After finishing a book, and crying and crying because that was THE END (for with a good book, one falls so deeply in love with the characters), I finally went to sleep with Charlie at my side. Six hours later, Richard woke me, and I showered and dressed for work. As we left, Enrique (who was still asleep) called out "Leaving early again?" and I said "Early? It's nearly nine-fifteen!"

"Don't worry, my brother is asleep," Richard said, and we crept out of the basement to the red Audi. I had Weezer's Pinkerton for the ride to work. Richard had told me earlier that morning that Enrique was not going into the store, which was fine, because that meant I would ride shotgun. Navigator.

Then we were driving along the Van Wyck over snow and ice, bottoms warm in heated seats, ears filled with Rivers Cuomo screaming his head off when Richard peered uneasily into the rearview mirror. "I don't like the look of that," he said, but I couldn't see whatever it was, so I got back to singing softly to myself. I was still thinking about the book and how the people I love are gone, or at least forever locked into their final fates. I was almost crying again when the noise came.

Chucka-chucka-chucka ... and the road is pockmarked under us, or the car is dancing.

"Fuck," Richard said, and we pulled into the right lane slowly, as cars honked in anger because now they would be a second later arriving at their destination. Once the car was nestled safely in a shoulder, he opened the trunk and (ignoring the freezing air) removed the contents, piece by piece, looking for the wrench and the jack. Though my hair was wet, I stood outside with him, rubbing my hands together and shuffling about in the grass. More cars honked as they drove by. Richard smiled at me. "They're honking at my ass," he said.

I laughed and climbed onto a concrete slab that was lying there. I hopped from foot to foot, and felt the snot in my nose liquefy. Richard found the jack but couldn't loose it from the trunk. While he pulled at it, and his breath was making smoke rings in dusty morning air, a police H.E.L.P truck pulled up behind us. It was driven by a fat man clad head to toe in bright safety orange. Richard went over and spoke to the man, and I followed watching the exchange between the huge man in orange and the always jovial Richard. I caught part of it.

"...not here, go to the exit, it's right nearbye," old fatty said.

"But I'll ruin my rim if I drive it that far, and I don't want to get into an accident."

It was the closest I'd seen Richard to getting irritated by the flat tire. Finally, we packed the contents of the trunk willy-nilly back into the Audi and carefully drove to the gas station, slowly, while angry men in bright shiny Mercedes and big burly SUVs shook their fists at us, because we were too slow.

At the station, things looked more grim, because when we unpacked the car for a second time, we found that the wrench was broken and there is no way we could turn the lug nuts. On top of this, we were gathering a entourage of watchers. Big, scary men surrounded me as I watched Richard try again and again to make the cracked wrench fit tight around the nuts. But of course, he was still ever optimistic, and smiled up at a particularly large man. I watched, holding my breath, not sure what would happen. And then the man smiled back down and Richard and took the wrench and did his best to bend it to his will, all the time laughing happily and muttering "Two dollars."

Then another and another came by, but none had a metric wrench until one tiny man fairly screamed with joy (much to Richard's delight) "I have metric tools, fuck yeah, I have metric tools, fuck yeah!"

I laughed and the big man laughed with me. "You got metric tools buddy?" ... "Fuck yeah, yeah!" ... "Two dollars!"

Soon, the donut was on, and we handed over the only money we had to the little man, and he gave a dollar to the big man, who was laughing and laughing. Richard was smiling, because his spare was on and his point was proven: It could always be worse. I was happy because we could get back into the car, and have a little heat, finally. My hands were nearly frozen. I wondered at Richard because he hadn't been wearing gloves.

"Two dollars?" an uncertain, but jovial voice called out, and there was the big man. He'd stayed behind when the small man drove off. "You want some change? I have change in the car," Richard answered.

The man took the change, and beamed at Richard. "I love you," he said, and walked off to do other things at the gas station. I tried to figure if he was an employee or a strange homeless man. We got into the car, and turned the heat on high, and the heated seats up to warm our bottoms. And I thought, he was right, it could always be worse.