges of the clear torn plastic surrounding the pack of cigarettes, and in the crevice between the top and bottom halves of the pen, was more dirty grease. The deep creases in his knuckles were black with it.
"Can you two please not dance in our doorway? We like to keep the flies out," he said gruffly.
"Yeah. A Coke." said Scott to Penny as she walked back outside.
Under the counter with the cash register on it were two wooden shelves. Books containing part numbers from hundreds of cars lined the top shelf. The edges of the ten or twenty thousand pages were smeared with grease. On the bottom shelf there was an empty five gallon gas can, a dust free rectangular area about the same size, and a trash receptacle.
"You here to pick up your car?" asked the greasy man from behind the cash register. Scott nodded 'yes' to him. "The little black Honda, right?" Scott nodded again. Grease man went through the back door and returned with a car key and a clipboard.
"It's 134 bucks. Sign here."
Scott took the clipboard. Edges of paper stuck out on every side, some folded under or over, some torn off and some crinkled up like little accordions. A thin nylon rope emerged from a strip of tape wound around the pen and terminated in a heavily knotted loop through a hole in the clipboard. He signed where there was a circled X.
Grease man tore out the yellow sheet and gave it to Scott.
"Thanks." Scott took the key and the paper to the front door and exited quickly. A fly buzzed into the room before the door closed completely. Penny met him outside, handed him a can and they began walking to their car. The fly buzzed loudly up to the ceiling where it landed for a few seconds.
Another mechanic came into the lobby from the back office. His hair was light brown and curly. A dark grease mark invaded the sparse stubble on his left cheek. His blond eyebrows made his eyes look beady. He was holding a can of soda covered with tiny patches of moisture. Some of the patches around his fingers ran togoether and slid down down the side of the can. Along the way, they picked up more patches, eventually dripping off the bottom of the can, and splattering onto the concrete floor where they quickly evaporated. An almost clean white patch on the mechanic's overalls had 'Ed' embroidered on it in large cursive.
"God it's hot out there," said Ed. He walked around the counter and toward the front door where there was a couch and a little wooden table with magazines on it. "Do we have non-flammable lubricating spray? This guy's carburetion chamber valve pin is caked with carbonized retro-exhaust. I guess premature ignition in the fuel chamber pushes the exhaust out the wrong valve."
"Ed, why do you have to come in here and try to impress me with your knowledge all the time? You know where the lubricants are. Look for it yourself." Grease man pulled out his pack of cigarettes.
Ed sat down on the couch. The foam in the arms of the couch peeked out between the olive green threads. Dirt had collected in the wooden curls that climbed the front of the arms. Ed sat on a cushion whose thin plastic seam-wire had escaped the cloth tube at the corners.
"Hey, you still kill flies in the garage?" asked grease man.
"Hardy har har." said Ed. He had begun flipping through the pages of The National Geographic. His soda was creating a ring of moisture on the ring filled surface of the table. Each time he picked it up and set it down again, a new ring was started.
"Well why don't you get that one?" Grease man pointed into the air. He followed the fly for a few seconds and then took a lighter out of his left pants pocket. He leaned over and put his elbows on the counter. In one hand he held the lighter and in the other a cigarette. Before he got it lit, a loud bang from behind startled him. He stood straight up and spun around.
A third mechanic had entered the lobby from the back door. Shocks of his straight red hair peeked out from under a baseball cap. He carried a five gallon gas can which had apparently crashed into the side of the doorway. The patch on his uniform was a clean white except for the word 'Sam.'
"You scared the shit outta me, you bastard."
Sam squatted to put the can away.
"Is that empty?" asked grease man.
"Well, uh, pretty much."
"Well, uh..." he mocked Sam, "Why don't you go across the street and fill it up? And take the other one too."
The sounds of hollow metal clanged around the room while Sam pulled the two cans out from under the counter. They were both red, with 'Gasoline' written in yellow on the front and back and a metal seam going up one side. Wide strips of metal served as handles, arching from the front to the back on each can. The top and bottom were an unpainted rusty-brown. One of them did not have a cap.
"Where the hell is the cap to that can?"
Sam put the cans on the floor and patted his thighs. His right hand dove into a pocket and produced the gas can cap. He showed it to each of the other two (though Ed was paying too much attention to the fly to notice), shoved it back into his pocket, and picked the cans up again. He walked around the counter and turned toward the door.
"Make sure you get a receipt. And you should put the cap on that thing."
Grease man watched Sam saunter across the lobby. He employed his lighter and produced a small flame. Holding the tip of the cigarette in the flame, he sucked in air in little puffs. The material at the end of the cigarette turned bright red as he took in a relaxing breath of smoke.
Ed leapt into the air, his hands coming together around the fly. At the zenith of his flight, his right knee caught Sam square in the back. Sam's arms went flying apart and he let go of the gas cans. The open one headed straight for the cash register. Grease man's cigarette lit the fumes inside the open gas can.



"Remember when we were standing in the doorway?" asked Penny.
"Not really, wait- Oh yeah, and he asked us to stop dancing?"
"Yeah, he asked us-"
"Didn't you see their sign?"
"Listen, suppose a fly did get in..."
"You didn't see the sign."
"Shut up and listen -"
"There was a sign - it was kind of neat - it said-"
"Ok. What did the damn sign say?"
"Something like 'If your entries and exits...' No, wait, it started out 'Please... Please make your entries and exits...' I can't remember it."
"Ok Ok, I didn't see it. But look... If a fly did get in, there was a reason that it got in."
"Like what? That's ridiculous."
"Why? We have no idea how God does things. I mean, He might know that the fly carries some kind of disease, and that the mechanic there has a brother who has that disease. So maybe he's going to go see his brother and the only way for him to avoid catching the disease is if he already has an immunity built up to it. So the fly lands on his sandwich-"
"And barfs, like flies always do when they land..."
"They do not."
"How do you know?"
"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard. Flies barfing every time they land. Ha!"
"Wait! Did you hear that?"
"Thunder?"
"No way. Look, there's no clouds."
"Maybe a sonic boom? But jets don't fly around here."
"Maybe they're blasting away some mountain."
"Maybe."
"Well anyway, how do you think flies transmit diseases so easily?"
"Well, maybe you're right. That guy didn't have a sandwich anyway."
"Oh my god! Look!"

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.