Chapter 4–The Keys to the Tractor are on the Shelf
As my dad basked in the glow of the glory of his car, and her pivotal role in securing my driver’s license, I basked in the glow of my own personal victory. I was now in a class of people in society: I was a licensed driver. I was now ranked among those who could travel the world unencumbered by the need to beg for a ride. I wasn’t old enough to drink, but I sure could drive those who were home from the bar and other such parties where alcohol was consumed. Yes sirree, I was dipping my toes into the pond of grown-up-hood and it felt pretty awesome.
My dad redoubled his efforts to rebuild and prepare the ‘Ol’Bruiser’ for my use. He spent every spare moment working on her. My instruction transmuted from driving student to mechanic protégé. Since I wasn’t working on my evil and spiteful ‘step-sister’, I was quite pleased with this shift in my relationship/role with my dad. I liked learning how cars worked. I did not like crawling under cars, or enduring the havoc mechanics wrecked on my hands and nails. However, learning how things worked was very empowering for me, and it gave some sense of personal achievement as we worked together to get what would be my first car on the road.
When my dad was working on a car, he was different. He was less authoritative, and more collegial and chatty. For the first time in my memory we actually talked about stuff. He told me about his first car, and how his dad taught him how to drive. I also learned that my dad was practically self taught when it came to mechanical work. For the first time in months we were actually talking and laughing together. It was a good time.
About three weeks after my huge victory, the car set for my use was road ready. It was insured and ready to go—practically. My parents decided that it was time for them to take a long weekend away. While I was invited to join them, I was not really encouraged to do so. They really wanted some time away together, and after the many weeks of time and energy spent on my learning how to drive, I think it was more than deserved on all parts. I agreed to stay behind and “house-sit” for them. I was not the kind of kid who easily found mischief, and they trusted me alone in the house for a couple of days.
It was always amusing to watch my parents work together. Watching them pack was particularly amusing. It was one of those scenes reminiscent of the adage “fools rush in where angels dare not tread”. Trust me, while I was no genius, I was smart enough in this instance to be the angel. After what seemed like an eternity of “did you pack my…” and “where is my…”, and “for the love of …I have to do everything”, they were ready to embark upon their weekend journey.
My mom hugged me so hard my ribs hurt. She told me to be careful, be wary of strangers, and she advised me of all the many meals I could make for myself in her absence. My dad hugged me so hard that my feet came off the ground. He looked me in the eyes and said in his best “dad-knows-best” voice, “the keys to the tractor are on the shelf”. How puzzling. Was he expecting me to mow the lawn while they were gone? Had I promised, somewhere along the line, that I would plough the garden in their absence? I was still processing his parting comments as they pulled out of the driveway.
With my dad gone, there was little to do on my car. However, I could take a look under the hood, check to ensure all the fluids were holding level. So, I popped the hood and took a look. I gasped at the horror. My dad had disconnected my distributor cap! I had no clue how to reconnect it, and the car had no hope of starting, let alone running, without the distributor cap. I was house bound for the weekend. Nice. So this is what chagrined felt like…curious.
What was he thinking? What if I had to get into the city—what would I drive, the only other thing in the yard with wheels was the…tractor! Seriously? That was the meaning behind my dad’s cryptic parting? If I needed to get into the city I could drive the tractor?! What kind of sick humour was that? The realization came crashing to the ground not unlike an epiphany wrapped in an anvil: this was my come-uppance. I was finally, in a way so subtle and sophisticated that evil geniuses around the word were twirling their moustaches and saying “well played good man—well played”, being ‘punished’ for “breaking” the power steering hose on his precious little car. Yes, indeed, well played ol’chap.