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True Stories by Steve Keely
Good Times in the Desert
Today I subbed auto shop which is most surprising
as I found out about it two midnights ago while broken down in my own car in the
desert wilderness. The VW stopped without warning on a sandy track 12 miles
from where I live, and wouldn’t start after an hour of amateur stabs at the
plugs, fuel filter and kicking the tires. I pulled a cell phone to call a
neighbor despite the hour, and noticed an incoming message. “Mr. Keeley. We’re
in desperate need of a sub for the college auto class tomorrow.” Inspired, I
ran-walked four hours through open desert and napped until sunrise before
rousing my neighbor, a shade-cactus mechanic, so he wouldn’t shoot over my head
with the AK-47 like last time. We raced in his dune-buggy to my bug with a
fresh coil and fuel pump, his diagnostic guesses, and both were correct. I was
tired – mistook a crow for an airplane – but made it to teach class on time and
earn a hefty paycheck.
Actually, I was leaving my desert
property when the car broke down. The day before, in my tool shed, I
reached down to pick up a screw on my workshed sand floor, touched it, and a
sidewinder coiled 4.5” from the washer. I yelped. Sidewinders make a neat
dish while coiled in the sand, so I put an empty coffee can over him, dug a
shovel under the can, and carried the lot 200-yards to a wash.
The day before that, I admit to the backward
trots that filled a couple paper bags that I disposed of in a burning barrel. I
sprinkled 3 oz. of gasoline on top, filled the barrel with paper trash, and
leaned over gingerly with a match. I dropped it, and there was a hellofa bang
as the contents exploded in my face. No worries, but I had to lick my lips
The reason I left the property before the car breakdown is the well has dried up - the sub-teaching well, that is. There hasn’t been work for months other than subbing welding and auto repair due to a recent sub influx. The school reserves vocational classes for me because the students are hard-nosed but treat me with greater respect because of a standing of Sand Valley residents, where I live, for being a sandwich short of a picnic. We know this isn’t true, but it keeps me in work. Yet, the paycheck isn’t enough, so I’ve decided to return to college on the west coast for a few remaining courses to earn a full-teaching credential. That’s the reason I left home, not the breakdown, auto class, rattler, or face-lift.
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