Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
October 27, 1973
It was nearing noon on a Saturday morning and Benny was walking eastbound towards the intersection at which he would turn right to head southwards towards home. He was returning from school after having just finished taking the PSAT. Although he knew that what was going to happen in a few minutes would be important, he was more worried about his score on the test. It hadn’t been that difficult, but it had been a real struggle concentrating enough to get each section finished on time.
There had been an attractive girl seated a couple of chairs from him and his mind kept wandering to the subject of sex. He’d answer a handful of questions on the test, then he’d spend a minute or two dreaming about what she’d look like naked. He’d catch himself fantasizing and then force his attention back on the test for a bit. At least he finished the test by answering all of the test questions within the time constraints. The only question was just how much thought he’d actually given each answer.
Episodes where he got lost in sexual fantasies were becoming increasingly more common for him. It didn’t take much to trigger a sexual fantasy - a flash of skin, an attractive woman on television, or even just a suggestive sound. He had watched a minute of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and realized later that he had just spent an hour fantasizing about having sex with Mary Ann. It was at the point where he was spending almost half the day locked in a world of sexual fantasies. He was wondering if he was ever going to get laid in this pass through life. He couldn’t remember ever being this horny, although his memory was tempered by having spent the last two years of his life unable to have sex. If something wasn’t done soon, he was going to be completely unable to function.
Tim was slowly walking southbound from his parent’s house towards the intersection, looking around expectantly. In his first pass through life, this had been one of his red letter days. It marked a major change in his whole life, and he was glad that Benny had remembered the date and time it had happened. His memory of this day was that it had happened around noon in late October of 1973 and that the weather was colder than usual for that time of year.
The Normandy Metallic Blue 1968 Cadillac DeVille was weaving its way northbound towards the intersection. It wasn’t speeding, just slowly meandering from side to side. Tim stopped to watch it. Benny, his mind on sex, wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings.
Tim, Benny, and the Cadillac all reached the intersection at about the same time. Rather than stopping at the four way stop, the Cadillac careened through the intersection and jumped the curb of the divider between the northbound and southbound lanes of the road, and crashed into a light pole, coming to an abrupt stop.
Although seat belts were not required in cars by law at that time, they were standard equipment on the Cadillac DeVille. These were the two point seat belts rather than the three point belts. Despite their presence in the car, very few passengers in seat belt equipped cars actually wore them. In most cases, the buckles ended up getting tucked into the crack between the bottom seat and the seat back. The middle aged man driving the car and his teenage daughter were not wearing their seat belts. Despite the relatively slow speed at the time, the sudden cessation of forward movement threw the occupants of the car forward. The driver smashed his nose against the steering wheel. His daughter hit the windshield with her forehead. Without wanting to sound too crass, one might say that inertia was a bitch.
The sound of the crash yanked Benny out of his thoughts. He raced over to the car. He reached the driver’s side. The driver had already opened the door, but hadn’t gotten out of the car. The middle aged man was confused and disoriented. He also smelled of alcohol, despite the early hour in the day. His nose was bleeding profusely and it looked like his cheek bones might have been broken. Benny didn’t even want to guess just how bad the damage was.
The man kept mumbling, “My daughter! My daughter!”
Despite his desire to see what had happened to his daughter, the man was too disoriented to look in her direction. He tried to climb out the door in an effort to find her. Benny glanced over at the girl who was being examined by Tim. She was concussed and there was no way of knowing if she had any neck or back injuries.
“My daughter. I’ve got to find my daughter!”
“Mister! We’re taking care of your daughter. Stay where you are.”
“My daughter! Where is she?”
Hearing a series of finger snaps from Tim, Benny looked over at his friend. In their first pass through life, the two boys had discussed who should find a phone to call the police. They had decided that Benny needed to stay with the man who was a danger to himself and the girl. Now, there was no need for that discussion.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
“You know what to do,” Benny said knowing exactly what Tim was going to do.
Tim headed towards the nearest house in a run. It wasn’t that far. Upon reaching the house, he started pounding on the front door in order to get the people inside to call for emergency services. Once again he wished that he had a cell phone. After having had a very full featured smart phone for years, he wondered how he ever lived without it. Now he was living without one and sorely missed it.
The driver of the car was bleeding profusely from his nose. Benny removed his jacket and took off the tee shirt he was wearing. He handed it to the man and put his jacket back on. It was in the mid-fifties and too cold to stand around without a jacket.
Seeing that the man was just sitting there holding the tee shirt, Benny said, “Mister, press the shirt to your nose. You’ve got to stop the bleeding.”
The man took the shirt and pressed it against his face. It didn’t stop him from asking about his daughter. He swiveled around in his seat and started to climb out of the car. Rather than wrestle with the man, Benny backed up to let him out. Once he was out, he then guided the confused man over to the curb. With a gentle nudge, he convinced the man to sit down.
“She’s okay. My friend is taking care of her.”
“I gotta see her.”
“Mister, she’s okay. You’re hurt and bleeding. You need to sit here and keep pressure on your nose until help arrives.”
Tim returned to the car. In a stage whisper, he said, “The police are on their way.”
While Tim monitored the condition of the girl, Benny kept the driver occupied. His main concern was to keep the father from trying to move his daughter before qualified help arrived. It was obvious that she was concussed, but they had no idea if she had suffered a neck injury of any kind. They hadn’t heard anything about their condition on the first pass, so they couldn’t use that knowledge at the present. As with the first time, he and Tim were operating on the assumption that the worst that could have happened, had happened.
A half an hour later, everything was over. The driver and his daughter had been taken to the hospital, the police had written up their report, and a wrecker had towed the Cadillac away. Benny and Tim were left sitting under a tree on the grass. This was the same place they had ended up sitting on their first pass through life.
“Hello. I’m Tim.”
“Hello, Tim. I’m Benny.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir.”
“It’s nice to met you, Sir.”
They shook hands and then Tim laughed. “That’s how we met in the first pass. We were pulling two people out of a stupid crash caused by a dumb drunk driver. Even after forty-three years have passed I still remember our initial meeting like it was yesterday.”
“Then you pestered me in the smoking area and the cafeteria for two weeks.”
“Of course, I had to pester you. You can’t go through something like this together without becoming friends. It’s an Oklahoma state law.”
Benny laughed at the obvious joke. The fact was that if Tim hadn’t approached him over and over about the accident, they would never have become friends. Tim was just too damn friendly to ignore. Benny realized one day, a month or so later, that they were friends. It had sneaked up on him. It might seem strange, but at 15, almost 16 years old, Benny had never had a friend. If anyone needed a friend, it was Benny.
“We probably ought to head to your house so that you can get cleaned up and get a shirt.”
Benny looked down at his jeans. There were spots of blood on the right leg. “Mom is going to kill me.”
“Did she the first time?”
“No, but she wasn’t too happy with me. I don’t think she believed that I helped someone at a car accident.”
“You’ve got me as a witness this time.”
“I don’t think that is going to help much.”
The two stood up and headed towards Benny’s house. For the first hundred yards they didn’t say anything.
Benny said, “It’s not even noon and that guy was toasted.”
“It was a different time. Mothers Against Drunk Driving hasn’t been started yet.”
“Do you think that guy will stop drinking after this?”
“I doubt it. If he’s toasted at this time of day, he’s an alcoholic.”
“Did you recognize the girl?”
“Nope. I did ask what hospital they were taken to. Maybe this time we can find out what happened to them.”
“Why would we want to do that?” Benny asked.
It was a typical Benny question when it came to dealing with people. He had just finished taking care of someone who had been in an accident and it didn’t register enough to motivate him to find out if things turned out okay for the person. He had rendered aid because it was an obligation that one person held for another. Once the obligation had been met, then it was all over as far as he was concerned. In a way, it was.
“Because it might be a good thing to know.”
“Look at it this way, if we’re supposed to nudge the world to a better state then we should probably pay attention to little things like this. Maybe we’re supposed to convince him to go to AA or something.”
“Is AA around now? I mean, is there a chapter of it here?”
“I think so,” Tim answered without much confidence in his answer.
Having lived in a world with smart phones and Google, those kinds of questions were answered with a quick query. People didn’t bother trying to remember little facts like that anymore. There had been a time when he had known the answer to questions of a common nature. In his first pass, he probably knew the answer about AA existing locally or not, but that knowledge was now fifty years old and had been forgotten.
“I can’t keep track of this stuff. I didn’t pay attention to shit like this the first pass through. How am I supposed to know it now?”
“It’s at times like this that I really miss Google.”
“Remember, we should remain true to ourselves.”
“I know, but being true to me would have me forgetting all about this in ten minutes.”
“That’s true for you, but not for me.”
It was a five minute walk to Benny’s house. When they entered, Benny’s mother took one look at him and asked, “Did you have a bloody nose or something?”
“No. Some guy drove into a pole and broke his nose on his steering wheel. Tim and I took care of them until the police showed up.”
“He just drove into a pole?” his mother asked skeptically.
“He was drunk as a skunk.”
“That would explain it. Change your clothes. I need to wash them before the blood has a chance to set.”
“I gave him my tee-shirt to hold over his nose.”
His mother sighed. “At least it went to a good cause.”
“He really did a good job taking care of the driver. You’d have been proud of him, Mrs. B.”
“I am, Tim. After you’ve changed clothes eat the lunch I made for you. I’d hate for the food to go to waste.”
“Okay,” Benny said.
After lunch, Tim and Benny went out into the garage to work on the van. Since the engine block and head were out getting machined, they had to work on the brakes instead. It wasn’t a tough job, just a little time consuming. As soon as they pulled the first brake drum off, they realized that they were going to have to replace it since it had deep scratches that would tear up any brake pad in minutes.
“I can’t believe this shit,” Benny said in disgust. Pointing to a scratch that was as deep as the Grand Canyon, he added, “It didn’t screech that much.”
“This is ridiculous. The previous owner must have never changed the brake pads to do that much damage.”
“I’ll pull the other three drums off and check them. Then I’ll get on the phone and call the junk yard.”
“Our dads are going to get pissed about having to run errands for us all Saturday,” Tim said.
“We might as well replace the brake cylinders while we’re at it.”
After scribbling a parts list on a sheet of paper, Tim read out, “We’re going to have to get brake shoes, brake drums, wheel cylinders, wheel bearings, the drum brake hardware, brake hoses, brake lines, and brake cables.”
“This was supposed to be an afternoon’s work. Oh shit! Look at that. The rubber on the ball joint is cracked.”
Tim leaned over and examined the ball joint. He reached out and grabbed it. A little wiggle and he knew it was shot. This was just one more thing that needed to be repaired. “You know we should probably replace the shocks, ball joints, and tie rods as well.”
“I know there’s a little play, but there’s nothing substantially wrong with them. Why fix something if it ain’t broke?”
“After 100,000 miles, you know that they are worn. Based on how poorly the previous owner maintained the brakes and engine, you know they didn’t lube it on schedule. We might get another five thousand miles before one of them goes out on us.”
“Besides, we don’t want to do a half-assed job fixing this up. Our business is going to depend upon us having the van working all of the time. The more we fix now the less there is to break later.”
“We don’t have the tools to fix the ball joints.”
“We’ll have to borrow them from Skip over at the gas station. He doesn’t work Sundays. We borrow them Saturday night, fix it Sunday, and return the tools Monday morning.”
Skip was the owner of a gas station/garage that was near the subdivision in which they lived. In 1973, he was of the old school gas station owners and still forced the people working for him to wear the uniform that had been mandatory in the 1960s. It was the dark tan shirt with the Shell logo sewn on it with the darker pants. Everyone wore the hat with the shell logo on it.
The garage was unusual in that he could work on both foreign and American built cars. He would do most repairs except for the time intensive ones like rebuilding an engine. Repairs like that would occupy the repair bay for too much time which prevented him from doing the more profitable oil changes, lube jobs, and brake repairs.
Skip took a lot of pride in his business. In addition to having his people wear uniforms, he made sure that everything was clean. He washed the windows once a week, washed the exterior of the building once a month, and cleaned the pumps every morning. Despite being more than twenty years old, the station still looked new although the fixtures were somewhat dated.
“Will Skip go for it?”
“I’ll agree to clean the concrete every morning for a week. You know he’ll go for it.”
Every morning, Skip would use a hose to wet down the concrete around the pumps. He’d use a broom along with detergent to scrub the concrete and remove any gasoline, oil or grease that had fallen to the ground. Then he used the hose to move the dirty liquid to the sewer. Back when they had Beetles, Tim would clean the concrete most mornings during the summer in exchange for using some of Skip’s tools.
Benny said, “Can you imagine what the EPA would have done in our time?”
“Skip would have gone to jail for polluting.”
“Things sure are different in the world of now versus when we died.”
“I know. A lot of those old gas stations became Superfund sites.”
“It wasn’t only gas stations. I remember when I was living in White Plains, New York and reading about people who had purchased old houses with the heating oil storage tanks buried underground. If one of those leaked, it ended up costing them tens of thousands of dollars to clean it up. The home owners had to pay a company to remove all of the contaminated soil and replace it with clean soil.”