just one of those things that happen from time to time. Every one
picked the same morning to be late for work at the Model Garage, and they
all had the same excuse - ice. Lots of ice. Every street,
highway, and sidewalk for miles around was coated solid.
eased his old coupe across the slick drive to the door of the shop ten
minutes after the usual opening time. Stan Hicks and Greg Jones, the
grease monkey, came sliding and skidding across the ice-coated highway from
the bus stop.
buses are way late," Stan explained.
make it on time myself," Gus admitted with a grin, "and I'll bet we're going
to have a busy day. That big drop in temperature last night turned the
rain to sleet and must have made plenty of grief for our customers."
cats!" Stan exclaimed, looking at the thermometer on the door frame.
the door rolled aside and Gus drove into the shop. "Put chains on all
four wheels of the wrecker," he called to Stan.
get our coats off the telephone's going to start ringing and someone'll be
hollering for help."
first call wasn't by phone. It arrived personally and noisily.
Gus was slipping into his coveralls when a raucous chorus of horn blasts
sounded outside the shop. Gus told Greg to see what all the noise was
lot of cars out there," Greg reported a minute later, "and they're all
gotta see," grinned Gus starting for the door, "Cars fighting with each
Greg amended, "the cars are all tangled up and the people are fighting."
ice-glazed driveway by hooked bumpers, stood four cars. In a little
cluster stood the drivers - three men and a woman.
pointing and loudly accusing one another of causing the tangle. One of
them was the buxom and talkative Mrs. Miller.
was Silas Barnstable, the town's most active tightwad. He actually
works at it. The other two Gus didn't know.
on?" Gus demanded, shouting to make himself heard.
suddenly stopped arguing and turned to look at Gus. Silas was first to
take advantage of the moment's silence.
fault," he yelped, jabbing a skinny forefinger at Mrs. Miller. "Joe
Dunphy, here," he indicated a droopy mustached individual, "was pushin' my
car into your shop and she cut in ahead of me."
not!" snapped Mrs. Miller.
too," Silas went on, "And you busted my bumper, I'll stand you a suit in
court, darned if I won't."
Barnstable!" Mrs. Miller drew herself up, her voice dripping ladylike
you make such a ridiculous statement? I'm the one who should be suing.
I was pushing my brother-in-law's car - oh,
Wilson, you don't know my brother-in-law, George Trotter. George is
married to my sister, Amanda - you remember her. She visited me three
summers ago and while she was here you worked on her differential, or
something. They live in Akron, Ohio, and they just came here for a
visit and - now where was I?"
looked as if he wished he had stayed in Akron.
just about to sue Silas," Gus told her, "but before we get this case all the
way to the Supreme Court, let's get in out of the cold."
brought a pail of sand and scattered it over the slippery driveway.
Then he helped Gus and the three men untangle the snarl of bumpers.
other than a scratch or two," Gus remarked. "Seems to me the courts
won't get any business out of this after all."
"It's lucky for her," Silas grumbled, carefully examining the bumper of his
see," Gus said. "Mrs. Miller was pushing Mr. Trotter's car, and Mr.
Dunphy was pushing Mr. Barnstable's... All right, Mrs. Miller, ladies
Miller and Trotter managed to maneuver his car into the shop, Joe Dunphy,
obviously happy to be rid of the whole business, pushed Barnstable's old bus
into the garage, backed out, and drove on his way. Stan shoved the
door closed after him.
up against a radiator and fished around in his pockets for his pipe and
tobacco, "Well," he asked, "what seems to be the trouble?"
robbed, that's what the matter is," Silas snarled.
again?" Gus asked in mock surprise.
darned right. Robbed," Silas said.
the most robbed man I ever heard of," Gus added. "Who did what to you
crook sold me gasoline with water in it," Silas howled," and now my gas
line's frozen. It's a sin and a shame the way a man gets cheated left
and right these days, I'll sue 'em in every court of the land, even if I do
have to pay a lawyer."
sure bound to sue somebody today," Gus grinned. He knows that before
Silas will buy even a gallon of gas, he shops around all the cut-rate pumps
to see which one is a fraction of a penny cheaper. "You can't expect
to get decent fuel for what you pay, "Gus told him, "but I doubt if even the
stuff you buy is actually watered. And what makes you think your fuel
line is frozen, anyway?"
be anything else," Silas said.
wouldn't start this morning - not even after I poured hot water over the
carburetor. There's plenty gas in the tank but when I unhooked the
fuel line to the carburetor there wasn't any a-tall."
keep this car in a garage?"
"Outdoors," Silas answered. "Naturally I ain't gonna pay the
outrageous prices they ask for garages these days."
"Naturally," agreed Gus.
here," said Silas. "I'm in a hurry - a big hurry. There's a sale
of overcoats down in the city and I want to get there before all the good
ones are gone."
shirt - or coat - on," Gus told him. "I'll look over your car in a few
minutes," Mumbling to himself, Silas retired to a warm corner.
spoke up: "I guess my trouble's the same as his - frozen gas line.
I'm a salesman. I make a lot of short trips and then leave my car
standing while I see customers. Whenever it gets good and cold I have
trouble. When I come out after making a call, sometimes I can't start
the motor. And if it does start, it runs badly and pops back
through the carburetor."
it worked on for this trouble?" Gus asked.
I've had it in several shops. They all found the fuel line frozen up
but none of 'em could find where the water came from."
the gas?" Gus asked.
that," Trotter answered, "I always buy the best."
you find it frozen this time?"
this morning," Trotter said, "I ran down to the railroad station to pick up
a bag. My car had been in Gracie's - Mrs. Miller's - heated garage
overnight. The motor started all right then. When I got back
from the station I left the car outside while I ate breakfast. When I
came out it ran for a moment and then quit. It wouldn't start.
Gracie told me about you and pushed me over here."
car today?" Gus asked him.
ought to make a few calls."
probably have your car ready by this afternoon," Gus told Trotter.
left the shop with Mrs. Miller, Silas came out of his corner.
How about my car?" he grumbled. "I told you I was in a hurry."
answer him. He got into a Barnstable's car and stepped on the starter
button. The starter whirred but the engine didn't fire. Gus got
out and loosened the drain plug in the bottom of the fuel tank. He
sniffed the liquid that dripped onto his hand.
water in your gas, all right," Gus said. He disconnected the line from the
fuel pump to the carburetor and found it dry.
took the fuel pump off the car. In the trap there was water and ice.
Gus told Stan to clean and wash the pump in gasoline.
have done that myself," Silas grouched.
didn't you?" Gus asked him.
ignored the question and went on' "What I want to know is how the water gets
in the tank if, as you say, those crooks ain't selling me watered gas."
unscrewed the cap of the gas tank and studied it carefully for a couple of
minutes. He took a piece of clean rag from his workbench drawer and
wadded it tightly into the filler hole of the tank. Then he screwed
the cap in place.
called, "hook up the hose and bring it over here," Greg handed the nozzle to
Gus, who turned the stream of water on the gas tank. After half a
minute he shut off the water, unscrewed the cap, and took out the rag.
It was soaking wet.
laughed and held the cap out to Silas. "How much did you pay for this?
Silas cackled. "No, sir, I got it at a cut-rate place for a nickel."
did even better on that than I thought," Gus said.
because I got a little laid aside, I ain't gonna waste my money paying you
fellers fancy prices for these things."
guess not," said Gus. "You'd rather waste if buying junk that gets you
this leaky cap for a nickel. It let water into your tank every time a
hard rain came along. And then the water froze every time the weather
turned cold. A good fuel cap, would have cost you 40 cents. Now
you've got to buy another cap and you've got to pay me a buck for this
trouble-shooting job. Figure it out yourself."
figured it out quickly and his face turned a bright red. "You gimme
that old cap," he said. "I'll get my nickel back from that crook. If
he don't give me it, I'll sue."
go again," Gus shrugged.
Silas had driven out of the shop, Gus put Stan to work checking the tank of
Trotter's car, while he himself took off the fuel pump.
only had water in it, but also a surprising amount of dirt and sediment.
Gus cleaned it and put it back on. He was just drawing up the bolts
when Stan came up.
wrong with his gas cap," the young mechanic reported. "It's got a good
gasket and clamps on tight. But there's water in the tank all right,
and it's dirty as blazes too. I drained out the water and got a
handful of mud with it. You think somebody - kids maybe - put dirt
be," said Gus thoughtfully. "The pump had more than its share too, so
we better blow out the line. That's probably where the ice was, and
we'll clear out of dirt too... ."
done, and the first churning of the starter promptly drew clean gas into the
pump bowl, whereupon the engine took off lustily.
it, boss," Stan yelled. "Want me to park it outside?"
about to say it might as well stand in the warm shop, which wasn't crowded.
But an uneasy feeling refused to disappear.
it," he growled at last, "but we didn't solve it... . How did the water and
dirt get in?"
dunno," said Stan helplessly.
"Nor do I,
but I'm going to find out."
around the car, flipped open the fender door over the filler cap, and thrust
a trouble light close. After a moment he got under the car and peered
up at the same spot.
Stan," he said on emerging. "Get under there now and finish the job."
mystified, peered into the same place. When he got up, his face was red.
did it again," he mumbled. "But who ever saw the hose coupling between
the filler spout and the tank pull loose like that?"
Gus retorted, cheerful once more. "Maybe the clamp wasn't pulled up tight at
the factory. Anyway, the wheel slung dirt or water up into the fender
and it funneled down into the loose hose neck. But as you said, who'd
think of that?"
boss, only you," responded Stan.