Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chapter 1, Part 3: So Cold

Some Saturday in early December, 1998

"It's colder than a witch's tit out there", my dad said.

My dad was right.

I went to Tim Horton's for a coffee this morning, and when I tried to drive home the fuckin' car wouldn't start. Turning the key did absolutely nothing. I don't know much about cars, but I knew it wasn't the battery. Fuckin' starter died on me.

So my dad comes get me, we go to a parts dealer to pick up a starter for my car (a shitty K-car), and now we're working outside, in the Tim Horton's parking lot, replacing the part.

It's cold. Colder than a witch's tit. Even colder than a whore's heart. The evidence is everywhere: hoarfrost on all the steel doors, our stiffly creaking footfalls, and the oppressively still chill air.

My dad's lying on his back on an old cardboard Pepsi case, underneath the car. I'm standing nearby, beside it.

-Pass me the crescent wrench.

The wrench is lying in the snow. I pick it up with my bare hand and immediately feel the frozen thing stick to my skin. I let it drop. It sounds just like peeling off a bandaid.

-Come on, I'm cold here.

The wrench is still lying in the snow. He slides out from under the car impatiently and grabs it himself, with his bare hand. Gripping it firmly, he slides back under the car.

For my part, I open the rear passenger door to my car, putting on the thin pair of wool gloves I find. I start hopping from foot to foot, trying to stay warm.

I was so comfortable this morning in bed. Warm and lazy, sleeping in on Saturday. Why did I have to have a coffee? Why did I run that red light last night? That ticket is going to cost me my last dime. Bad decisions. Bad decisions.

-Get under here and hold the starter in place while I get the bolts in.

-Alright, just a sec.

It is nice to feel like I'm doing something.

Ah, crap. I can barely stand to touch the thing for any length of time, even through gloves. It's taking a lot of concentration just to ignore the pain. I let my mind drift to other things. I think of Linda and I wonder whether I would have missed that light if she wasn't in the car. I think not. She chose our first official date to tell me that she's just started dating some other guy. Here's to heartbroken discombobulation.

In the cold and in the now, Gloveless Joe over there is working barehanded. The bolts and tools are all partly covered in snow, for Christ's sake. He either doesn't feel anything or he's really good at ignoring pain. He's like a remorseless, working-class machine.

Several minutes pass. My mind is bent on cradling the starter with my hands, which are screaming.

-Alright. That should be it. Get in the car and give it a shot.

It starts like charm.

-I'll follow you home.

-Thanks, dad.