No Room at the Repair Shop
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
December 24, 2015, Parsippany, New Jersey…
Yuseph stood next to the old blue Citroen DS 21 in the parking space across from the garage door; closed against the cold with exhaust exiting through a wide hose sticking out of the bottom panel. Most of the snow from the weekend had melted and all that remained was a dull icy sheen on the pavement, though the cold had returned with a vengeance.
Fortunately for them they weren't far from the place when the car started acting up. Not so fortunately, when they called, the guy on the line had informed him and Maria that there was a long wait; maybe hours, since almost everybody had off for the holiday and everybody else called in sick. Not very good, since she was huge with child and appeared about as ready to go as anyone you'd ever see. A car repair to go along with a pregnancy was difficult enough, but it promised more delays for his own medical issues as well.
He looked at the sign; an inviting pastiche of pictures and words that had beckoned him from the highway. He would have strolled down to Burger King for some coffee and maybe a nice breakfast sandwich for his wife, but she was in no mood for anything solid at that point, and besides, he didn’t want to leave her alone.
They walked into the waiting room and sat down. Old issues of Cigar Aficionado seemed to speak for the place; health code violations be damned, the establishment smelled of old cigarette smoke and even a trace of beer. The radio on the counter next to the coffee maker was playing an old 80’s song about being apart at Christmas or something just as seasonal; it was hard to tell since the antenna had been replaced by a bent-out paper clip and the music kept fading in and out. An old sign hung on the wall behind the counter; a nod to the origins of the place which was now a franchise repair shop.
Yuseph looked around and noticed they were alone in the waiting room; most everyone must be home warm and cozy on a very cold if snowless afternoon. The manager came out from a short hallway and smiled, barely looking up from the Star Ledger in his hands.
“Now I can’t promise anything, but Yonni maybe can look at your car. Nobody else is waiting, so he’ll squeeze you in between the Caprice and the Audi, okay?” He chomped on a cigar and pointed to the shop door. Yuseph smiled in appreciation, but the car would soon fall down the list of priorities, as a while later, Maria grabbed Yuseph’s sleeve.
"I don't feel so good,” she moaned. Yuseph was worried; her due date wasn’t for another ten days, but she was so uncomfortable. He anxiously paced before looking through the foggy window that separated the garage. Thankfully, after only a couple of hours, the old Citroen was finally on the lift, but Yonni the mechanic seemed to be more interested in a new calendar that was proudly displayed above the work station next to the door. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, 2016
Yuseph shook his head. Whoever had said this place provided fast service had to have come at an off hour, but by the looks of it, every hour was probably an off hour. The fellow behind the counter looked fairly disinterested; Immanuel, by the name on his ID tag. His gaze went back and forth between the Cussler novel he was reading and the TV; a program about how to prepare stuffed mushrooms was turned down low enough to lull anyone to sleep. Maria moaned once more and noticed that a small puddle of water had drenched her shoes.
“Now!!!” she cried. “Madre’ de Dios! AHHHHHHH!!!” He rushed to her side and looked around, almost in a panic. Maria writhed a bit and he lowered her to the floor. He pulled out his cell and dialed 911.
“My wife is delivering our son….” We’re at…what’s the address?”
“1440 Route 46 East…” He was about to remind him of the name of the place but Yuseph had already finished the call and was busy helping his wife. He pulled off the long coat he wore and put it on the floor underneath Maria. A moment later she was lying on the coat, her legs spread and pushing.
Only minutes later, the dull clunks coming from the Citroen were almost drowned out by the boisterous cries of a brand new baby boy; safe in Maria's arms. The clerk looked back and forth between mother, child and 'other' parent. Yuseph caught the man's glance and looked down at his own clothes; a nice calf-length ecru gauze skirt topped by a light turquoise jersey top that peeked out from under a copper brocade Eisenhower-style jacket. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders and Immanuel smiled back; confused. A moment later Moshe, the manager came out of the garage and shook his head, finally noticing Yuseph’s apparel.
“Sorry...Mr...Miss...Ms? Ahhh, dammit…Sorry! The car won’t be ready ‘til Friday after one. You gotta pick it up before 4:30, okay? It gets dark early. Sorry. Can I call you three a cab?” He smiled weakly and eyed Yuseph up and down, shaking his head.
“That's alright. Parsippany Rescue is on its way." A few minutes later a white and orange ambulance pulled up and soon mother and child were loaded into the back. Yuseph stared at the sign that seemed to hover over the place just before climbing in. Three inviting faces…he thought of the three in the shop. Emmanuel, Moshe, and Yonni.
As the ambulance pulled away, he looked back at shop once again. The three men waved from the front door. Something struck him about them. It then came to him as he looked at the sign; no wonder they looked oddly familiar. He was grateful, of course. He laughed to himself as the irony of the moment hit him. They had been helpful, but contrary to their logo, they hadn’t been peppy at all.
Special Pre-Thanksgiving Bonus:
by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders
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