Herb Bernstein was a tool-head, a sparkplug, wiry and overcharged. On
any given weekend you could see him folded under the hood, lubricating
this and tightening that.
Every now and again his wife Bea, would hear the engine screech, then
tire flung gravel pocking the tin shed. When she drew in for breath,
her chest cavity swelled to jumbo size.
Normally she kept the kitchen windows shut, but with the oven on and
the first batch burnt, Bea had them pushed wide open. It was hot too,
unseasonable it seemed to her, this early in spring.
The noise was something she’d been learning to get along with, but if
she had a bone to pick, it was the grease and the grime on his clothes
and his nails always black. It looked like torture, all that bending
and torquing, but she knew Herb took great delight in his labors. He
could keep at it for hours at a time. This was “his thing,” he had
told her when they met last Fall. Bea had learned to keep inside, give
Setting the second tray of biscuits down, Bea strained to lean over
the sink, and pressed her face towards the open screen. “Herb! Please,
Honey…Come on in for some lunch?”
Clanking a menthol cough drop against his molars, Herb looked straight
over the dash, his jaw creased, foot on the pedal, mumbled “Fatty”
under the growing roar of the engine, and dropped the shift into gear.
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