Grace pt. 2

The bacon was already sizzling when Charlie woke up his son. It was early spring, but it was still cold enough inside of the house for a fire, so he went about lighting the wood-burning stove. By the time Zane finally crawled out of bed the eggs were already cold. That didn’t’ bother him however because he was in a fairly good mood. It was Monday and the end was in sight. There were just under two months left before the end of school! Like a convicted felon, Zane was marking the days until the last day of classes. He got up from the table and rinsed off his plate. The weather was getting warmer, so he left his coat behind. He wore a faded red flannel shirt that was unbuttoned in front. Underneath, a poorly laundered white thermal shirt clung to his lanky torso. The jeans had holes in the knees and were littered with random stains. He would have passed for Punk-Rock if it weren’t for his shoes. “I’m leaving Dad!” Zane mindlessly exclaimed as he opened up the back door of the trailer house. Upon walking outside Zane was greeted by a literal armada of semi-drivable derelict vehicles. Charlie had his own menagerie, but Zane was building up a modest collection as well. Between the two, they had the entire property littered with partly salvaged automobiles. There were trucks, and broken cars. Some had tires while others were propped up on blocks. Random skeletons of salvaged motorcycles were strewn about the place! The car that should have been named ‘Grace’ was neatly parked parallel to a dilapidated pole-barn. Zane could have chosen the International bread van today; it was totally operational. On this morning however the sun was brightly shining, and there was an inviting hint of spring in the air. Being a fire-creature, Zane was feeling aggressive. Winter was over and it was his time to shine. Because of this Zane opted to drive his ’66 Chevy today. The days were getting longer, and Zane was in his prime. These factors would encourage him to push the envelope, meaning that he would increasingly put Grace through her paces. He was able to scrape together enough money to acquire a matching set of used front tires. This inspired confidence, and as a result, he was willing to strive for higher speeds. The rear tires had not been replaced, but they were only slightly bald.

They didn’t have any close neighbors, and strangers would never venture within a mile of the place. As a result they didn’t bother with locking the doors, and they left ignition keys in their respective switches. There were simply too many of the decaying vehicles; it would have been hard to keep track of the keys otherwise.  With his schoolbooks in hand, Zane opened up the door. He sat behind the wheel and shimmied into position. Dangling from the key was a relatively large rectangular placard that read “Go to Hell MHS, I’m a SENIOR.” It was crafted out of rigid purple plastic to coincide with his school colors.  Ivory fonts were engraved into the material using machinery from shop class. The teacher awarded Zane with a B- for his efforts.

He had to navigate two miles of gravel road before he reached the nearest asphalt. By now the engine had time to warm up, which prompted Zane to engage in some spirited driving. Zane had replaced the worn bushings and ball-joints that previous weekend; the steering was crisp and responsive. With glorious anticipation, Zane prepared himself for the gradual bend in the highway that was meant to be entered at 35 mph. Zane intended to push it to the limit as he accelerated hard into the straightaway that preceded the curve. This was followed up with some seriously aggressive braking. By the time Grace had her nose pointed towards the exit, Zane was accelerating once again. It was a wonderful time to be alive Zane thought, knowing that the local Sherriff had a lax attitude towards speeders. To play it safe, Zane always traveled the frontage road that ran parallel to the interstate in order to avoid a possible chance encounter with a stray patrol. Zane made the right turn which led to the main highway knowing that once he got past the Tijeras Post Office, it was a straight shot all the way into Albuquerque!

Grace was roaring like a lion because Zane had dropped the hammer! With his foot to the floor and his eyes on the road, he savored the sweet sensation of modest acceleration. Up until lately he kept her under ninety, but it was springtime now and Zane was feeling frisky. Like a pedigree thoroughbred, Grace inched closer and closer towards oblivion. She struggled and strained as the needle bobbed past 115. With a frenzied look and laser stare Zane noted a car up yonder that could potentially pull out. By the time he noticed, the moment had passed. It would have been too late. Zane was unphased, and Grace was screaming out loud! “Slow Down Zane. Slow Down!” Zane braced his back against the bench seat in attempt to apply every inch of leverage onto her accelerator. As if he had his foot to her throat, Zane demanded more speed. Grace obliged with obedience knowing somehow the madness must stop!

Upon reaching 120 miles per hour, strange things began to happen. Not only was the speedometer pegged, but Zane came to his senses. Something was wrong he told himself as he experienced an unwelcome sensation of deceleration. The speedometer confirmed the decreased feeling of speed as the needle fell from 120 down to 100. Before Zane’s mystified eyes, the needle continued its descent towards zero. “I’ve blown the engine,” he thought while smelling for smoke. The accelerator was still glued to the floor as the mystery unraveled. By now Grace was doing 60, and speed was falling fast. She had lost all power and no longer offered forward propulsion. He realized that Grace was coasting to a stop.

Fearing the worst, Zane limped onto the shoulder in shame. He was afraid he destroyed his favorite car! The mystery deepened when he realized the engine was still idling! “What the hell?” Zane asked out loud. He opened the door and popped the hood. Grace was finely tuned, and she sounded like music. “There are no signs of over-heating, and she sounds really nice,” he said to himself as he reached around and tugged at wires. As if by instinct Zane examined the accelerator apparatus which provides linkage from the engine to the accelerator pedal. Just as sure as the day is long, The linkage had been removed at its ball and socket joint. In effect, this caused the throttle plates to snap shut against the tension of a heavy spring. This has got to be the simplest repair in history Zane thought to himself as he popped the socket back onto its ball. It was a very snug fit Zane thought to himself, as he snapped the carburetor linkage back into its proper position. In a state of mild confusion, Zane closed the hood and ventured over to the shoulder. He was preparing to relieve himself alongside of the road when he discovered an extremely flat tire on the front corner of the passenger side. “You’ve got to be shitting me.” Zane said to his car as the gravity of the situation slowly percolated within his inquisitive mind. He knelt down in the dirt as he inspected his tire. The rubber had contacted some substantial road debris judging by a gash in the tread. Zane surmised that the tire could have blown-out at any given moment. It dawned on him that he should have been killed because it’s impossible to recover from a blow-out at such high speeds. If not for the spontaneous mechanical failure, Zane would have lost control and he knew it. Steve McQueen himself wouldn’t have been able to recover from such a catastrophic failure! By this time he reached for the key and twisted it counterclockwise in order to kill the idling engine. Utilizing a raggedy spare, he set about the task of swapping out the tire. It would have been a spectacular crash Zane thought to himself as he casually unlocked the trunk. “How in the world could linkage just pop off like that,” he asked while searching through the mess in order to locate a jack handle. He knew things like that don’t ‘just happen.’ Nobody is ever going to believe this, he thought as he cranked on the lug nuts. “I don’t even believe it myself.” Grace was a lucky car, and he knew it.

…To be continued

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