With his heart pounding, he wished he could reach across and slap the look off the grease monkey’s face. Byron Lewis furrowed his brows, his angry stare directed across the counter to the smug mechanic named Cliff.
The garage had just replaced the same part on his car last month. They replaced it again, charging him almost double the price.
“Look, you’ve no right charging me double of what I’ve paid before. The damn thing was a faulty part, Cliff.”
“Sir, it’s been over the thirty day guarantee. We have to charge you.”
“Why? It’s not my fault you guys installed a bad part. What the hell kind of business is the old man running?”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“Yup. You’re sorry alright. You’ll just have to bill me. I’m not paying anything today, Cliff. You’re not getting a goddamn dime.”
“I must consult my manager, Mister Lewis.”
“You do that. I’m outta here.”
Byron stormed out of the garage, practically pushing the heavy door of its hinges and climbed into his comfortable, yet very used car.
I am so fed up with this whole deal. The fuckin’ car, too.
The model of car he drove had been recalled twice by the manufacturer. One time for the brakes. One other time for the steering column.
No way am I doing more business with this dealer and his incompetent mechanics.
Byron started the car and sat for a moment, thinking of the ad on TV last night. A car dealer in the small town twenty miles down South was promoting end of season discounts on lease returns. Surely he could get a better deal down there.
Screw it. He put the car in gear, hit the road and pointed the old car south.
It was a misty, wet sloppy day. Misty clouds of dirty wetness from the two lane road flew up behind his car.
Not much traffic, so Byron set the cruise control at fifty five.
But, not for long. He caught up with a slower car in a hurry. His cruise control would not disengage, even when he hit the brakes.
With his butt cheeks squeezed, grabbing a hold on the seat while his heart pounding, he swerved to the wet, graveled shoulder of the road, narrowly missing an old Pontiac.
He flew by six cars before the highway ahead opened up. Miraculously, he managed to move the car back to the wet pavement.
Safe for the moment, Byron persisted messing with the cruise control button until it finally disengaged. He let out a sigh of relief.
Only another twelve miles to travel. Then I can pick out a newer model car. Maybe a pickup.
A few miles along he was on top of a new stretch of pavement. He enjoyed anytime he could drive on a road with no potholes. Two more ‘Stop’ signs, the second crossroad a right hand turn into the small town.
Byron’s cell phone buzzed. Caller I D showed the mechanic at the car garage.
“Mister Lewis. Hi, this is Cliff. Um, my manager says we’ll bill you through the mail. However, we will apply an extra processing fee.”
“Fuck you, Cliff.”
“Thank you, Sir. You can avoid the extra fee if you pay in person tomorrow.”
“Take your extra fee and shove it, Cliff.”
Disconnecting the call, Byron took a few deep breaths, trying to calm down before his blood pressure spiked again.
The first intersection was quickly approaching, so Byron began to softly apply the brakes, pressing on the brake pedal…harder. No response.
He would be going through the intersection, heart pounding through the ‘Stop’ sign.
Byron almost made it. An Eastbound car clipped his rear bumper, sliding the car askew for about a hundred feet. The man in the rear view mirror looked to be shaking a fist and hollering obscenities.
I can’t stop, dammit!
His shock dwindled as Byron realized his brakes were now, in fact working. However, the throttle was stuck open. And, the car wasn’t slowing down.
The second ‘Stop’ sign, fast approaching, about four miles away. A right turn to the new car dealer’s.
Can I make the turn?
There’s no damn way to do it, man.
Will my brakes work if I shut down the motor?
Doubt it very much.
He picked up his cell phone off the car seat. Dialed 911. He gave his approximate location and his immediate problem.
“We’ll send a trooper right away, Sir.”
What the fuck is a trooper gonna do?
Byron gritted his teeth, saying a brief prayer. He would have to go through the intersection. The crossroad appeared busy.
Running quicker than a scared rabbit, Byron drove cleanly through the intersection. But, not before pissing off a few other drivers. They leaned on their horns.
With the highway looking pretty straight, he decided to shut off the motor. The car began to slow down…55mph…52…48…45.
At 30 miles per hour, he fought the locked steering wheel to the gravel shoulder. The right side tires hit a few larger stones and a few pieces of lumber.
His car slowed a little more, but not before the vehicle was sent into a spin.
Fighting the unresponsive steering wheel to no avail, the car bounced sideways, coming to a screeching halt, back onto the wet tarmac of the two lane highway.
Byron, heart pounding and gasping, sat in his pissed pants. Didn’t care. I’m alive!
Still gripping the steering wheel with both hands, he leaned his forehead against the wheel, let out an exasperated sigh, giving thanks to the Almighty.
He never saw or heard the eighteen wheeler coming around the nearby curve, Northbound.
The repair bill, with processing fees, arrived in the mail. Same day as Byron’s funeral.
Cliff paid his last respects.