The shop always got cold after dark. The polished cement floor soaked up all the heat. The menagerie of brightly colored cars took on a ghastly pallor under the hanging light. Mickey bundled up in his old letterman jacket, warming his greasy palms in the pockets. The icy steel had sapped them numb in moments but if he didn’t toughen up and finish changing out the serpentine belt now, he’d have to come back at 5am to do it and that wouldn’t be any warmer.
He thought about starting a couple of the other cars to warm the place up but then he’d have to turn the vents back on and he’d be wasting peoples gas. Time was when people might have let that go, but not anymore. People watch the idiot’s needle closer than their children these days.
He was rallying to get back in when he noticed the light in the administration-building click off. Mickey jumped. He’d forgotten that anyone else was still here. From across the room he head the metronomal click of stilettos on concrete before he saw Denise come walking round Mr. Toledo’s Toyota, her tail-light red hair pulled into a tight bun.
“Evening,” he said.
“You’re here late,” she said without breaking stride.
“Not by choice, Mrs. Misota has to have her car back first thing in the morning.”
Denise nodded. Mickey’s heart roared to life. She’d stopped, Denise was talking to him. He felt like he’d just inhaled a heavy hit of exhaust.
“Can I show you something?”
Denise looked hesitant. She glanced at the glass door to the parking lot then back at Mickey.
“Will it take long?”
“Just a minute,” Mickey responded excited. He moved over to the controls for the floor jack. The hydraulic machine hissed as the crimson 1969 Ford Fairlane descended to the ground.
“Who’s car is that?” Denise asked.
“It’s mine, or it will be, Joey’s giving me a deal on it.”
“It’s very nice.”
Mickey started to sweat. He grabbed a shammy out of his letterman and started going over the spotless hood.
“It’s the second most beautiful thing I’ve seen come through this garage. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. Having this car would change my life. You know what I mean?”
“I’ve heard muscle cars can have that effect on men.”
“You don’t sound convinced. Check out the size of the engine. Look at this heavy steel frame, not like the pop cans they’re passing off as cars now-a-days.”
“I don’t see how any of that will change your life.”
“You knew me in high school. I was the man. I’ll admit, I’ve been in a slump lately but a car like this will put me back where I belong. You could go to the top in a car like this. You see that don’t you?”
“I barely remember high school Mickey.”
“You can’t have forgotten already. I certainly remember you.”
Mickey looked at her pleadingly. Her eyes looked like chips of blue fiberglass in the lamplight. Her hair was burning.
“I remember not liking cars.”
She turned and walked out the door. Mickey watched her go, the cement stealing all the warmth from his feet. He stuck his hands in his pockets and walked back to the Mitsubishi. He still had to get that belt in.