Disbelief fell over Nigel Carter as he read the notice from his mechanic. Due to the negligence of a former employee the company was forced to inform all customers that incomplete maintenance may have been performed on their vehicle. A recent oil change threw Nigel into this category. Thoughts of breaking down along side the road raced through his mind as he continued to read. The company would be happy to provide free service if the customer can show that the maintenance was not performed. That’s how they get you. They paint an image of wanting to help then insert a small clause that frees them from any responsibility. I just bought that car from Stuart, and didn’t know when the last oil change occurred.
Nigel’s older brother, Stuart, had the most peculiar habit of putting his initials on everything. As a child, he scurried around with a black felt marker ensuring everything was labeled. In later years, this transgressed to monograms on every clothing item, including his plaid boxer briefs.
Nigel drove to his mechanic. Upon giving it an inspection the serviceman could not find any proof that incomplete maintenance was performed. The mechanic backed his guy as Nigel rebutted.
“Did you check the oil filter for initials?” he asked..
“Sir, we have checked everything. It all appears good.”
“Did you check inside the oil filter?”
Both the mechanic and service man gave Nigel a crossed and confused look. “Sir, that would require dumping out the oil. We are not giving you a free oil change.”
Knowing his brother, Nigel stood his ground. “If his initial aren’t in that oil filter then I’ll pay for the oil change and buy you both lunch.”
Up for a free meal both men were in agreement. “Not so fast. If those letters are in the filter, then you owe me three free oil changes. And, I’m coming back there. I would hate to have any filters swapped.”
Aggravated at the accusation, the two conceded. With Nigel’s car in the air, the oil poured. The anticipation started to build as Nigel began to second guess his brotherly faith. Each twist of the oil filter brought him closer to proving his point. Finally the serviceman pulled the filter off and wiped out the inside. Stamped neatly inside were the letters SJC.
“Stuart Josephine Carter.” Nigel read with pride.
Never had he been more proud to see his brother’s initials than that very moment.
Lightening illuminated the room as Kevin began to count,
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”
A roll of thunder signaled the approaching storm. The ten-year old boy wasn’t as afraid of storms as he use to be. However, lightning always brought an eery view to his room. Perhaps it was the split second revelation followed by the sudden darkness that led to his overactive imagination. Was that shadow my coat or a dark creature? He was certain that it was his jacket hanging in the closet. He clearly remembered hanging it there.
Another flash of lightning revealed his jacket was indeed hanging there next to an unknown shadow that seemed to be staring at him. All features were hidden, but he was certain something was standing in his closet. The thunder crackled as the creature moved, ever so slightly. It moved! I saw it move. There is something in my closet and it just moved. Focusing his attention to the closet he could hear the creature breathing. But, what is it? Kevin slowly slid out of his bed and slipped across the carpet; taking care not to make a sound.
The creature appeared to be short like a goblin. No identifying features were revealed as Kevin got close. Holding his breath he got within inches of it. He could still hear it’s rapid shallow breathing. There’s no such thing as monsters. If there are, I’m about to catch my first one. Raising his hand towards its head he slowly began to exhale.
“Kevin.” a small voice called out.
A fear struck him as the creature seized his hand with its cold pale fingers. Lightening struck illuminating its screaming face. Kevin’s scream was eclipsed by the explosion of thunder. His backwards leap pulled the creature from the closet. The two fell to the floor as fear gripped them both. Before Kevin could move his unknown fiend wrapped it thin arms around him.
“I’m scared.” his sister whispered.
A flood of revelation brought an onslaught of relief to Kevin. Realizing it was his little sister the whole time, he hugged her back.
“It’s OK. That lightening was scary.”
Reaching up, he pulled his pillow from his bed for them to share and covered up with the blanket she brought from her room. The two slept on the floor as the storm passed over. Every now and then his sister would jerk from the thunder, and he would comfort her. He knew this was all part of being a big brother, even if she did scare the living daylight out of him.
Five a.m. came quick for Chris. It wasn’t a late night with the boys, or an argument with his wife that brought the morning on so quick. No, he was just worn out from his new carpentry job. Setting in his favorite chair, he realized he had fallen asleep with his work boots on. A small quilt covered him; a sure sign his wife took care of him.
Slowly making his way to the kitchen his body ached. Every joint popped like a bowl of milk and rice-crispies. Setting at the kitchen table, he untied his boots and kicked them off. Pulling his socks off too, he placed his feet on the cold hardwood floor. The cool flat surface brought relief as he made his way to the coffeepot. First the a precise measurement of grounds, then a pot full of water was added. As the first drip of coffee fell, Chris began to stretch. How could he be this young and feel this old? His hands still felt tight from gripping a hammer all day. Hand cramps were a sign of learning. Gotta let the hammer do the work. He told himself as he stretched his fingers out. The morning fog cleared from his thoughts as he stood there watching the pot fill. I could be getting ready for the day.
A quick shower and fresh clothes helped him face the morning. Moving with more ease, he poured his first cup. Not sure if it was his youth, inexperience or the excitement of learning a new trade, but he was actually excited to go to work. His career choice was the foundation he was building his life on.
Life didn’t come with instructions. It came with those before us showing what works and what doesn’t. Like Chris, we have all stepped out with uncertainty. But our youthful vigor perpetuated us all to achieve our greatness. As our work kicks back with pain, we are reminded five a.m. comes quick for us all.