ISSUE 10
February 2000

Larry Smith

 

Larry Smith Larry Smith, the author of Beyond Rust, is the director of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio and managing editor of The Heartlands Today. A poet, essayist, and fiction writer, he currently teaches at Firelands College in Ohio. His biography of Kenneth Patchen is due out this spring from Bottom Dog Press.

Lou's Garage    


"Aaa-low? Lou’s. Whatchagot?"

...

"What’s it doin’? Doin’ it all the time?"

...

"Uh, huh, can you bring it in here?"

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"No, I can’t get to it till Thursday."

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"Up to you. Well, sounds to me like a clogged oil pump."

...

"Can’t say. Bring it in here and I’ll give it a listen. Okay. So long.

"Damn people wanting me to doctor their car over the telephone. Be holding their silly cellphones up to the engine next. Shit, I ain’t one of them Car Guys, for chrissake. Been doin’ this for more an forty years is all, and it never changes. People want all they can get for the least amount. And they want it done yesterday. Damn.... Could use the business though.

"Son, this here garage been reduced to mostly oil changes and fixing flats...all account of them computer wired engines. When I can get my money out a this place, I’m retiring, goin’ fishin’ Monday through Friday, leave the weekends for the idiots. Sit on my front porch with my new granddaughter telling stories and picking steak outta my teeth. Okay, maybe chicken. I don’t care."

...

"You remember I lost my pumps last year to the State. People don’t realize them tank regs was engineered by the Big Boys– BP and Marathon, the whole bunch wantin’ company owned stores, run us little guys out of business that way. That’s why I picked up the Quick-Lube. But hey, you know all that. I been telling you for years."

...

"Hey, I don’t blame you, son. I never wanted you to do what I done all my life. That’s why we sent you to college."

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"Hold on.... Aaa-low! Lou’s. Whatchagot?"

...

"Yeah. You the guy I was just talking to?"

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"Ballpark? Well, you understand without hearing it, I’m just guessin’, but I’d say two hundred for parts, maybe another hundred for labor."

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"Well, then take it to Sears, if they can beat that. I can’t. You know I ain’t even seen or heard the damn thing yet."

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"No, I ain’t swearing at you. No, sir. I just can’t do this over the phone."

...

"Okay. Okay. You bring her in tomorrow. I’ll get right on it. Yeah, well, so long."

"Course he don’t know, once he brings it in here, it’s mine. He ain’t getting it back till I’m damn good and ready. This is the way it goes here, the way things come around. What am I gonna do? I’m fighting over bones."

...

"Yeah, I hear you. Them big universities can’t give a raise, huh? Shit, it’s hard all over. You know, all my life I tell myself, don’t make trouble. There’s always gonna be mess. Don’t add to it. Only lately the trouble comes every day. And, shit, I know it’s all tied to money and pride. And then I tell myself, it shouldn’t be this way—at my age—I say—at my age. And where does that get me, thinking that? Rose, she lets me talk like this, then she says, ‘Lou, you know better than me, things is always going to fall apart. We all got to live with that.’ And she’s right, your mother. I helped teach her that. Hell, we learned it together. You mind me talking like this?"

...

"Well, you’re my boy, and I don’t know what’s going on between you and your wife. I just feel I can tell you this, between you and me, you know. When we was first married, she was as innocent as a bride. And her heart was a virgin too. She used to pack little notes into my lunch pail, and I’d open them at work and smile. Hell, sometimes I’d blush. I was a millwright then at Wheeling-Pitt. We was doing pretty good, your mom and me, but only enough to survive. You know, back then, that was all that mattered.

"What happens to that I don’t know. Soon enough someone starts looking around, seeing what others has got and you have not. They start taking in the eyes and building their little walls. Pretty soon, I started working two jobs—that’s how I got into running this station. Did I ever tell you about that? You come along, and one day I heard old Orin he was selling this garage, so we took a double mortgage and I laid a down payment on this place. How old are you, thirty?

...

"Well, it’s thirty years ago then. You know, son, I wanted it and I didn’t. It went along good for a month, and then it didn’t. I couldn’t run it all from the mill, and well, it was our first big mess. Things come falling apart, and one night in bed, while she was nursing you, I says to her back, ‘Rose, listen. I can’t do both jobs no more. I gotta quit the mill to run the garage, or we’ll lose both.’ It wasn’t easy talkin’ to her like that, hurtin’ her with the hard cold facts. It broke my heart too, son. You understand how a woman takes things in like that. I lay there hearing her little crying that night and had to go out to the couch. First time since we was married. I wasn’t mad, just sad about it all. And in the morning, there she was fixin’ me a breakfast of bacon and eggs, which we thought was good for you to eat, back then. And there was Rose leaning on the sink in her robe, and she says, ‘You call in sick, Hon, and we’ll go down and talk to the bank.’ Like that, she turned over a leaf, and we moved onto what was next."

...

"Right. Well, that’s a part of all this. See, you work in a garage and what you do is fix what’s broken, the mess of others. Hell, I did mufflers in here for ten years, if that ain’t a mess—all rusted and the bolts bustin’ off so’s you have to drill em out. Someone else’s problem, but you can’t think of it like that, you got to take it on as your own. Fix what’s there with what you got. You know? Sure you do."

...

"Yeah, well I could tell you two aren’t gettin’ along. Sure, that’s why I’m telling you some of this. See, I like Helen, I do, and you got the sweetest little girl in Jennie."

...

"Yeah, I know you know that. Let me finish, though. See, for us, it was always like that—we’d get into a mess, talk some, go away, then come back and keep things goin’ again. It’s what we done, have to get by facing it. And listen, I love that woman more for what she become than what she ever was. Here’s one more thing and I’ll shut up. I learned from working on cars to deal with the now. You know all that shit customers want to tell you about last week and what they think is wrong. You can’t listen to that. Listen to the car. You need to know how it’s been actin’ that day, see—no further back. And never, I mean never try to predict the future. People will ask you that—‘How long’ll it run?’ they’ll ask. I never answer them. It’ll run till it stops."

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"Regrets? They get you nowhere—running on empty. You can do more with anger or love in your tank. They make you move. Know what I mean? They take you along."

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"I know it’s not easy. Believe me I know. Only sometimes you bite back the snake that bit you, and sometimes you catch it and let it loose in the yard. You gotta know which works now.

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"Yeah, well, hey, it’s good to talk like this, but I got three more lube jobs coming in here. Why don’t you go down at Martello’s and pick up some good Italian sausage. Ask you mom to make some sauce for dinner. You go talk to your wife. Tell your mom, I’ll be home around six."

 

 

 

Larry Smith: Fiction
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 10The Cortland Review