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The Eclectic Pen - Summertime and Broken Gearshifts

By: Carol W. (tehachap)  
Date Submitted: 3/6/2007
Genre: Literature & Fiction » Short Stories & Anthologies
Words: 742

  NOTE: This short story is non-fiction and was written two years ago. My husband and I quit driving professionally last year.
My husband drives a shuttle van for a transportation company. Over the past two years his "part time" job has evolved to a more than full time vocation. Some time ago, I decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and began to drive cars part time just to be with him. Last night, I helped move cars and trucks from the K-Mart parking lot to the Miramar College parking lot.

The next to last vehicle I drove was a very nice gold Galant with creamy leather interior. When I parked it, I reached into the floor of the back seat to retrieve the price sign and discovered a blue shop rag laying on the back seat. "Tacky..." I thought to myself as I retrieved it -- "something like that shouldn't be left in such a nice car." I tucked the towel into my pocket, hung the price tag on the rear view mirror, locked the car up and moved off to the shuttle van.

The next and final vehicle I drove was a Ford Ranger pick-up with "Four in the floor." I started the engine and the radio came on, tuned to an "Oldies But Goodies" station. I turned the sound up and began to slowly move toward the parking lot exit. The first time I shifted gears, the gearshift knob came off in my hand. I quickly crammed it back on and shifted into third. The next shift left me with the knob in my hand again. At that instant, a song was playing on the radio that was popular in the 60's, when my husband and I were dating. I instinctively tossed the shift knob into the seat beside me and pulled the shop rag out of my pocket. I wrapped the rag around the top of the shaft and proceeded to drive to Miramar College. I cranked the window down (no electric windows here) and let the summer breeze blow through the open window. It was a beautiful summer night.

For the next 15 minutes I was back in the summer of 1962, and I was on a date with my soon-to-be husband. He had a 1954 Chevy with a standard transmission. It had a fast engine (don't ask me what size) and a special gearshift that came up through the floor. We were three miles from my house, returning home from a date. It was 11:30 p.m. and my curfew was midnight. I was on my second warning to not be late getting in or I'd be kicked out of the house. We had stopped at the light at Mission Bay Drive and Balboa when another car pulled up alongside. The driver revved his engine and of course, Robert revved his. Next thing I knew, they were trying to jump each other at the light and as Robert shifted gears, the gear shaft broke off -- clean to the floor. Stuck in second gear, we coasted backwards into the gas station there on the corner. (Yes, at one time there was a gas station on that corner -- a true gas station with a mechanic!) Robert explained his situation to the mechanic while I went to the pay phone to call my mother. By the time I finished telling my mother that "No, Robert couldn't send me home in a cab (so that I could meet my curfew) because he only made $99 a month and couldn’t afford a cab. The mechanic had found a large bolt and lock nut to fit the threads of the shifter. With a red rag wrapped around the improvised gearshift, we coaxed our way home. It was the first time I'd seen Robert in action, resolving a problem. I was impressed with his ingenuity (and still am).

Back to today and the Ranger pick-up truck -- I'm tootling along, listening to music of the 60's and I pick up my cell phone to call my husband. I want to share this moment and sweet memory with him. I lay out the scenario to him -- gearshift broken off -- late night -- the whole bit. And his comment to me is, "So?" I remark that he hasn't got a single romantic bone in his body but I still love him and I'm going to keep him. He's a very keepable guy.

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Carol W. (tehachap)

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Comments 1 to 3 of 3
Jessi H. (willpowered) - 3/6/2007 7:59 AM ET
Is it just romanticism? Or something else that some of us - and fewer men - are hard-wired with? There is that really special thing that happens to (some of) us when sensations transport us like that. I have a few memories of old trucks myself....and took a little drive with you just now. Thanks.
sunshinems - - 3/7/2007 11:49 AM ET
Great story! Not all guys are prince charming, but they can be made of wonderful stuff nonetheless. You really transported me
Marta J. (booksnob) - 3/14/2007 10:15 PM ET
I've always been fascinated by the way that memory affects people in such vastly different ways; one person's earth-shattering event is another's unimportant, forgotten moment. You certainly illustrated this in an amusing way!
Comments 1 to 3 of 3