For the first time in twenty-three years, my father was sans a cheap mechanic. He’d barely digested this when, a couple of months later, his “check engine” light came on. An hour-and-a-half from home, he could have crumbled. Instead, with some investigation, he located a Volkswagen dealership just around the corner. It was a Saturday, but by a streak of good fortune, the mechanic, Bill Simon, had come in to pick up some parts. Bill, naturally, offered to work on my father’s car. In the process, the inevitable deal was struck.
If my father was willing to make the hour trip, from then on, Bill would do his car repairs on the side.
If the partnership between my parents was fraught with tension, the union of my father and Bill Simon was the living, breathing picture of harmony, good will, and sound financial sense. Bill fulfilled my father in ways that my mother never could. An excellent mechanic, he charged just a fraction of dealership prices. And, as my sister also drove a Volkswagen, the savings were doubly impressive. Even she had to admit, it was worth the trip.
My father, in what can only be described as a state of grace, basked in his good fortune. As the years of brake jobs and tune-ups rolled along, he came to consider Bill a close personal friend. Eventually Bill’s role was elevated to that of a long lost relative, and he became shrouded in an air of sainthood.
My father often said that if Bill ever went back to work for BMW, he’d buy a BMW.
Fast forward: 1983, the evening before April Fool’s Day. A ray of inspiration shone down upon my sister. It would take scheming and collaboration, but with a little shrewd sadism, Laura knew she could pull it off. She started making calls. First to Bill Simon – and his son, Mark, who sometimes answered Bill’s phone. Then to family and friends, should they be called upon to participate. Laura went over the logistics, answered questions, took suggestions. Then she retired, to be well-rested for the Big Day.
9:01 am, April Fool’s: “Dad,” Laura said urgently into the phone, “my car’s making noises.” Then, in a rush, “I called Bill Simon, but Mark said he’s not working there anymore.”
“What?” my father exclaimed, his voice raising an octave. “What do you mean, not working there?”
“I mean not there. Anymore. At all.”
“What the hell happened?” my father cried with ungovernable panic. “What could have. . . Jesus Christ! Where is Bill now?
“Mark said he went back to work for BMW.”
“What? He did what?” my father bellowed. “Listen, I’ve got to go.”
The line went dead.
Laura dialed Bill to give him the heads up. Busy. Then she dialed my father. Busy, too. “Shit!” she cried. “He must have Bill on speed dial!” Then, breaking out in a smile, she sat back to wait.
Twenty-one seconds later, Laura’s phone shrilled.
“Hello?” she answered mildly.
“My God!” my father cried, his breathing labored. “It’s true. Bill’s gone to work for BMW!”
Laura envisioned my father pacing in circles, hand to his forehead. “It’s a shock. I know,” she said soothingly. “But things will work out.” She paused, stifling a giggle. “You know what you always say.”
“Say?” my father shot back. “What are are you talking about?”
“You always said that if Bill went to BMW, you’d get a BMW.”
“LAURA!” (pronounced in three syllables: LAU–AU—RA!!) “I never said that!”
“But you did. You said. . .”
“I AM NOT BUYING A BMW!”
“But. . .”
My father muttered something unintelligible, then fell into silence.
“You there, Dad?”
“I’m here.” He heaved a disgusted sigh.
“BMW’s have really good engines,” Laura said. “They’re top notch.”
More silence. Again, Laura asked, “Dad, you there?”
“Yes!” he barked. “I’m here! Now leave me alone, alright? Goodbye!”