Gus Wilson was first down to the Model
Garage that sunny winter morning. Whistling cheerily, he took off his coat
and vest and hung them on their accustomed hook. He lifted down a pair of
coveralls, wiggled into them and found them unaccountably tight. "I must be
putting on weight," he mused as he reached into a pocket for his tobacco.
Instead of the familiar tin of "Delight," his fingers closed on a small
metal object. Surprised, he took it out, glanced at it absent-mindedly, and
put it down on a workbench. He fumbled in another pocket and fished out the
crumpled remains of a pack of chewing gum. Then light broke. "Darn it."
These are Stan's coveralls."
Spotting his own coveralls on an
adjacent hook Gus changed into them, found his tobacco, lit his pipe, and
began to plan the day's work. After an instant his eye was caught by the
metal object be had taken from the pocket of Stan's coveralls; he picked it
up from the bench. It was a short hollow cylinder, with both ends chamfered.
After momentary puzzlement he identified it. Then be thought back through
the jobs of the previous day. "Gosh," be exclaimed at a sudden recollection.
"Stan cleaned that gas tank and fuel line, and tightened the connections.
Now we will have fireworks! Why'd it have to be that red-headed Horace
Spinker, the worst-tempered man in town?"
Gus, who is blessed with the gift of
taking his work seriously in a light-hearted sort of way, laughed and put
the little cylinder back in Stan's coverall pocket. Then he hung the garment
on its hook and hastened into the office to make a phone call. A woman's
voice told him irascibly that Mr. Spinker had left and asked for a message
"Never mind," Gus replied. "I'll be
hearing from him soon enough anyway." Stan came, in a few minutes later, red
in the face and out of breath. "You're sorta early, ain't you, Boss"?'
Gus put on a glum face. "I was glad to
get up-bad dreams," he growled. "You believe in dreams, Stan?"
"Me? I dunno."
"I had one about you" Gus said, "You
sure were on a spot. There was a big fellow with a red face and red hair and
red mustache who was going to cut your heart out because you'd fouled up his
car. He sure was mad, and-" the master mechanic shook his head forebodingly.
"If there's anything in dreams, you'd better watch your step today. I
wouldn't want to have a fellow as big as that mad at me."
Stan grinned a little nervously. Gus's
serious manner had impressed him. 'I ain't afraid of dreams," he muttered.
-They don't mean nothing."
"I hope you're right," Gus told him
somberly. "But I wouldn't bet on it."
In spite of Gus's carefully portentous
manner and a doleful yarn or two about dreams that had come true, things
went along placidly enough in the shop until about three o'clock, when Joe
Clark stuck his head in from the office door and shouted:
"Job for the wrecker! Spinker just
phoned that he's stalled five miles up the highway. Says his starter and
ignition are O.K. and his gas tank is a third full, but his car quit on him
and he can't get it moving again."
"All right-we'll fix
him up," Gus called back. Then he turned to Stan. "You do it, will you? he
said. "You worked on Spinker's gas tank and fuel line yesterday."
Stan stared at him, his jaw dropping.
"Spinker?" he said weakly. "Say, ain't he that big guy with the red hair and
the terrible temper?"
Gus whistled softly, "Now I remember,"
he muttered. "He's the fellow who was after you in that dream." Look here,
kid-if you're scared to go-"
On Stan's face there was the look of
the men who held Bastogne. "I'll go," he said, and climbed into the wrecker.
Almost an hour later he drove back
into the shop with Spinker's car in tow. From the sedan the
terrible-tempered Horace erupted, his face the hue of underdone roast beef
and his stubby red mustache bristling belligerently. "What is this you're
running - a clip joint?" he yelled at Gus. "You soak me for fixing my car,
and this half-witted grease monkey of yours busts something so it dies in my
hands! I'll report this to the Chamber of Commerce-I'll-"
"You'd better throttle down before you
bust a blood vessel." Gus turned to Stan, who had got out of the wrecker
looking as if he'd had a rough ride. "What's the matter with this bus?"
"I dunno," Stan growled, with a glare
at Spinker. "I tried to check it but that screwball kept yelling at me."
Mr. Spinker had taken the shop's only
chair. He leaped up again as if the business end of a hornet had made
contact. "Screwball'' he howled. "I'll show you-"
Gus placed a large palm on his chest,
and straightened his arm. The raging Horace sat down again-hard. "Just take
it easy," Gus advised soothingly, "while we find out what's wrong."
Spinker sputtered for half a minute,
and then suddenly switched from explosive rage to complaining self-pity.
"I've got my living to earn," he moaned. "I've got to see a big customer
downtown, and I'm an hour late already!"
"That'll work out swell," Gus told
him. "You go ahead and see your customer, and when you get back well have
your car ready for you. Better not waste any time, the bus is pretty near
due, and there won't be another one for half an hour."
Spinker departed, still complaining.
Gus grinned at Stan. "We're rid of that pest for a while," he said. "All
right, kid, it's your baby."
He went back to the job he had been
working on and Stan started to check Spinker's sedan. After making certain
that there was as much gasoline in the tank as the gauge indicated, he
carefully examined the pump and the flexible coupling hose, and blew back,
on the fuel fine. Obviously gasoline wasn't getting to the pump-it was as
dry as a bone.
While he was scratching his head over
the puzzle Gus strolled over to him, "I haven't found it yet, boss," Stan
"Look in your pocket," Gus said.
"Look in your pocket - your right-hand
Stan stared at his employer in deep
puzzlement; then he felt in the pocket indicated, and after a moment fished
out the little metal cylinder. As he looked at it his face flushed a fine
brick red. "Holy cat!" he groaned.
"It 's a good, rule," Gus suggested
mildly, to put back anything you take off a car."
"I know, boss," Stan said contritely.
"But this little do-funny dropped out of somewhere while I was working on
the fuel-line connections yesterday afternoon. You were out and I couldn't
find where it came from, so I put it in my pocket until I could ask you.
Then I forgot about it until just -now
. . .
Say, how th' heck did
you know it was in my pocket?"
"I might have dreamed
it," Gus told him with a grin, "but actually I found it in your coveralls
this morning when I put 'em on by mistake, Remembering that you had worked
on Spinker's car yesterday I knew you were going to have trouble with a
Faint hope of an alibi brightened
Stan's face. "Say, boss,' he offered, "it couldn't have been my leaving this
jigger off that made Spinker's bus stall. I road-tested it when I got
finished yesterday, and he told me he didn't have any trouble until it
coughed a couple of times and went dead on the way back from Centerville."
"Spinker told us he needed the car in
time for an early start to Centerville," Gus said.
"When I happened on that do-funny, as
you call it, I figured he'd run into trouble on the way home, but it was too
late to do anything to prevent it. So-"
"Wait-wait a minute, boss," Stan
gulped. "You say you knew when Spinker's car was going to stall. How th'
Gus picked the little metal cylinder
out of Stan's hand, and increased the grease monkey's suspense by
re-lighting his pipe before talking. "This little gadget," he explained,
"called a ferrule, is supposed to form a seal between the fuel line and the
internal tank connection, and so prevent gas from getting out and air from
getting in. It fits in under the connector, and the chamfers at both ends of
it are to seal the lips of the fuel and connection lines. Get it?"
"Yeah-I see," Stan said. 'But I don't
see how you knew-"
"I'm telling you," Gus went on. "On
Spinker's car the connection is about three inches above the tank bottom.
While the tank is at least one-third full it doesn't make any great
difference whether or not the ferrule is in because air can't leak into the
system. But when the gasoline falls below the connection, air is drawn in
and the fuel supply to the carburetor is cut off. Spinker had the tank
filled when he called for the car last night.
"Knowing he was starting with a full
tank and that without the ferrule he'd be stalled when two-thirds of the
gasoline was gone, it wasn't hard to figure he'd run into grief on the way
Joe Clark had come into the shop while
Gus was talking. -You're a red-hot prophet, aren't you?" he said.
Gus wrote out a time slip covering the
job, scrawled "no charge" on it, and handed it over to his partner with a
grin. "Sure." he admitted, "but on this job the prophecy is on the house!"