The mechanic was a master of straight talk and incisive diagnosis. I know this because he shrugged and said: ‘Could be anythin…’
‘Like the turbo?’
‘Or the injectors?’
‘Maybe the filter?’
‘Could be the filter alright…’
‘Or the fuel pump…?’
‘That can happen too.’
Beat. Oily puddles. Midlands rain. A bored breeze and a solitary click from somewhere inside the car’s open bonnet.
There was a smell like tyres and rust.
The mechanic’s name was Tony.
He lit a smoke, inhaled hard, let it dangle from his lips and said: ‘I’ll give you a ring tomorrow. Probably just a filter or something simple.’
Walked home. Over the bridge. The Shannon roared underneath. Rain threatened above. Cars with perfect engines hummed in traffic to the right. Bored types driving with places to go. Places to drive. Ticking over.
Tony rang the next day with: ‘I don’t have good news for you.’
‘How bad is it?’
‘She’s banjaxed, Mike.’
‘Banjaxed, like fucked?’
‘Well….yeah I think so.’
‘Can you do anythin at all?’
‘We can look for a new engine.’
‘How much will that cost?’
‘Guts of €1500, but it’ll compensate for buying a new car.’
‘Have you tried drainin the….’
‘Hang on a second…’
He hung up and didn’t call back for the rest of the day. Sure he was probably busy.
Maybe he’d had a Eureka moment.
I went down in the evening and the place was abandoned and the car hadn’t been moved, hadn’t been touched.
Rang Tony and he said: ‘Oh yeah, you’re lookin at an engine, we’re waiting for one to come in…I’ll call you before lunch tomorrow.’
No call the next day.
I went down and there was an extra in a black cap putting oil into a Citroen.
He turned on cue and said: ‘Oh yeah, she won’t turn. She won’t start at all. We pushed it around there yesterday for a good while. No good. New engine is your only job. Does happen them yokes.’
He smiled, still holding the oil can, missing a front tooth. ‘We have your number don’t we? We’ll call you before lunch.’
Lunch came and went and the sun went down and the phone didn’t ring so I called Tony and he said: ‘Did you put bad diesel in it or anythin?’
‘Or you didn’t put petrol in it by accident?’
‘Why? Does it smell like petrol?’
‘No, just askin…I’m waiting for an engine. Could be €800 for the Engine and about €250/300 on the labour…depends on if it’s a good engine too.’
‘How do ya mean?’
‘They can be shit like, you don’t know til they’re in and then you’re fucked. Can you hang on a second…?’
And he hung up.
I called him the next day and said: ‘I’m gonna bring it to the Polish crowd up the road for a second opinion.’
‘Are ya fuckin mad?! Said Tony. ‘You need a new engine!’
‘I’ll take my chances.’
‘Whatever you think yourself.’
The breakdown cover on the insurance covered a tow to the Polish lads. I went down to meet the truck and tell them where to go.
I also needed to pay Tony for the six days it was there and the monumental lack of labour.
I couldn’t find him for a few minutes til I heard noise in a van out the back. I walked over and around the side and Tony was there with another fella and they were staring intently at a pile of tyres.
Tony noticed me and pointed and said: ‘Do you see the spider on the tyres?’
‘We think he’s a fuckin terrorist…’
The other guy turned, brown eyes, fair hair, mouth hanging open, asked me: ‘Are you a guard?’
‘It’s a fuckin terrorist.’ Said Tony. ‘Look at the fuckin thing. I got bitten by one of them before and my arm was dead for a week.’
‘You must be the Sheriff.’ continued the other fella to me. ‘And if you are, then who’s the deputy?’
He was staring at me intently, sincerely waiting for an answer. I wasn’t sure what to say so I said nothing til something else happened. A dog barked in the distance, a mother with a pram and a crying baby went by in the background.
Bits of drizzle were acting the bollox and trying to call themselves a shower but getting blown away in the breeze. We gave it a few more seconds looking at the spider. Then Tony lit a smoke and asked: ‘Is your man here with the truck?’
‘Yeah. I have your money here.’
‘Sound.’ He took it, said: ‘It’s probably something simple to do with the diesel anyway. Hopefully it’ll be grand.’
Mokusatsu – A Novel by Mick Donnellan.