Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
November 11, 1973
After backing the van out of the garage, Benny turned the key off and listened to the engine die. He was afraid that it might diesel or backfire. Outside of a bad muffler and exhaust pipe, the van was running like a Swiss watch. Even his father had been impressed on hearing the van running.
“All we need is a muffler.”
“Skip agreed to fix it. All we have to do is get it there,” Tim said continuing a conversation that had begun well before Benny had started the van. Tim had talked Skip into doing some minor work on the van for cost. One of the jobs was repairing the exhaust system, including replacing the muffler and the exhaust pipe. That was a repair which required specialized equipment and welding skills neither of them possessed.
“My mom and dad are going to visit some friends of theirs this afternoon. I could suggest that one of them ride to the gas station with me and the other could follow in their car. I can drop off the van and then they can continue on to their friends together while I walk home.”
“Why don’t you talk to them? I’ll start cleaning up in here.”
Benny went into the house. His parents weren’t particularly happy about the request. Benny had been making a lot of requests to run him around while fixing the van. At least they understood that it was all in a good cause. It would only take a minute and they knew it was the only way to get the van to the gas station to be repaired. They were looking forward to him getting the van fixed and receiving his driver’s license almost as much as he was.
Tim looked around to see what needed to be done. All of the used parts had gone into a box that was stuck in the back of the van. He started picking up the cardboard from the floor and putting it into a pile. They had really done a pretty good job of keeping things clean. There was one spot where the oil had leaked through the cardboard and stained the floor.
Benny came out out of the house looking happy. “It’s all set. Mom will ride shotgun while I drive the van over to the gas station. Dad will pick her up and I’ll walk home.”
“We’ll walk home. I’ve got to go with you to deal with Skip.”
“Look at what happened,” Tim said while pointing to the oil spot on the garage floor.
Benny looked at the spot on the floor. “Damn!”
“It’s not a big deal. Do you know anyone with a cat?”
“I’m pretty sure the neighbors have cat. Why do you want to know that?”
“See if you can borrow a bit of cat litter.”
“Yeah. I’ll scrub this spot with detergent and then use the cat litter to soak it up.”
“Does that really work?”
“It’s about the best that we’ll be able to do today.”
“I don’t really know the neighbors. I just know they have a cat. At least, I think they have a cat.”
“Okay, I’ll go over there. Let me ask Mom what their names are.”
“Never mind. You go in the house and get the dish washing detergent, a scrub brush, and a glass of water. I’ll go next door and get the kitty litter.”
“Thanks,” Benny said relieved at not having to deal with the people next door.
Tim looked around and spotted an empty coffee can. It should be noted that in 1973, coffee came in real cans and not plastic containers. The can held one pound of coffee rather than the 10, 12, or 13 ounces that was common when they died. The can also came with a plastic lid that helped seal the freshness in the can. A coffee can was one of those items that was often kept rather than getting thrown away. The can could be used for a thousand and one things around the house. He grabbed it and headed over to the house next door.
He knocked on the door. The man who lived there answered the door, took one look at Tim, and said, “We’re not interested.”
“I’m not selling anything. I’ve been working with Benny next door. We’ve been doing a total rebuild of the engine of his van. We spilled some oil and need to clean it up. He said that you had a cat and we were hoping you could give us some kitty litter.”
“Clean or used?” the man asked with a smile. “I’ve got both.”
“I think clean would be better,” Tim answered taken aback by the question. He held up the coffee can and said, “I only need about half a can.”
While taking the can from Tim, the man said, “Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
Tim waited. Rather than stare at the closed door, he looked around the neighborhood. He spotted a couple girls from school going into one of the houses across the street. He had forgotten that they lived on Benny’s street. It reminded him at how poorly he and Benny had done in dating back in the first pass. He wondered what they could do that would improve their ability to get dates this time around. Actually, the only one who needed to improve his ability to get dates was him. It turned out that Benny was totally happy with paying for it.
The man opened the door and said, “Here’s the kitty litter. I gave you a full can.”
“Let me know how well it works. I’m thinking of selling the house and there are spots in the garage where my car has leaked oil. It would be nice to remove the stain.”
“You can see for yourself how it works. Come over and see what it’s like now. We’ll show it to you when we’re done.”
The neighbor followed Tim back to the garage. He looked at the spot on the floor. It wasn’t too bad, but obvious enough that it definitely needed to be cleaned up. To his eyes, it wasn’t all fresh and he was sure that it had probably been there for a while. The spots in his garage were much worse than that.
“We’ll be scrubbing it with detergent and use the kitty litter to soak it up. We might have to do it a couple of times. The cement soaks up the oil. When you remove the surface oil, more bubbles up.”
“I know what you mean. When you’ve finished treating the stain, let me know. I’d like to see how much of you get up.”
“Great. Thanks for the kitty litter.”
Benny came out of the house with the detergent, brush, and a pitcher of water.
“Hello, ... Sir.”
Tim shook his head at the awkward reply. It was obvious to him that Benny really hadn’t known the neighbor’s name. He grabbed the bottle of detergent and squirted some on the oil stain. He took the brush from Benny and scrubbed the detergent into the pavement.
“Pour just a half cup of water on it.”
Benny poured some of the water onto it while Tim scrubbed. The detergent started foaming and carried with it some of the oil. Tim grabbed a handful of the kitty litter and dumped it onto the spot. He spread it around so that it covered the whole spot.
“We’ll let it soak up the liquid for a bit and then do it again.”
The neighbor said, “Thanks. I’ll come over later and see how well it worked.”
“Great,” Tim said.
The man walked away, took a look at the van, and then returned to the garage. He said, “That’s the van you’ve been fixing up?”
“Who ever sold it to you did a pretty bad job of covering the signage for the plumbing company.”
“We don’t really care about that. It’s an old van.”
“I sell custom made vinyl-decals for advertising. I could sell you some plain white stock that would cover that.”
“Twenty dollars for two pieces. One for each side of the van.”
Tim barely gave it a moment of thought before he made a counter offer. “Tell you what ... Why don’t you print across the top of it, “Two Guys Working, LLC” and below that “Advertising by” with the name of your company and a telephone number. Write it off as an advertising cost.”
“Two Guys Working, LLC?”
“You’ve got your own business?”
“Let me think about this for a minute. It’s a shame the paint is so faded and peeling in places.”
“No rush on our part,” Tim said giving Benny a wink.
“I tell you what. Give me the details of what you want on the sign and I’ll work up something. If you like what I come up with, we’ll do it.”
“Great,” Tim said. “I’ll write up something and give it to you when you come over to look at the oil spot.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.”
The man paused to examine the side of the van. He looked back at Tim, shook his head, and returned home. It was pretty clever of them to get him to cover the cost of hiding the old lettering by letting him advertise his business on their vehicle. He figured those boys were going to go far if they were that quick on their feet in taking advantage of opportunities that came their way.
“Good job, Sir Timothy.”
“Thank you, Sir Benjamin!”
“Maybe we can find someone to paint it for free,” Benny said.
Tim laughed. He scraped up the kitty litter and dumped it into a plastic trash bag. He was pleased to see that the majority of oil was gone. He repeated the cleaning process thinking he’d only have to do that a couple more times.
Standing up, Tim said, “I was talking to my dad the other night about what we could do in terms of getting a vacuum cleaner.”
“What did he say?”
“He said they had one at his company and it was about time to replace it. He suggested that we might want to use it for a while.”
“That’s nice of him.”
“He’s doing it to help us out which kind of surprised me. I countered that he shouldn’t buy a new vacuum cleaner, but should hire a service to come in and clean the offices every evening.”
“What did he say to that?”
Tim laughed. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“At least you tried.”
“I did accept his offer of the old vacuum cleaner.”
“I figure we’ll start the sales campaign to line up business buildings for our cleaning company after the new year.”
“You might throw in grass cutting in the summer.”
“Good idea. We’ll need to make up a sales brochure.”
“Fine. We can use the same printer.”
“How are we doing for money?”
“We’re doing fine.”
“Are we going to have to visit Carol soon?”
“No. I’m doing fine. It won’t start bothering me for another three or four weeks.”
“Why are you asking about money?”
“The weather has been bad every weekend. We’re not going to earn anymore money painting curbs until spring, so I figure that we’re stuck having to stretch whatever money we have now until we start the cleaning business.”
“I don’t see any major expenses coming up.”
“I know it’s kind of early to be worrying about it, but Christmas is approaching. We’re going to have to buy presents. Let’s face it, our parents have been pretty good to us. We’re going to have to show our appreciation.”
Benny looked blank while considering it. He didn’t keep track of holidays, gift exchanges, and other little social details like that. His birthday wasn’t a day to receive presents, it was the date when he could get his driver’s license and, later when he turned 18, legally buy a drink. Finally, he said, “You’re right.”