The Mechanic - Vanessa Waltz



Sun bakes the roof of my fifteen-year-old, blinding-white Toyota Scion. My eyes water at its brightness as heat beats down the back of my neck. The metal hull burns my fingertips as I give my faithful friend a gentle pat. Steam rolls from the closed hood.

Sighing, I readjust my sunglasses and stare at the auto shop sign emblazoned in red retro font: CARTER & SONS AUTO REPAIR. I study the peeling paint on the building, unimpressed. A bell tinkles, and a glass door smudged with oily prints flies open.

A man squints as he walks into the harsh sunlight. A wiry beard covers most of his face, and he wears a short-sleeve, button-up black shirt over a pair of baggy jeans. His bushy eyebrows lift in a show of surprise when he sees me standing next to my car. He promptly recovers, though, with a small smile and a nod of his head.

“Hello! I’m Olivia. I called twenty minutes ago.”

His smile widens, and he extends a tattooed arm. “Nice to meet you, Olivia. I’m Hank.”

I shake his callused hand. He lets go quickly.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I’m not sure. She was doing fine the whole trip, and then suddenly—boom.”

“Boom? Like an explosion?”

“Sort of.”

My heart hammers against my chest as he walks around the car, and I shadow him like an anxious parent. He digs his fingers under the hood and pops it open. It yawns, belching steam into Hank’s face. He waves it off, and I lean over his shoulder. The twisted metal and series of pipes are an incomprehensible maze. I don’t know shit about cars beyond basic maintenance, but the grim look Hank gives me after glancing into the bowels of my baby doesn’t bode well.

My baby got me through high school and college. It saw me through a handful of boyfriends, road trips, sightseeing, and endless trips to the Stop-And-Save for York Peppermint Patties. I’ve cried, fucked, screamed, and sang within these metal walls. Everyone has their own version of a security blanket, and Sharon was mine.

Blame my parents. They never let me have pets.

And now, a couple hundred miles into my drive from San Francisco, Sharon decides to break down. At least she decided to die a half hour from my destination. It strikes me as poetic that the car crapped out just as I crossed the Fair Oaks city limits sign.

Refusing to wince at the heat, I give the car another grateful pat. That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.

“We’ll need to run some tests, but first glance? Your engine is done.”

My spine zips up as I face Hank, the throbbing pulse in my head, loud. “Done? What do you mean—done?”

He raises his eyebrows. “It’s completely shot.”

How’s that possible? “She’s only fifteen! You can’t seriously be telling me that I need a new car. I took really good care of her.”

“That doesn’t change the facts. I don’t know what you want me to say. This engine is cooked.”

“Well, can’t you replace it?”

He lets out a sigh like he has better things to do than deal with me. “That’ll probably cost more than what this car is worth. You’re better off just buying a new one.”

“I’m not buying a new car.”

I don’t know what it is: Hank’s kindly gaze or the sad image of Sharon being towed to a junkyard or the general way my life seems to be falling apart lately. But a sharp pressure builds behind my eyes.

Your fiancé cheats on you, and you get misty over a fucking car.

Right. This is ridiculous.

“I’ll ask the owner if he’s up for the job.” Hank gives me a sidelong look as he walks away and disappears into the auto shop.

I watch his shadow rippling on the concrete. A man-shaped silhouette joins him, hands in his pockets. The Hank shadow gestures, and then both of them shrink as they walk forward. I picture a much older man slightly bent over with age, a stalk hanging out of his lips. The kind of guy who inappropriately flirts with female customers.

Instead, the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen walks toward me. Hank returns with a much younger, shirtless mechanic. The sunlight gleams over his muscled chest and abs, the shadows under his muscles rippling all the way down to his hips. Oil runs in streaks down his tattooed skin, which is slightly red with the heat. A flannel shirt hangs from the back pocket of his dark jeans.

He squints—or seems to scowl—as he listens to Hank talk. A short beard covers a