April 18, 2007 – Fort Stockton, TX
We are completely at the mercy of a stranger named Victor.
Also, there’s a cut on our finger which makes it hard to type. An injury sustained while poking around underneath the hood of our $400 no-radio-no-air-conditioning graffiti car as it poured oil like a slashed carotid artery on a loved one mortally wounded in battle.
We held the bleeding Shart Car in our arms from Austin to 50 miles East of Fort Stockton, Texas — giving quart after quart of oil to the sputtering engine, trying to find the exact right speed to allay its tachycardia … and nothing worked.
At one point, while trying to find out what caused the smaller-to-begin-with leak somewhere under the head — the thought that the tweaker back in Needles had loosened more than one valve entered our mind — a kind man named Mackey saw us huddled, face in the engine, and offered his help.
“The engines I work on are about as big as the gas station building,” he said, “so we’ll see just how much I know about one this size.” He repairs giant farm equipment (so hot) and oil-field machines, so we’re pretty sure when he and this writer guessed all the same stuff and he tightened back all the same stuff that had vibrated loose (we assumed), he didn’t do anything glaringly detrimental to our car.
We will choose to believe the good samaritan who gave us two cans of carb cleaner and six shop rags in addition to taking an hour out of his day to help us is NOT the one who caused our car to dramatically throw a rod and then blow a gasket five miles down the road.
It was just the car’s time to go.
So here we sit in the ironically-named Deluxe Inn in Fort Stockton, Texas, waiting on a guy named Victor, who is almost seven hours late. We realize he’s a busy repo man, probably out “bird-watching” somewhere, and that people function on a different idea of what “time” actually is down here in the West Texas desert, so we’re trying not to panic.
Also! We haven’t had a phone for almost two weeks. We didn’t bother driving to the nearest Sprint store 20 minutes outside New Orleans, since suburbia is anathema and we rather enjoyed the feeling of being stranded, incommunicado, in the Bywater … so then the Sprint store in Austin somehow temporarily fixed the phone and said it was fine, the charger was faulty, so we got a new charger and then the phone BROKE ANYWAY just in time for us to run our car into the ground in the West Texas desert at sundown.
The shart car. That beautiful, ugly car.
Victor’s son-in-law was the first person to pull over and offer help, and called Victor on his cell phone. Triple A charges $4-5 a mile to tow; Victor charges $1. We checked. And we spent an hour in the cab of his tow truck conversing with him, so we’re fairly sure he’s a good guy. He works for a bank as a repo man, and has a few leads on new vehicles for us that would cost less than renting one.
We’re supposed to be in San Francisco a week from today. Not sure that’s going to happen. If it does, Bruno the dog and this writer will be one-car-parading in a ‘77 Delta-88 Oldsmobile, a small van, a Geo Metro, or a pink Toyota Camry. (Pink. Ugh.)
Our trusty spray-painted calico steed of the past three years will not be smashed in a junkyard and scrapped in Mexico — it will either be given to the local vocational school’s auto-mechanics class, or donated to the local fire department so firefighters can practice rescuing people from cars. A fine retirement for the old hey-cops-over-here-mobile.
If Victor ever shows up.
We’d hop on the Greyhound, if Bruno could pose as human and help carry enough luggage to live at grandma’s house for a few months, which we didn’t even end up doing.
Sigh. Everything is broken. The Hobo Hustle never ends.
This is what we spend. Tons of time instead of money.
At least we got to sleep late, even though all morning we dreamed of being forced to hang out in New Orleans on a stoop with some street kids who were making a very serious game of shooting tourists in the back.
Bleeding all over the keyboard. Again (two punk points)
Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.