When the temperatures soar and the humidity is such that distant muscle memory of gills springs unbidden to one’s mind, what does the thinking woman do?
Go to the lake? To a pool perhaps? An air-conditioned theater, maybe?
Would you believe a backyard, sweat dripping from the end of my nose?
I blame my car.
My car! What an unbelievably precarious thing is my car!
The front bumper? Lost in an unfortunate car versus iced-over alley confrontation.
The driver’s side window? Can’t be lowered more than three inches without running off the track.
And if you’ll just turn the music down a touch, you’ll notice that the front end makes an interesting R2D2-meets-wet-Gremlin sound that make women heading into grocery stores turn around and frown in confusion.
What is that sound?
And now? The brakes. The soft, holy-hannah-that-was-close brakes.
For cryin’ out loud, will it never end?
So that’s where I am. I am in Mary’s backyard. With Mary. Watching Jon replace several feet of brake line.
“The neighbors are afraid of us,” Mary says.
“Well look at ya…”
“They’re afraid of us, aren’t they, Jon?”
“Who?” Jon’s voice is muffled by the Honda’s undercarriage.
“The neighbors.” Mary points across the alley. “Over there.”
“That house?” I say, pointing to where the new people have moved in.
Jon wiggles out from under the car, stares upwards thoughtfully, carefully wipes his extra-long screwdriver with a stained blue rag. “Is that it?” he says, dryly. “We’re pointing now?”
“That’s ‘cause we’re crass, aren’t we, honey?” There’s no response from Jon. “Honey? Aren’t we crass?”
Jon is already on his back. “We don’t talk like that,” he says.
He’s back under the car. “Now you’re gonna want to take a look at this,” he says. “Here’s your problem.” From under the car, he holds out a leprous, scabby length of 3/16th piping.
“It’s a weeper,” he says.
I look at Mary. She shrugs. I look at Jon.
“It’s a weeper,” he explains. “There’s no actual hole – this is the length just behind that rusted-out wheel you used to have. You wouldn’t have seen a puddle under the car. It was just weeping out, slowly.”
Mary starts chuckling, low and musical. It’s a sound she makes when she’s got something going upstairs. “You know what this means, don’t you, Pearl?”
I’m grinning already.
“It means don’t fear the weeper,” she grins, blue eyes shining. She turns and shouts toward Jon. “Doesn’t it, honey?”
“I’ve always enjoyed a little Blue Oyster Cult,” I offer.
From under the car, Jon sighs in resignation.
The sky hangs low in grey and blue clouds, the deluge of the night before clings to the ground. It’s hot, it’s humid, and there are Japanese beetles everywhere, looking for all the world like tiny and expensive brooches.
The air compressor has kicked on with a mighty thump. WHIRRRRRRRR.
Jon removes the left front wheel. Mary climbs into the driver’s side, her head hangs back, her face red in the heat.
Jon wipes his face with his tee-shirt.
“Pump it twice. Now let it up. Now push it to the floor.”
Again and again, he repeats this litany, and again and again, Mary does as he says. “Pump it twice. Now let it up. Now push it to the floor”. Eventually the brake fluid runs clear, no air spurts.
That's one fewer thing wrong with the Honda.
She lives to brake another day.
And as Jon likes to say, he killed it.