I can’t concentrate. Even the whirring of air wrenches and the buzzing of shop gossip is drowned out by that voice in my head again.
His voice: “Boy, sit the fuck down now!”
“Don’t move or say a fucking word, understand?”
I bite my lip. He sounds so close.
Something hits me on the forehead, snapping me back to reality. I hiss and blink a few times and stare up at the underside of a car—the chassis of a sedan, to be exact. Damn, I zoned out again. Tumbled into memories I’ve been trying to bury for years.
Fuck him. Fuck the world.
The wheels of the hardwood dolly squeak as I roll out from under the car and stand. I toss my wrench in the open toolbox and wipe my dirty hands on a towel. Dabbing away the sweat from my forehead, I frown. That sweat certainly wasn’t from my hard work. I glance at the car next to mine and watch Samuel doing some wiring under the hood.
He stops for a moment, rummages through our toolbox, and pulls out a set of pliers. Instead of returning to work, he furrows his eyebrows at me. “Everything all right, man?”
I nod. “Yeah, fine. Just so damn tired today.” It’s mostly true, and I emphasize the point with a deep yawn.
Samuel smirks. “Heh. Yeah. Glad tomorrow’s Friday. Got a date with this honey I’ve been dying to go out with. Name’s Mona. Always wears these short-shorts over that big—no, huge—round ass of hers. God bless America!”
I roll my eyes. Tomorrow, Mona is his booty call. After that, who knows who he’ll be in the mood for? I don’t understand why the chicks he dates even give him the time of day.
I haven’t had a date in months, much less a girlfriend. But then again, I’d stopped trying after the last girl. I was apparently cramping her style because I wanted to get to know her a bit more rather than fuck her the very same night I met her. Why the hell is that so wrong? I wanna be with a girl who knows how much she’s worth instead of how much of the goods she has to show so I’ll jump in bed with her.
Samuel waves a hand in front of my face. “Yo, Dom!”
I blink back to reality again.
“What the hell, man? You look like shit.”
Frowning, I shove Samuel’s hand away and head toward the main office. “I told you I’m fine. It’s time for me to clock out. Can you finish getting this catalytic converter installed?”
“Yeah, sure.” Samuel shrugs. “Oh, by the way . . . ”
I stop short of the office’s glass door and look back.
“Better talk to Frank before you go. He was asking about you earlier.”
I look through the glass door and see Frank, our boss, leaning back in his swivel chair with his feet propped up on his paper-filled desk. He’s yapping away on the phone while he plays with the tangled cord.
I look back at Samuel. “Asking about me for what?”
Samuel shrugs again then sticks his head back under the hood and resumes wiring. “I dunno. You were taking a piss when he came looking for you. Told me to tell you to go see him before you clock out.”
I blink. “And you’re just telling me now?”
“Sorry, man. I forgot.”
Shit. A meeting with the boss is never a good sign. Then again, everything else in my life always seems to go to shit, so why not my only means of income? Sighing, I enter the office. It’s big enough to accommodate a grungy, magazine-ridden couch and a desk. The room feels nice and cool after working on cars all day.
Waiting for the boss to hang up, I check my cell for missed calls. No one—not even my roommate, Chris—left any messages.
Probably too busy fucking. I dream of the day when I can finally get a place of my own. But this job, especially with my college expenses, doesn’t pay enough to make Seattle rent on my own.
Frank hangs up the phone. Without taking his feet off the desk, he folds his dirty hands over his large belly, which pokes out slightly between the buttons of his oil-smeared blue shirt. He rocks back in his chair, making it squeak, and looks at me. “Dominick. I’ll make this quick.”
I suck in my breath and start anticipating where this little talk is headed—and how much money I have saved, which garages might be hiring . . .
“There’re going to be some changes around here,” Frank says in his deep voice. “Money’s getting tight, and I’ve been receiving a few customer complaints lately.”
I blink. Complaints? Not from my work, I hope. I know cars like the back of my hand. Been working on them since I was seven. “What—what kind of complaints?”
“Just a few things—little things that I take very seriously. Like, one customer complained that his radio was tuned to some rock station when he got his car back after an oil change. He’s a religious man and was offended by the—and I quote—“devil music” coming from his own radio. There’s no fucking reason to be touching the radio if you’re doing an oil change.”
“I didn’t mess with the radio, man,” I say, shaking my head. I don’t even listen to rock.
Frank stiffens and glares. “Did I say you did? Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“No. Sorry for interrupting.”
His face relaxes. “Had another complaint two days ago that a customer’s warning lights were still on after she had her engine serviced. She thought there was still something wrong with the car, and after she brought the car back to have it re-inspected, Paul discovered that the warning lights just weren’t manually turned off. Careless shit like that is something I can’t stand. Time is money. If you’re going to work for me, then put a little pride in your fucking work, right?”
I nod again, more stiffly this time. What’s he hinting at? There are only five employees at Frank’s Garage, but as far as I know, we all get along, work hard, and don’t cause problems.
Frank pulls his feet off the table, straightens in his chair, and looks at me carefully. He places both hands on the desk. “Time is money, and all these kinds of complaints are bad for business—bad for my reputation. I’m letting Sam go today, so that means work’s gonna get crazy for a while with just the four of you. But I know you guys can do it.”
Samuel? I know he’s always talking about how much he loves ass and tits, but I never thought he’d be the one to cause problems for the shop. Without Samuel, we’re going to be short-staffed, and that’s totally going to up the workload. Boy, Thursday’s really turned to shit.
I leave the office in silence and walk around back, where my red sport bike is parked. After slipping on my helmet, jacket, and gloves, I kick the bike awake and zip toward the south side of Montlake as fast as I can, taking alternate routes in order to bypass the evening rush-hour traffic. When I arrive at the two-bedroom duplex at Springview Commons, I park my bike behind a tall wooden fence around the side. I pull off my helmet and pat my jeans pockets for my key. Going in through the door into the kitchen, I listen for sounds of my roommate, but hear no one. Either Chris is really gone for a change or he’s asleep. Curiosity gets the best of me, so I creep through the hallway to his bedroom door, which is cracked open slightly, revealing some of the large posters of pin-up girls and his favorite pro football players plastered on the walls. I get a whiff of sex and booze tainting the room’s stale air. Not needing to see any more to know what he’s been up to, I climb the stairs to my room and shut the door. I strip out of my work clothes and plop down in bed in my boxers. Heaving a deep sigh, I close my eyes and try to relax after a long day.
The visions return.
I see him again.
“You want it? You gotta beg.”
“What did I fucking say?”
I shudder and open my eyes. “What did I fucking say?” I repeat in a quivering whisper.