My fingers jostle the keys again, this time with a prayer to resurrect the failed engine, a silent pleading to at least have it try turning over. Nothing. Sweat is gathering in crystalline beads at my hairline and I am seemingly stuck, helpless, in this asphalt lot. I curse in futile breaths the wrong turkey sausages and the overpriced saffron that have finally been hunted down and now sit, baking in my passenger seat. We aren't going anywhere but here, static and pooling.
The day moves like this from the beginning, a forward motion unstopped, a freight train destined to plow through every inconvenient obstacle. I am a Murphy's Law poster child this Thursday with weak, up-thrown arms and tear-striped cheeks. Dad says, "Wiggle the battery cables. Just twist them, they're loose." They are bolted to the battery, unyielding. "Now try turning on the lights. Give them a good shake," he continues. But they're not loose. He commands for them to be turned, over and over again until I am tempted to shout profanities over the phone and collapse onto the blacktop in useless weeping.
Gremlins, they're called, Deployment Gremlins. Only he's not quite that gone, but in ways more gone than that. I snap a frustrated "good bye" to my father and call Jill. Jill can save me temporarily and will [and does]. Then I call his best friend, whose number I've been given for "emergencies" like this, for a second opinion. I ask him not to tell me to wiggle the cables. He trouble shoots as best he can from where he is and over the phone, but there isn't much he can say about the beached car and how best for it to be coaxed back into life. Jill jumps it like the doctors on television. CLEAR! ju-junk. And the motor growls in phony reassurance.
Something soft and feminine in me breaks. I am driving to the car parts store bawling-angry dialing my mom because I want someone to listen. She answers, unknowing, "Hey Princess!" and I break into an open sob. "Cheer me up," I say, "my car is broken and he isn't here to fix it." But she and I are fixers, so she tries fixing, and tells me not to yell until I say, "I don't need you to fix this, I just need you to listen!" Then her voice becomes cozy and pleasant and she says that, "everything will be okay and he'll be home soon." She's right and this could be so much worse than it probably is, so I wrap myself up in the stream of her words and quiet my drama in stuttering gasps.
The first stop identifies the empty, nothing-left-to-give battery that has troubled my mobility and my relaxed, day-off optimism. But they don't have the replacement. Their shelves are bare. The second stop offers the same vacant hole in the wall of car batteries, but a more expensive model is there, wanting to nestle into the space beneath my hood. I hiss, "I'll take it," to the old man behind the counter. He returns my obvious exhaustion with comic relief that I need to rid myself of the urge to cry again. He suggests a pace-maker and I laugh - only once and with arrogance. There are 1000 places I'd rather be than here in this oil-smelling shop where I clearly don't belong. He gathers all of the pieces and parts to install the brick of plastic encased power. I add a Diet Coke and with a wink he flashes the "friends and family 20% off coupon" before scanning it. I am humbled and thankful for the small, but generous gesture.
In the 4 o'clock heat I find a concrete pole to lean against. I prop myself here as he comforts and urges the bolts to let go, and as my plastic bottle of cola perspires down her molded curves and onto my naked legs. I watch his dexterous determination for hours until finally he is finished. I silence the untamed desire to crumple at his feet in thankful praise, and instead call him my hero on the front end of genuine appreciation.