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Chapter 27

Chapter 27
Cliff was standing at his work bench. He was leaning back against it staring off at the wall. His mind was elsewhere. He didn’t mind the cold corner of the steel bench top jabbing him in the lower back. Nor did he notice that the filling of his tuna sandwich he was holding, had dropped on the floor. He was in another world. A world where he was all alone. Just him on a mountain side, gazing out at the pristine valley below and the mountain range on the other side that continued off into the distance. A cool wind touched his face. Below he could see a herd of wild horses lazing in the sun. He started to walk down toward the river that cut through the valley with its slow, smooth curves. As far as the eye could see there wasn’t another sign of human life. No pain, no death, no danger. Just nature and all of its miracles. Cliff was content.
“Cliiifffff….”, a voice purred softly.
Cliff turned to look at Joe. “What?”
“Man, where were you?”
“Nowhere. What do you want?”
“I can’t remember where they stuck the colour code on the A4′s.”
“The spare tire well.”
“I know that, but it is not there.”
“Then it is on the cover.”
Joe slapped his forehead. “Right. Thanks.” Then as he walked away, “Was she pretty?”
“Who?”
“The girl you were daydreaming about.”
Cliff chuckled, “There were no women where I was.”
“Really. None at all?”
“No, thank God.”
Joe walked back to Cliff. A serious look had come over him. “Are you telling me that you can picture place so perfect that you can stand here dreaming about it for ten minutes and there were no women in it? No Mary or Monica?”
“Yup.”
“Seriously.”
“Seriously. And no Flanagan.”
“Whoa, buddy. You’ve got problems.”
Cliff laughed again, “You have no idea.”
The smile was gone from Joe’s face. “I mean it. I’ve gone through a divorce and you’re driving down that road.”
“Divorce!! Who said anything about a divorce.”
“You did,” Joe said.
“I did no such thing. You just asked me what I was daydreaming about.”
“Yes, and you said that it was something so perfect and it didn’t include your wife or daughter. That’s not good.”
Cliff looked at Joe and slowly asked, “Have you been drinking?”
“Cliff, you are at a stage in your life where reality is starting to kick in. No longer can you have pie-in-the-ski dreams of making the olympics or being a cowboy or going to the moon or Mars. This is it. This is what you have. And somewhere along the line you have to figure out what it is that is going to make you want to get out of bed in the mornings. It can’t just be about paying the bills. You have to have a goal.”
Cliff thought of his neighbour, Crowell. What was his goal? “I do have a goal,” Cliff declared.
“Really? Does it include Mary and Monica?”
“Well, not really, but it is not that kind of a goal.”
“Do you need Mary and Monica to reach it?” Joe wondered.
“No, but there are things that can be done that they can’t help with.”
“Yeah, but what if you reach that goal and they are not there. Will you be happy?”
“I’ll be too busy, to be happy,” Cliff said frustrated. “That’s not the point.”
“It is the point. Right now you have one thing in your life that should be taking presidence over everything else. You have a wife and daughter. Your goal should be cultivating them into a blossoming relationship with you and each other. Not daydreaming of getting away from them.”
Cliff was surprised. “Presidence…blossoming… Have you been watching Oprah? If you are having some sort of substance abuse problem, you can tell me. I won’t tell Cecil and we can get you help.”
Joe smirked, “It is you my friend that is having the problem. You are the man that is willing to throw everything away. To put it simply, you are having a mid-life crisis, and the result is going to be a divorce, I’ve seen it to many times and I’ve lived it..”
“How could you have had a mid-life crisis! You are younger than me!”
“Age is irrelevant. I just got unhappy faster than you.”
“Who said I was unhappy?”
“Are you happy?”
“This has nothing to do with being happy.”
“It has everything to do with being happy. If you are happy with who you are and the people around you, you live longer and have a much more enjoyable life. Take the ‘Untouchables’ in India. Horrid life doing the most inhumane activities all because of their birthrite,or lack thereof. Yet, on an individual basis, they are generally happy.”
“So I should start cleaning sewer?”
“if it makes you happy. Answer the question.”
Cliff just looked at Joe and didn’t know what to say. He was searching Joe’s face for any clue as to what was going on. “Did Flanagan put you up to this?”
“No,” Joe replied. “Why would she?”
“Where is the Joe I know?”
Joe inched closer and in a low voice said, “The Joe you know has a Masters in English from DSMu.”
“WHAT!!”
“Ssshhhhhh…”
“Yeah and I am a neurosurgeon.”
“Come here,” Joe said as he started to walk back to his tool chest. He pulled open a drawer and moved some drill bits aside. In the bottom, lining the drawer, was a diploma. “Go ahead. Read it.”
Cliff looked in the drawer and read the paper. There were grease spots all over it, but there it was. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
‘What was the need?”
“Uh, I don’t know, maybe I would have liked to know that I was working with a genius.”
“A degree does not a genius make.”
“No, but it is a worthwhile accomplishment.”
“Really? It is worthwhile if you use it. Otherwise it is just a waste of time.”
“Why did you do it then?” Cliff wondered.
“Because I had the dream of becoming the Astronaut. I was going to be the next Shakespear. Or Jackie Collins. I was going to write.”
“And why didn’t you?”
“Its not that easy. You don’t just write and make money. You have to have a 9-5 job to support yourself through all of you failures. If you are lucky, you can teach and write at the same time. That didn’t work out.’
“You couldn’t find a place to teach?”
“Well, I got married in university. We were both dreaming of the same thing. Unfortunately, only one of us had taken off their rose coloured glasses. A masters may sound nice, but it really gives you nothing. In order to teach, you need a Phd.”
“So”, Cliff asked, “Why didn’t you go for a Phd.?”
“I did. Or at least I got accepted. You see a doctorate is a lot like applying for any profession. You apply to multiple universities, go for interviews and hopefully get accepted. I got accepted to do my doctorate at the University of Arizona.”
“What was that like?” Cliff wanted to know.
“I didn’t go.”
“Why?”
“My wife was not sold on it. It was too far away. It would take her away from her family. She didn’t like the weather. There wasn’t an ocean. She didn’t know were she could work. A lot of stuff.”
“So you refused the position.”
“Yup.”
“And that was that?”
“Essentially. There were other things, but the dream of teaching and writing took a wrong turn.”
“And that is when you got divorced?”
“Hell no. We stayed together for many years. We made a life for ourselves here. I went to trade school and got my technicians’ papers and she went to work for the city in the planning department.”
“Why a mechanic?”
Joe shrugged. “I’m good with my hands and I can catch on to the mechanical theory pretty quickly. I needed a job where at 5:00pm, I checked out and didn’t have to take any work home. I could support myself and write. Any trade would do, but I chose automotive.”
“Huh.” Cliff was very confused. “So then you got a divorce.”
“No. We went along going through the motions, but after a while my wife realized that she wanted to be married to a writer and not a mechanic. She was unwilling to wait to see if I made it or not. The pressures grew and I became less and less happy. I finally pulled the plug and she didn’t object.” Joe paused. “Would have been different if we had a child.”
“So what are you writing about.”
Joe laughed. ‘This place.”
“This place!” Cliff was shocked. “What could you write about this place?”
“Not The Garage per se. I am writing about a group of people working in automotive repair center and the nefarious activities that are involved.”
Cliff stopped breathing. He didn’t know what to say or do. His hands became cold and clammy. “What kind of activities?”
“The regular stuff. Adultery, theft, espionage, murder.”
“Interesting.”
“I hope so. It would be nice to sell it..”
Cliff was very uncomfortable. Honestly, the word murder scared him. He wanted to run out of the building. His world was changing. He couldn’t count on anything. It was all changing so fast, we wasn’t sure he could handle it. He was searching for something to say. “Why did you put it in your drawer?”
Joe laughed. “My undergrad went in first. But after a while it wore out. There is something in the paper that prevents rust. That’s why I put it under all the drill bits.”
“So,” Cliff concluded, “you’re a writer.’
“Yup, a pretentious, single, poor, writer.”
“Could be worse,” Cliff stated. “Why are you telling me this?”
Before Joe could answer something at the door caught his eye. Beautiful curves, athletic build, and best of all – topless. He started to walk toward the door. As he rounded the corner, their she was. Just as he had remembered so many years ago. He fell in love with her then and now his heart still skipped a beat. He looked at the man standing next to Cecil, “is she yours?”
“Yes,” came the reply. The tone, tempo and accent were exactly as Cliff had expected for a man of his dress. Probably a US citizen raised in the boarding schools of England.
“I have always loved her,” Cliff said in awe. “Many years ago I blew the chance of spending my life with her. Now I can’t.”
“Yes, one has to identify the true opportunities in life and act on them, or as the old adage goes – He Who Hesitates is Lost.”
“Can I touch her?”
“I’m sure she won’t mind. Be gentle.”
As Cliff gently touched the bra, Cecil looked at the man and said, “This is Cliff. He is our best man when it comes to British cars.”
“I see. That is why you like the Healy’s?”
Cliff was still running his hand down her curves. “Ohhhh, yeah. There was nothing that came out of Jolly old England that hit all the right notes, like the Healy did. Even Shelby noticed the proportions. I am sure that he would have approached Austin to rework the Healy, but when they refused he had to settle for the AC. The first editions were the best. Then they went overboard with the Cobra’s.”
“i agree,” the man nodded.
“Is it all original or have you plowed a lot of money into it.”
“I was fortunate. The person before me was a collector. He actually bought it as an investment. It was stored and when I obtained it the odometer had less than 20 kilometers on it. I could not bear to sit and look at it. I drive it on a regular basis.”
“Wonderful.” Cliff was admiring the boot with the luggage rack on top. The knock-off wheels, the Avon tires. The chrome was perfect. It wasn’t pitted anywhere. Standing behind the car he asked the man, “How are the electrics?”
The man laughed. “Well, so far so good. Every time she starts, I am amazed by my good fortune.”
Cliff glanced down at the personalized plate. He read it and stiffened. ‘CNRAD’ In a second he regained his composure and looked up at Cecil and his guest. “I’m sorry, to have intruded. Its a beautiful car. Take good care of her. It was nice meeting you Mr…..”
“Russell. James Russell.”
Cliff walked forward and grabbed Russell’s hand. “Cliff Robinson. If you ever need anything done to her, give me a call.” He finished shaking James Russell’s hand and walked nervously back into the shop.

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