Nine-Sixteenths – Pauli

Chasing parts for a pump repair back at the farm, I found myself downtown last week.  Passed by the always open bay door of Pauli’s Auto Repair Shop. 

There’s no Pauli there anymore. 

Pauli was Dave’s dad, a widower for years.  As a matter of fact, I can’t myself remember Dave’s mom and I fancy Dave and I grew up pretty much two halves of the same walnut. I’m not sure Dave remembers her either.  When I bump into him and we chat – this, that, and the other – Dave talks about Pauli, but has never that I recall mentioned his mom.

Folks drove from the city to have Pauli’s mechanics do auto repairs – after warranties expired, you know.  Pauli and his men were, you could guess from that, the best around, and Pauli kept prices reasonable and always shot straight. 

All the bad jokes and reality of fathers set in their ways and sons smarter than their fathers bumping heads aside, Pauli did okay as a single parent.   Better than okay, Pauli did a fine job with his only son, Dave.  When not playing baseball, basketball, or football, or across the county in debate competition, Dave worked in Pauli’s shop.  And learned.  He was a natural. Got it honest.

Dave deferred college for a stint in the service, then doubled-back to the state university.  Jump-starting his studies in the service, he quickly finished his undergrad work and got himself into law school.  That ended when Pauli suffered a massive and immediately fatal heart attack.

Dave took over the shop.  No more law studies.  Reckon Dave loved his pop more than anyone knew.  Kept the shop going to have his pop somehow still there.

Anyway, passing by, late in the afternoon last week, quitting time, I popped into the shop to jaw with Dave.  His men were washing off grease and grime, done for the day.  Except one, who was working on a bicycle a kid had brought to the shop with a chain that kept slipping loose.  Pauli’s does those kinds of repairs free, fast and on-demand. 

Quitting time aside, Dave had his head inside the hood of that old Chevy – Pauli’s pride and joy, now Dave’s.  Dave junior was helping Dave.  Already learning from the master.  He spent, from what I’d seen, a lot of time in the shop, not yet old enough for high school sports. Or debate. Or law school.

Dave twisted his neck so he faced across the engine to his rollaway tool chest and spoke to his son, “Davie!”

“Yes, Pop?”

“Hand me a nine-sixteenth boxend, would ya, please?”

“Yes Pop.”  The lad tiptoed to see into the open drawer he knew would hold the requested wrench.  He grabbed one and turned to take the three steps to his daddy but dropped the wrench.  It clattered singsong on the cement the way every mechanic – Fred Flintstone, Fred Mertz, Fred McMurray, you, and I would recognize.

“No, son. I want the nine-sixteenth.  That’s a five-eights.”

I noticed Davie had not handed the wrench to Dave.  So did Davie.  Davie picked the wrench from the floor, examined it, smiled, and promptly headed back to the tool chest.  He dove into the upper drawer again.

Taking the few steps necessary to hand the wrench to his daddy, Davie asked, “Daddy, how’d you know I didn’t get the nine-sixteenth?”

“Easy, Davie, from the sound.  What you dropped was clearly a five-eighths, combination.  Sounds different.”

All Davie could reply was, “Oh.” 

Frankly, that’s exactly what I was thinking.

Dave has been working in the shop so long he’s developed mechanic’s skills beyond the comprehension of most mortals. So it seems.  Can’t help but think he’d have been one hellova lawyer.

© SP Wilcenski 2020

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