Unexpected Death

One of those jobs to clean up the closing of a lifetime. It was a gardening day and the weather was pretty good except for the mosquitoes and expected tick removals. A bit of weed removal with the swell DeWalt battery powered weed whacker with four .40 ‘strings’ on the business end. Culvert, dandelions in the garden. Usual mess of doing things the lawnmowers cannot do. Tipped the business end just so to utterly destroy the pokey plants and the dandelions.

The time to do that ‘ delayed ‘ chore on the township road up ¼ mile from the mailbox. Remove the old sign for the shop. The really nice one put in when the boys were young and the sign bright and visible. A sign maker that was a good friend and put up with a sticker from the county on the back that made it official, just far enough from the private field and close enough to the road to be legal.

The sign said ‘FINE TUNING’ with an arrow pointing south to the driveway. Visible from the west as the county road curved north. It was big enough to be seen from the other direction if you were looking for it.

It was a beauty decades ago. Now the wind and weather had taken their toll. Part of it was torn and the words and arrow sort of visible.

The shop had been closed less than a year ago when their adopted son slowed down work in it enough to financially shut it down. Excuses flowed even from Norm about technology difficulties in the automotive field. Financial updates, recession in the country. Excuses. Their son lost interest and the cash flow was less than a good job as a machinist in the local business only ten miles away.

Norm ran the shop mostly by himself since the late 70’s and it was enough for their small family to survive on.Their ‘son’ ran it for years after Norm had a period of seizures and was aging somewhat into his 70’s,

Big jobs, as before were the meat and potatoes of income. Engine rebuilding, fuel tanks and the reputation of Norm’s shop was electronic diagnosis and repair. When Norm began the business he, as a ham radio guy, was not afraid of wires and electronics. The business grew and after a while, Norm doubled the building size. The old wood stove was replaced with modern waste oil furnaces and the sliding wood doors upgraded to real ones with openers. Things like that. The electronic tools increased and technology did too. Check engine lights came on.

The reputation of shop was solid and drew customers by word of mouth without much of an advertising budget.

It was closed and their son was getting ready to move away to a different life with his new wife. They left and took everything that was his contribution to the repair tools. Even light bulbs with the new Led brightness.

The big Bumper to Bumper lighted sign on the front is still there but the fluorescent lights have long been out.

The parking lot started emptying out of dead big jobs and the land line was canceled after a brief message of the shop going out of business. The shop is still warm and many tools are still there. The youngest son and Norm still work on the family machinery and there are no more tow trucks arriving at night with emergency vehicle repairs (that have not been running for a year or so.)

Norm unbolted the road sign after gardening and put the battered pieces in the truck bed. He then drove up to the local big dairy tourist shop for a bottle of port wine. Norm could not get out of the truck. The Minnesota license plates kept rolling in and rolling out with ice cream cones and fresh cheese curds in hand. He could not get out of the truck. It felt like he was driving a hearse and there was a body in the truck bed. More than the phone goodbye message, more than the big empty parking lot, more than the absence of their son and his wife. The loss and the finality fell inside of Norm and the death of Fine Tuning was final. Take the sign to the metal scrapyard next week and the burial would be done with. Some tears inside the old Ford Ranger and the tourists came and went. After a time of mourning it was time to move on and get things done at the dairy. A few pleasant words with the wine tasting gal (first time she was there this year) a sip of good wine from her and a bottle of port she knew was on the shelf, it was time to head home. The spring tourists snapped up the fresh cheese curds already.

The body in the bed was now quiet and the familiar farms and homes on the country road were seen as stable and somewhat unchanged. A few new names on the mailboxes here and there. The same one with the front door blocked by missing stairs. Home again for the Friday Shabatt and the sign, dead in the truck bed, acknowledged by Julie and she understood Norm’s sudden grief. The morels, asparagus the good port were delicious. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

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