[A Short Story]
The first stop for Lily in a new town wasn’t the pub she’d be working and living in. It wasn’t the cop-shop or supermarket, nor the facilities for medical or sporting pursuits. All important, but not the most important. The pub provided accommodation, and she should check it out – but she’d slept in dark laneways with her back jammed into a tight corner, so these country pubs had to be better than that. So, no, the pub wasn’t the first stop. A pub is a pub is a pub, and sometimes it was difficult for her to distinguish the bosses, the patrons, the rooms individually. In the end, it all felt the same.
The drive through the new town with a potential contract wasn’t about the job, or the town, or the location. She drove past the places with machinery, stopped at the servo, pulled up close enough to keep a close eye on her car, but not easily viewable to those who toiled within the darkness of the mechanics bays. Then she walked into the workshop, the filthy, greasy, swear-word-ridden den of men who stank of the blood and viscera of vehicles.
It wasn’t about just the mechanic, or what they knew, or what they’d worked on. Yes, the person was important. It was important for her to see and know how they responded to her entering the workshop. She had to check the person’s response to her, see how they wiped their tools and carefully replaced them in the spot they belonged before they turned to speak to her. They had to accept her place in there, be a person who understood cars as well as a surgeon understood the human body. They had to have the right place, the right tools, a pit and a hoist, and they had to wear the right overalls, use the right soap, wear the right boots. They had to be professional enough to meet her needs.
And if they passed all her tests, she’d point to the car, her baby, to see how they responded.
If it wasn’t love at first sight, or they didn’t look back at Lily with that light in their eyes, she’d refuse the contract and drive to the next town, because her grandfather’s gift to her, the only light left in her life, was the original 1950s Bentley continental, silver, that he’d bought to bribe her grandmother to marry him. The car that had been his business driving brides to meet their grooms on the most auspicious day of their lives since then, and his second love until his death 50 years later.
Better than a diamond ring, he’d said.
Maybe this town, this man would be good enough …