On a cold, brisk Sunday a few weeks
ago, Gus Wilson was enjoying an afternoon off from his chores at the Model
Garage by strolling through town. Suddenly a chorus of honking horns
directed his attention toward the intersection ahead.
"Must be an accident," thought Gus as he hurried toward the
As he got closer, he saw two sedans had locked bumpers
diagonally across the intersection and were blocking traffic in four
directions. A stocky redhead was standing beside the first car shaking his
fist at the driver.
"You lunkhead!" he shouted. "What was the idea of stopping so
short? For two cents I'd--"
Just then Officer Pat Stanton strolled up. "Okay, you two.
Break it up." He waved the redhead back to his own car. "Get these cars
outta here or I'll give you both tickets."
As Gus reached the curb, the door of the first car popped
open and out stepped a wiry, bespectacled little old man. In spite of the
freezing weather, he wore neither overcoat nor hat. His odd costume
consisted of well worn sneakers, a pair of baggy gray pants, a large
corduroy jacket, and a plaid wool scarf looped twice around his neck with
the ends dangling fore and aft.
Gus looked at the little man, then at the man's car, and did
a double take. It was none other than "Doctor" Jason Evants, the town's best
known eccentric and founder of the "Philosophy of Universal Sentiency" - a
fad that interested some of the wealthier ladies in the community.
Gus had first run into Doc Evants when the buxom and affluent
Mrs. Miller - who had been widowed a year or so ago and had since joined
the little "doctor's" group of followers - sent Evants to the Model Garage
with Gabriella. Gabriella was his car. Not only did the car bear a name, it
could also think and feel - strictly in accordance with the rule of the
Philosophy of Universal Sentiency which said that all inanimate things
could. At least, that was Doc's story. He insisted "she" had frequently
warned him of impending danger by suddenly stopping or refusing to run at
"Doctor Evants," called Gus as he walked over to the man.
"Ah, Mr. Wilson. Trouble you say." Evants waggled a finger at
the redhead. "As you undoubtedly ascertain, this unpleasant individual
collided with my car and has interlocked our bumpers."
"Maybe I can help," said Gus. Then he walked over to the
second car and climbed up on the front bumper. "Okay," he called, motioning
to the redhead. "Put your car in reverse and ease her back slowly."
On the fifth jump, Gus's weight finally jounced the bumper
loose and the two cars gratingly parted company. Officer Stanton waved the
redhead on his way and Doc Evants climbed back into his car. But instead of
turning the corner he straightened out, drove into the through street ahead
Gus was curious enough to follow.
"Sorry to have been so curt, Mr. Wilson," said Doc Evants,
"but I'm afraid that uncouth mental midget unnerved me a bit. Obviously the
ebullient type suffering from introversions that can be salved only by
expressions of superiority."
"In other words," said Gus with a smile, "a sorehead."
"It could be expressed that way."
"But what happened to Gabriella?" asked Gus, looking at the
car parked at the curb. It was a '41 model in fair shape, while Gabriella,
as Gus remembered her, had been a beat-up '35 sedan.
"Ah, Gabriella," sighed Doc Evants. "I finally had to retire
her. Old age. She's spending her days out in the yard behind my house. I go
out and sit in her every so often. We still understand each other
Gus started to point to the car at the curb.
"This, Mr. Wilson, is Gabriella the Second. Thanks to dear
Mrs. Miller and a few other friends of my Philosophy of Universal Sentiency
I was able to invest in this more modern vehicle a short while ago."
"Does this one warn you the way your first Gabriella did?"
asked Gus, suppressing a smile
"She's beginning to. It was a warning from her that helped
cause that slight difficulty at that corner."
Dr. Evants graciously opened the door to his car. "Let me
give you a lift to your garage and I'll tell you about it."
Gus was about to say something about it being his day off,
but his curiosity got the better of him and he climbed in with the little
Dr. Evants started the car, going through the motions slowly
and deliberately. "You see, Mr. Wilson, I was on my way over to see Mrs.
Miller about a most important matter. As I was making that left turn from
Bank into Main Street, Gabriella II began to sputter and buck as if she were
reluctant to go in the direction of Mrs. Miller's house. As if she were
trying to warn me."
The little man seemed very upset. At that point, he started
to make a sharp left turn into Center Street. Sure enough, about halfway
through the turn the engine began to miss and falter. The car had enough
momentum to make the turn, but Dr. Evants would have none of it. He quickly
straightened the car out and continued on ahead. When he did, Gabriella II's
engine picked up and ran smoothly again.
"You see, she protested against making that turn."
Gus nodded, but said nothing.
At the next few corners, when Dr. Evants tried to make similar left
turns, the same thing happened, and each time he wouldn't complete the turn.
As a result, the trip to the garage turned out to be a circuitous tour of
the town consisting of right turns only.
By the time they finally made the last right turn into the
road that led past the garage, Gus had several ideas about Gabriella's
Stan Hicks, the helper at the Model Garage, was busy chipping
away ice on the drive when Gus and the doc pulled up. "Hi. What are you
"Meet Gabriella II," said Gus with appropriate flourish. "And
she has a few of Gabriella I's - shall we say - peculiarities," he added,
winking at Stan. "Doctor, why don't you let me check her to see whether she
really is trying to warn you not to see Mrs. Miller today or whether it's
Doc Evants thought for a minute, tugging at his chin. "Are
you suggesting that her protests might be the symptoms of some inherent
"I doubt it, but you have my permission to examine her. I'll
stroll on down to Mrs. Bentley's and have a chat. I've got the first chapter
on my new book, The Inconsistencies of Human Thought, that I'd like to show
her. I'll drop back here later."
"What's the trouble with the old screwball's car?" Stan asked
after they'd driven the sedan into the shop.
"Engine misfires on sharp left turns. I've a hunch it's
either dirt in the gasoline line or a damaged carburetor float that gets
stuck when centrifugal force throws it to the right on a sharp left-hand
Before he checked either of these points, he got into the
car, started the engine and proceeded to turn the steering wheel as far to
the left as he could. He looked a little disappointed when the engine
continued to purr along without so much as a missed beat. Finally, he shut
off the ignition.
"What's the matter, boss? Think maybe the steering gear had
something to do with it?"
"Just thought I'd check. But no luck."
And Gus had no better luck with his hunches about dirt in the
gas lines or the gas tank or a faulty carburetor float.
"Boss, maybe the old doc's got something in this sent -
sentiency stuff. You know - about car being like humans. They sure suffer
from some of the same ailments - clogged up arteries, head troubles,
breathing ailments, stiff joints, shorted nerves, and . . ."
"Son, I think you've got something there. Why the devil
didn't I think of that before?" Gus all but dove in under the hood and began
to check the wiring.
After about five minutes Gus straightened up and his face was
"Take a look at this." He pointed down at the solenoid that
operated the car's overdrive, and then hit it with his finger.
Stan saw that the unit was quite loose on its moorings and
that the insulation on one of the heavy wires leading to it was badly
"Every time the car would swing to the left," explained Gus,
"the solenoid would swing to the right and that bare spot on that wire - the
one that leads to the ignition - would ground out against the car's frame.
When the car was going straight or turning right it wouldn't touch the
It didn't take Stan and Gus long to make the repair. Gus was
just washing up when Evants walked in.
"Well, Mr. Wilson, has your stint of research convinced you
that Gabriella II was warning me not to see Mrs. Miller today?"
"No, I'm convinced it was as you would say, 'a slight
inherent electrical difficulty.' But she's all fixed now and ready to go."
"Splendid, splendid. I am truly grateful. . . . I - ah -
happen to be a bit short of funds at the moment." Evants went on, fumbling
in his pockets without conviction, "but send me a bill, by all means. And
now I must hurry along to Mrs. Miller's. "As a matter of fact," he confided,
"I have a most important question to propound to that dear lady. Now that my
fears have proven unfounded, I shall proceed with confidence." And with an
airy whisk of his hand, he drove away briskly.
"Well, I'll be darned," said Gus, "if the little doctor
hasn't got matrimony on his mind - and it'll be a pretty good catch for him
if he makes it, which I suspect he will."
"Gee, boss, just think," mused Stan, "if you hadn't spotted
the trouble, Doc Evants would've gone right on believing Gabriella was
trying to warn him, and he might never have popped the question. Well, I
wish him luck."
Gus, confirmed bachelor, grinned contentedly and reached for
his pipe. "Me too," he said.