Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt
Bud shaved, put on a clean shirt and his windbreaker and visited the car dealerships in Bethesda, one after the other, starting with the newly opened Lincoln-Mercury shop. He really had not been aware how many there were until he started at one end of town and walked south toward the other. The Chevrolet dealer was not hiring but they did take his name. The Nash dealer and the Chrysler-Plymouth shop had no openings, the Hudson and Buick places were not hiring except for salesmen, but at Community Motors, an Oldsmobile dealership in Miller's Flats, the old industrial part of town, the shop foreman sat with him and asked when he could start work. His number one metalworker and car painter had just quit two days before to take a better paying job in D.C.
"We need a body shop man and you sound like you can do the work. I know old Ray Ryan and I'll give him a call. We send out all the big stuff, the wrecks and all, so you'd have mostly dents and scrapes."
"Well," Bud said, a bit embarrassed, "him and me, we didn't part friends exactly. I had a run in with a nephew of his, and well, one thing led to another and he fired me."
"Damn shame. Happens to all of us now and then."
Bud thought about the other jobs he had lost along the way; there had been several, starting with pin setting when he was twelve and cussed out Mr. Hiser. "So anyhow, we had some words. But Mr. Ryan, he taught how to do the work, and I even drove a stock car for him a few times."
"Shit, I might a'seen you out there at Landover," the man said, pushing his denim hat higher on his balding head. "I used to drive when I was younger and dumber."
"I wasn't much good, but I did win a fifty lapper." Thinking of that event sent a small shiver through Bud. There were many things he now wished he had not done, but that race headed the list.
"You got any tools?" the shop manager asked.
"No sir, not a thing. Never could afford any."
"Well come on, let me walk you around, and I'll show you what we got. I think Ray will tell me the truth about you. Can you start tomorrow?"
Bud smiled. "I can start today if you want."
They shook hands after Bud saw the various hammers, files, spray guns and dollies the shop had accumulated.
Bud quickly found out that the ship foreman was a stickler for cleanliness, and he got into the habit of cleaning up carefully after every job. Within a week, he was doing estimates on bodywork using one of the flat rate books and after two weeks, he got a raise to a dollar and a quarter an hour, more than he had been making at Ryan's. The job was within walking distance of the room he rented after giving up his apartment in Silver Spring.
He missed the boys at school and especially the teams he had been coaching, but he buried himself in the new job and did his best almost every day, trying to forget the past. Sometimes, on Mondays especially, he knew he was a little slow after a good bit of weekend drinking with some of his old friends. He had signed up as a substitute for a couple of duckpin bowling teams and often spent Saturday night in one or another smoke-filled alley enjoying the crash of wooden pins and soaking up the National Bo or Gunthers.
Once he left the school and his brief career as a teacher, he tried not to think of David Martin or the boy's handsome mother but could not wipe all those pleasant memories out of his mind. He did not get another telephone when he moved.
Bud resumed weekly visits to his children, a habit he had let slip when he had a schedule of games or track meets on many weekends. His older son, Billy, was now a rambunctious second grader, but his seven-year-old boy, Jimmy, was quieter and more like his mother. Bud took them to the zoo one Saturday and down to the Smithsonian on another weekend to look at dinosaur bones.