He knew it was going to be bad, he was no mechanic, but he was pretty sure the car was a goner. He reached to his pocket and fished out a cigarette. He wondered to himself, what the hell was he supposed to do stuck in the middle of nowhere New Mexico with no money, and no transportation. Life just wouldn’t give him a break. He decided to walk down the street and check out some of the old Rt 66 history to get his mind of the situation.
Looking down the street, he had seen a teepee shaped building that he decided to investigate. The teepee had an impressive neon sign out front and kokopelli painted over the walls on the outside. It seemed to be one of the few neon signs on the road that was still in good condition. As he got to the concrete teepee, he noticed a couple of kitschy sculptures out front made of old sun-bleached bones. The first looked like a sculpture of a scorpion ready to attack and the other was a massive demon complete with horns, tail, and pitchfork. The sculptures were ugly as sin, but he supposed they served their purpose, as he noticed passing out of state cars slowing down to take pictures. Typical roadside tourist trap.
As he entered the shop, he got an uneasy feeling. He didn’t know what it was, but something didn’t feel right.
A tall middle-aged man with a scraggly beard and dark glasses was in the back of the store placing items on a shelf. He didn’t acknowledge Mickey and that was fine with Mickey. He was just killing time waiting to hear about his car.
The store was stuffed with old trinkets, key chains, Indian decorations, and a variety of tchotchkes. He wondered to himself, “Who the hell buys this shit”, but then he was reminded of his wife, Veronica, she could spend hours in a store like this, and would probably buy half of the store. She loved her China cabinet and had enough junk to fill it three times over. He had never seen the point as it just seemed like more stuff taking up room, but it made her happy, so who was he to argue.
“Welcome to the Teepee. Can we help you find something?”, a feminine voice came from behind him. He turned around to see a petite 20 something dressed in dark clothing with jet black hair and black lipstick. Her face looked like a pin cushion with brads and studs stuck through her ears, eyebrows, nose, and lips.
“No thanks, just looking around killing time”, Mickey said. He never would have thought he would find a goth culture in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, but then again people were strange everywhere.
“Well there’s plenty to look at”, she smiled “What brings you to Tucumcari?”
“Just traveling through, had some car trouble and hoping to get it fixed and back on the road”, Mickey said still staring at the young woman in disbelief.
“Well that sucks”, she replied. “That’s how we ended up here, isn’t it babe”, she looked back at the middle-aged guy stocking shelves in the back. “Yeah me and Frank, we were traveling to California and our van broke down here. We were broke as a joke and couldn’t afford the car repairs so we decided we would just hang out for a while and try to find work, and here we are. It’s really not that bad of a town, at least no one bothers you.”
“How long you been here”, Mickey inquired.
“Oh, how long has it been now babe?”, she turned back to Frank.
He stopped what he was doing clearly irritated and walked up to the front where Mickey and the goth girl were standing. He stood almost a foot taller than Mickey and a full foot and a half taller than the girl. He had a Metallica t-shirt and ripped jeans on with black boots and belt. “Too fucking long, is how long it’s been, although I’m not sure what business that is of yours”, he growled.
“No need to get upset bud, just making conversation”, Mickey took a step back.
“Well go make conversation with someone else’s woman, and you get your ass back to the store room and finish inventory”, he scowled at the girl. She dropped her head and snuck off through a door at the back of the store. “Now are you here to buy something or just make a move on my wife?”
“Listen fella, I don’t want any trouble, I just came in here to pass the time, but I can see I’m not welcome, so I’ll just go”, Mickey couldn’t believe this. This guy was actually wanting to kick his ass just for talking to goth girl. What the hell kind of town was this.
“Yeah well make sure you don’t come back”, Frank snarled.
Mickey made his way out of the shop, still wondering what the hell had just happened. He wondered about goth girl and what fate awaited her with the surly giant. He felt like a heel, backing down and leaving her there like that, but what could he do. He didn’t know anyone here and he couldn’t afford to be getting into fights with the locals. All he wanted was to get his car fixed and get the hell out of this place.
He decided instead of walking the streets looking at what used to be, he would just go have a cup of coffee. He saw a small restaurant just a couple blocks from the teepee and decided he would sit a while in there. The restaurant had a small patio area with tables and umbrellas that were unoccupied. He thought it would be best to sit outside and enjoy the nice day and hopefully avoid another incident. He took a seat, ordered a cup of coffee and thought about his next move.
While he was waiting for the mechanic to call him back, he thought maybe he should give his brother a call. His brother was a successful attorney in Dallas. He took his first job there after graduating from Stanford. He had started as a clerk for a major firm and worked his way up to being a senior partner. Mickey was proud of his little brother, but they had never been really close. He was a full ten years older than his brother and he had left home when Jeff was only 8 years old. He knew it was hard on Jeff being the youngest, and he always felt he resented him for leaving, but once he got to be 18 there was no way he was staying in that house anymore. He finished his cup of coffee and decided he would hold off on calling his brother until he heard back from the mechanic.
It had been an hour and a half since he left the mechanic shop, surely, they would have had a chance to look at it by now. He made his way back to the mechanic, making sure to steer clear of the teepee. When he got to the shop, he noticed they had his car up on the rack. “At least they got that far”, he thought. He walked into the lobby and approached the desk, where the same mechanic from this morning was sitting talking on the phone. He didn’t even look up when Mickey walked into the place. After about ten minutes, the mechanic hung up the phone and turned to Mickey, “Well, well, I hope you enjoyed walking, because you have a lot of that ahead of you”, the mechanic said with a sneer.
“I figured it wasn’t going to be good news”, Mickey replied. “What’s the verdict?”
“Your engine is totally shot, needs an entire overhaul, I’m surprised the thing is still mobile. I can fix it for you, but it probably wouldn’t be worth it. As old as this thing is, you’d be throwing your money away”, the mechanic replied.
“Well hell, I guess I’ll figure something else out. What do I owe you for checking it out?”, Mickey asked.
“Nah, don’t worry about it, I don’t generally charge for diagnosing something. You can probably get around town with it for a while, but it’s not going to last long”, the mechanic said.
“I appreciate it”, Mickey replied.
“We’ll have it down in a few minutes. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you”, the mechanic said as he walked back out into the shop.
Mickey stepped outside to have a smoke while they got his car down. “Well”, he thought to himself “I guess I have no choice but to call Jeff and beg for a rescue”. The mechanics backed his car out of the shop smoke billowing from the exhaust.
“Here you go”, a young mechanic told him. “You sure don’t have to worry about mosquitos with this thing”.
Mickey got into the car and hesitated for a minute. What could he do, he didn’t want to be stuck in this town, but then again, he surely didn’t want to be stuck on the side of the interstate. He decided to bite the bullet and call Jeff for help. He drove up the road to a small park and stopped under a tree killing the engine. He was nervous about calling, he didn’t even know if Jeff would answer. He took out his phone and reluctantly dialed the number.
“McIntosh, Kline, and Smith how can I direct your call”, a professional sounding woman answered the call.
“I’d like to speak with Jeff Kline please”, Mickey said.
“I’m sorry, he’s in a meeting, can I take message for him?”, the receptionist asked.
“Yeah, would you please have him call Mickey Kline please?”, Mickey said. “He should have my number.”
“Very well Mr. Kline, I’ll let him know you called”, the receptionist hung up the phone.
“Just my luck”, Mickey thought. He sat for a while in the park contemplating his situation. Finally, he decided, he would need to get a room for the night at least. There was no telling when Jeff would call back, and he figured, at least at the hotel he could relax and watch television.
He decided to go back to the same hotel he had stayed at the previous night. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable place, but at least it was cheap, and had food nearby. He pulled up into the motel leaving a trail of fumes behind him and killed the engine. The same old lady was at the desk smoking a cigarette watching soap operas.
“I’d like a room for the night please”, Mickey said.
“Oh, you’re back, I thought you’d be on your way down the road today”, the old woman walked over to her register.
“Well that was the plan, but my car took a dump on me, so I guess I’m stuck here for a while”, Mickey replied.
“That’s terrible, I hate having car trouble.”, the old woman said. “I’ll make you a deal on the room since you’re a returning customer”, she winked “How does $35 bucks sound?”.
“That sounds great”, Mickey needed to save every penny he could. “I really appreciate your hospitality.”
“Oh, no trouble at all”, the old woman replied. “We don’t get many visitors anymore, so I’m always glad to have returning guests. Here is your key, I’m putting you in the same room so you won’t get lost.”
Mickey took the key and thanked her. He went to the room, threw off his shoes and laid on the bed to watch television and wait for his brother’s call. The picture on the television faded in and out, but at least the sound was good. As he sat there flipping through the channels, he could feel his eyes getting heavy. Soon after stretching out, he was drifting off to sleep.