A collection of fictional short stories based in the small town of Cardinal City.
©2011 Aaron M. Fugate

Wednesday, March 23, 2011



                “Hey, Randy, did you fix the transmission on the Grand Prix?” asked Marc Bevel, the “new guy” at R&T Automotive in Cardinal City. Marc had been working for about two weeks at R&T, having impressed Randy and Troy Alliman, his new employers, with his résumé of nearly a lifetime fixing vehicles.
                Randy paused for a moment, surprised. “Marc, you-you don’t just ‘fix’ a transmission like that. It needs to be replaced. I should think you would know that,” he replied.
                “Well, of course, that’s what I meant. Have you changed the transmission yet?”
                Randy slowly put his grease-coated tools into his tool belt and walked over to where Marc was standing, his head poked under the hood of the Grand Prix. Randy chuckled. “I don’t know, Marc. You tell me. Have I changed it?”
                Marc shot Randy a displeased look. “Randy, you know I’m rusty. Even though I’ve been fixing cars for pretty much my whole life, I haven’t done it in a while. I’m not as sharp as I used to be. We’ve gone through this before.”
                “Yes, we have. Too many times, I think. Marc, you’d better sharpen up real quick, or look for a new job. Now, back to the matter at hand. How would you be able to tell whether or not this has a new transmission?”
                The door blew open with a blast of fresh spring air, and Troy Alliman walked into the garage. “Sorry, I’m late, guys, but my wife insisted on teaching me diaper-changing one-oh-one,” he announced.
                “Say, how’s Nathan doin’ these days? I don’t get to see my nephew very often lately,” Randy queried.
                “Growin’ like a weed! He probably eats more than his mom does. At one and a half, he’s got the appetite of a three-year-old! Now, before he was born, it was Shawna who was about to eat me out of house and home, since she had to eat for the both of them,” Troy said, laughing. “So, what’s going on with the Grand Prix?”
                “Randy’s givin’ me the ol’ third degree about the transmission,” Marc spoke up.
                “Oh, you mean the one I replaced yesterday? What’s wrong? Somethin’ wrong with it?”
                Randy glared at Marc. “Lucked out this time.”
                Marc shrugged. “That’s what I was gonna say,” he grinned.
                “Well, guys, let’s put aside our differences and get to work,” Troy said, breaking a moment’s awkward silence. “We have a ton of work to do. Marc, can you call Greg Cutler, and tell him the Grand Prix is done? His number’s in the pile of papers on my desk.”
                “All right. I’ll be right back,” Marc replied as he headed toward the office.
                After Marc was gone, Randy headed over to his brother. “Troy, this not about personal differences, and you know it. Marc simply doesn’t know what he’s doing around here. He asked me today if the transmission had been ‘fixed’. He probably doesn’t know a fan belt from the Sunbelt.”
                “Randy, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Just because Marc is a little out of practice doesn’t mean he can’t be a help around here. I’m sure he isn’t messing up that phone call,” Troy returned.
                “If he isn’t, it’s about the only thing he knows how to do right. We’re lucky he hasn’t put us out of business. Did you see how long it took him to change the oil on that Silhouette last week? He must have been trying to set a world record for most oil wasted and longest oil change.”
                “You know what? It wasn’t that bad,” Troy shot back. “You have got to let up on him. He’s gonna be fine. Besides, you need to start working and stop talkin’ so much.”
                “What?! Listen, Troy, if you weren’t my brother, I’d – Listen to us, arguing like we were schoolkids. Whatever the case, we gotta stop fighting with each other.”
                “Yeah, whatever,” Troy answered, obviously not in a peacemaking mood, and turned away to start work on a green coupe.


                “Marc told me something yesterday,” Troy informed Randy the next day, which was Tuesday, and Marc’s day off.
                “What was that?” Randy answered coolly. The tension between the two brothers had not relaxed overnight.
                “He said that you didn’t let him drive any of the cars around the garage.”
                Randy started. “What’s wrong with that? I don’t want him drivin’ off with one, or running into somethin’.”
                “Hah! You make it sound like he’s a jailbird or something. What’s he gonna run into? He’s a good driver.”
                “Yeah, well around here you have to earn responsibility like that. And in my opinion, he’s not even close.”
                “Well, in my opinion, he’s plenty ready. I’m gonna start letting him drive some of the cars around here.”
                “Troy, don’t! He can’t handle that!”
                “Listen, bro, who was born first, huh?”
                “You were. What does that have to do with anything?”
                “Well, who got more of the auto shop in his inheritance?”
                Randy growled, “You did.”
                “All right. That means I get to make those decisions! Besides, I hired him!” Troy said triumphantly and strode over into the office.
                Randy merely glared after him.

                Randy had finally become fed up with the pressure between himself Troy. He had made it clear that he was not going to come in the following Monday, unless Troy let Marc go. Troy, of course, would not agree to that, and that was why he and Marc were alone that spring Monday, working in the garage.
                “All right, Troy, I’ve got the windows cleaned on the Voyager. What’s next?” asked Marc.
                “You can drive the LKX5 onto the lift for me,” Troy responded. Something nagged at the back of his mind, however. This is one of the most expensive cars I’ve ever serviced. Should I really let Marc drive it? He pushed the thought out of his mind quickly as he handed the car’s keys to Marc.
                “Okay. Hey, Troy, how much do you think this car costs?”
                “More than the three we did on Saturday put together, that’s for sure.” Troy turned his back to Marc and began wiping the hood of a gray sedan. He was not surprised when he heard the roar of the car as it started. What surprised him was when he heard it pulling toward the open garage door. He whirled around and saw Marc pulling the car out of the garage quickly, with a menacing look on his face. He ran after the car, but he was too late. There was nothing else to do but to call the Cardinal City police department. After giving a detailed description of the vehicle and of Marc, he gave the license plate number to the officer.
                “All right. That will help. Are you sure that those license plates are on the vehicle?” asked Officer Kramer.
                “Well, no. He may have switched those plates with any others in the garage.”
                “Okay. We’ll put an APB out on the vehicle and Marc, and we’ll have state troopers out looking for the car immediately.”
                “Thank you,” Troy replied, and hung up.
                Just then the door opened in the office, and Randy walked in. “What’s going on, Troy? Where’s Marc? And what happened to the LKX5? It wasn’t supposed to be done until Tuesday!” he exclaimed.
                “It’s a bit of a long story,” Troy began, sighing, and related the entire account.
                After he had finished, Randy broke the silence. “Troy, I have every right and reason to say, ‘I told you so’ right now. However, I actually came over to apologize for arguing with you and walking out on you. I guess it doesn’t really matter very much right now. I’m sorry about what happened. Maybe if I’d been here, it wouldn’t have happened.”
                “Oh, don’t blame yourself. I never should have trusted him over you, my own brother. I’m sorry, Randy. Will you forgive me?”
                “I sure will. Now we have to figure out what to do from here.”
                “Well, the police said that they would alert the owner. They’ll call us if anything happens.”
                “We are going to have to learn to work together again. In a way, we were both in the wrong for letting this take precedence over our jobs,” Randy said.
                “In the meantime, we’ll have to find someone else to do Marc’s job. I think I’ll let you do the hiring this time.”
                “Thanks,” Randy laughed.


                Marc couldn’t hide from the law for too long. The Alliman brothers were able to assist the police department by checking all the license plate numbers in their registry (it had been Troy’s idea to keep such detailed records) and found that Marc had indeed switched the plates. The police were then able to trace the car and its thief to a statewide car-larceny ring. The gang trained its members in assuming fake identities and forging résumés so that they could steal autos from shops where they became employed. The vehicles, usually very expensive, were sold for huge profits in a neighboring state. Through working together, the Allimans were able to keep their auto shop running smoothly, and to help oust a car-robbery operation. They introduced a new person on the payroll soon, and were always very much more careful in hiring employees in the future. Meanwhile, Marc served an appropriate corrective sentence, and never again claimed to have knowledge of cars. After prison, he entered his more natural field of financial advisement

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