By the time Nada reached her mother’s apartment complex, the car was screeching from somewhere inside the hood. She had been afraid they wouldn’t make it at all, praying desperately that it wouldn’t quit on them. Once parked, she just sat, trembling, the girls both crying, as her mother rushed out of 20 A. “Sounded like somebody was getting killed!”
Nada climbed out of the car and sobbed on her mother’s shoulder. When she finished, she said, “Maybe now I can stop crying.” She’d shed an awful lot of tears lately, but the lack of a shoulder had made it a sterile occupation.
As they unbuckled Sandy and Shelley from their car seats, Mother asked, “Do you have any idea what’s wrong with the car?”
“No and what am I going to do now? I don’t have the money to take it to a shop. I can’t pay for them to put it on a rack, let alone parts and labor. I’ve got to have it working Monday to get to my new job!”
“If I had any money, I’d help. You know that. If I were not so new here myself, I might know somebody we could call who is handy with cars. But I don’t.”
The Saturday sounds of roller bladers and the bouncing of basketballs filled Mother’s silence as she abruptly put Sandy into Nada’s free arm and pulled up the hood of the car. She started it and let the horrendous noise echo off the buildings. The two women gazed into the engine compartment.
“Sounds like it needs a new fan belt.” A neighbor in sweats stopped and looked in too.
“Nah, it’s the flywheel. Needs a new one.” Two men carrying beer cans leaned over the motor. Mother turned off the screeching with the motor.
A man in a baseball hat carrying a little boy and one with a pot gut and grey hair joined in the argument about what was wrong and where she’d have to go to fix it. Then a silence as the basketball stopped bouncing. A boy like a colt, long black legs emerging from his shorts, ambled over. Authority walked with him. “Try it again,” he ordered.
Mother got in and started it. As the sound increased, the boy reached a long arm inside and pulled up on something, stopping the screeching. “The bolts have come out and the alternator’s rubbing. Just put in new bolts,” he ordered.
“Let’s see if I have some that might fit,” came a voice from the back. In a minute he’d returned with his tool box. Under the demanding eye of the Expert, two men found bolts and inserted them. When they were done, he ordered. “Start her up.”
To the resumed sound of dribbling and skating, crying children and tag on the walkways, Mother and Nada hugged the girls between them. “Thank the Lord,” Mother chortled, “for the irresistible pull of an open hood!”