Toby tightened the last bolt and grinned. The water pump on the truck had been a breeze for her to replace. She enjoyed her job as a mechanic even though some days work was sparse. She heard the telephone and answered it on the third ring.
"Bringing one in for you, Toby," the wrecker driver said as a greeting.
"Good timing, Mike," Toby replied. "I just finished a job."
"You got a spot inside?" he went on to ask.
"Put it in the end stall," Toby answered. "How far away are you?"
"I'm on the other side of Glenrio."
"Then I'll eat something and be ready when you get here," she explained.
After hanging up, Toby backed the finished truck out of the stall, and straightened up the workspace. She was just finishing her lunch when the overhead door opened. It occurred to her she hadn't asked what kind of vehicle was coming in. Toby glanced at the flatbed of the wrecker and almost stopped breathing.
She had to be dreaming. Toby shook her head and looked again only to see the same vision. A '37 Chevy Business Coupe was strapped to the trailer in front of her. The car of her dreams was so close she could touch it. A myriad of colors reflected off the car's teal blue paint as she watched the wrecker back up. The chrome sparkled in the sun like diamonds.
"Did you see this car? Mike, look at it, just look!" Toby said as the wrecker driver walked over to her.
"Toby, I brought it here, remember?" Mike reminded her. "You okay, girl?"
As the owner of the wrecker service, Mike saw Toby often, but he never saw her like this before.
"Do you know how old I was when I saw one of these for the first time? I was ten and my dad took me to a car show," Toby explained all in one breath. "That was almost twenty years ago."
"It's a beauty, Toby, for sure," Mike chuckled.
"Seeing all those cars was amazing. I went to every show with my dad after that."
"I have the paperwork—" Mike began.
"Did you see the paint on this, Mike? Check out the sheen. Did you ever see anything better?"
Toby hopped from side to side as she spoke. Mike watched her and laughed at her enthusiasm. She stepped up onto the flatbed to check the Chevy a bit closer. He leaned against the bench and waited for her to finish before unloading it.
"Oh my gosh, Mike. Look at the interior. Can you imagine how long it had to take to get it like this?"
Mike looked at his watch and decided to give Toby a few more minutes before he unloaded the car. He had to admit it looked great. Mike felt bad for the owner though. Car trouble on vacation really sucked.
"This is just how I'm going to do mine someday. I'm going to take my time to make it perfect. Mike, this is why I took the job at the café. I don't want to be old before I get my dream car," Toby explained as she jumped off the trailer.
"Can I take it off the trailer now?" Mike teased.
"What? Oh, yeah, go ahead. But you better be super careful, Mike, so you don't hurt this baby."
"I think I can do that, Toby. This isn't the first car I hauled anywhere," he replied.
"I know, but this is a special car, and she deserves to be treated right."
Mike laughed as he got into the cab of the wrecker and positioned the truck. While the winch did its job, he began to fill Toby in with the few details he had.
"The owner is a teacher, on summer break, traveling part of Route 66. He said it's something he always wanted to do. I dropped him off at Zelda's so he could get a room for the night. You know she has that big old place ready for travelers all the time," Mike said.
"Good idea, Mike. That will give me time to check this baby out."
"I'm out of here, Toby," Mike said when he was finished. "Enjoy yourself."
Toby gave a little wave as she went back to admiring the Chevy. She found herself envying the owner. Curious about the exhaust and the rear end, she laid on the floor to get a closer look. Several minutes later, she was eyeing down the side when the boss walked in.
"Nice ride," TC said with a whistle.
"This is my dream car, TC. Someday I want one just like this. Isn't she gorgeous?" Toby asked.
"It's a looker alright. Mike bring it in?"
"Yeah, maybe an hour ago," Toby said.
"So what's wrong with it?" TC questioned.
"Wrong? She's perfect."
"Then why is it here?" he chuckled.
Her cheeks went pink when she realized what her boss meant. They went over the paperwork and she explained where the owner of the car was staying.
"I'm sure we'll hear from him quite soon. Why don't you head home for the day and you can start fresh tomorrow," he said.
"Thanks, boss, that sounds great. See you in the morning," Toby replied.
Since Toby didn't have to work at the café, she went to one of her favorite online sites with vehicles for sale and browsed the ads. The prices made her cringe, though, since they were so much higher than the amount she had saved. However, she was determined to afford one for herself someday.
Early the next morning, Toby walked into the garage, anxious to check out the Chevy. As she had done yesterday, she walked around it, again admiring the sleek lines of it.
"Looking for the problem, Toby?" TC teased.
"Morning boss," Toby replied.
"I talked to the owner yesterday. He was running her at about fifty when it sputtered on him. Before he could get to a stop, it sputtered again, and he lost power. He bought the car a year ago and never had any trouble with it," he explained.
"It sounds like the fuel pump, but I'll get right on it, boss," she told him.
Toby tried to start the coupe to hear what happened herself. She determined the car had an electric fuel pump, a common feature on street rods, and it was definitely the problem. She walked into the office to give her boss the information. The Chevy was the only job waiting for Toby. She wandered around the car while TC called the owner with the news. They would need his permission to order the new part. Toby heard the boss talking as she stepped back into his office.
"I've got my best mechanic on it, sir," TC said into the telephone.
After a couple minutes of silence, the conversation continued.
"That's not a problem. You won't be disappointed, sir," TC remarked. "I'll call you as soon as I have any information."
Toby waited for the okay to order the fuel pump. She smiled at his nod and went back to the shop phone. One of their regular suppliers should have it in stock for immediate shipment.
"On it's way, boss," Toby said a bit later. "It should be here first thing in the morning."
"Great, Toby. Go on home and if something comes in, I'll call you," TC offered.
It wasn't uncommon for her to have a lapse between jobs. She appreciated the way her boss let her leave when there wasn't any work. The hours at the café made her tired enough that she let her housework go. Having the afternoon to catch up would be great.
"You got it, boss. See you later!"
Toby had the laundry and cleaning started when the telephone rang a couple hours later.
"Toby, I just talked to the owner of the '37. He stopped in to check on his car and get the rest of his luggage. Zelda drove him. I think she likes the guy," she heard TC say.
"Too bad I was gone. I'd love to meet him," Toby remarked.
A couple minutes later she was back to cleaning. She put some dinner on, watched a little television, and went to bed early for a change. In the morning, she woke revitalized, anxious to get to the garage and work on the coupe.
As promised, the fuel pump came first thing. Toby opened the package and frowned. She was positive she ordered the electric fuel pump exactly like the one on the car now. The model she held definitely didn't match the part number that she ordered. With a sigh, she went to find TC, aware he would have to let the owner know of the delay.
Close to an hour later, she finally located someone else with the correct model in stock, and a promise of quick delivery. One of the hazards of living out where they did was not having parts readily accessible to them. For travelers, that often meant spending a few days of their vacation stuck.
Now Toby had nothing to do again for the day. She decided to call the café and see if they needed any extra help. One of the regular servers was out with the flu, the manager said, but they hadn't called Toby since they assumed she was working at the garage. They would be glad to have her fill in as soon as she could get there.
After a quick trip home for her uniform, Toby drove to the small town of Adrian, and the MidPoint Café. She parked towards the back of the small parking lot and shoved the car door to get it open. After a second push, it flew open, and hung at an odd angle.
"Stupid door, why can't you ever cooperate?" she mumbled as she struggled to close it.
"They say talking to yourself is a sign of old age, Toby," Herman said. "Or that you're plumb crazy."
"Well, I can't argue with either of those, Herman."
"You're just a kid, Toby, and you're not crazy," he chuckled.
Toby smiled at the old man as he shuffled down the sidewalk to his home. He was one of the few people that actually lived in Adrian. Years ago, it had been a busier place, when Route 66 was the main road across America. With the new highways, most of the towns nearby, like Glenrio, sat abandoned. Yet the café kept busy.
.... There is more of this story ...