"Mister," said a voice at the open shop
door, "I hear you're a genius. Well, I've got a job for a genius."
Gus Wilson looked up and saw a fat man
standing there smiling as he mopped his perspiring red face with an oversize
handkerchief. Gus grinned back at him. "It's a bad habit to believe
everything you hear," he observed. "Come in, won't you?"
The fat man came into the shop, stripped
off his coat, and settled himself comfortably in the only chair. "My name's
Warren" he announced. "I work in the
"Oh, so you're the Mr. Warren, are
Gus said. "Mr. Johnston has been
telling me about those special machines you've designed for him. Well, if
there's a genius in this shop just now, you're it, Mr. Warren."
Warren waved a disclaiming hand. "I'm no
genius - far from it," he said. "Except for machine tools I'm just a dumb
cluck, or, as my young daughter might put it, a drip."
"Well," Gus told him, "you have it your
way, and I'll have it mine. But what's this job you were speaking of?"
"It's precisely what I said it was - a
job for a genius,"
Warren insisted. "I told Mr. Johnston
about the troubles I am having with my car. "Take it to Gus Wilson at the
Model Garage,' he advised me. "He's a genius at trouble-shooting.' Well,
I'm here, and the car is just outside your door."
"Fine," Gus said. "but what's the matter
"That's what I don't know, and what no
automobile mechanic who has looked at it - and I've taken it to a lot of
them during the past two months - has been able to find out,"
Warren told him. "I do know that the
engine stalls frequently, but I don't know why it stalls. Sometimes it will
run perfectly for days and even weeks, and then without the slightest
warning it suddenly stops and refuses to restart. Other times it will stall
half a dozen times in a single day.
"Usually, if I let it stand for an hour
or so, it will restart without any trouble and run as smoothly as a man
could ask. But on several occasions I've had to have it towed to a garage -
and then suffer the embarrassment of having it take off the instant some
supercilious mechanic stepped on the starter. Because no one has been able
to find out what makes it behave as it does, no work has been done on it.
The entire matter is a confounded mystery that I'm delighted to turn over to
Warren beamed at Gus, settled himself even
more comfortably, and began to cram tobacco into the bowl of a large pipe.
"Well, I'll bring your car in and do some
checking," Gus told him.
"I'll be highly interested in watching
Warren approved. "I always enjoy seeing a
top-notcher at work."
Gus went out and got into the '42-model
coupe of a popular make that was standing at the door. Switching on the
ignition, he pressed his foot on the starter. The engine at once purred
smoothly. He drove into the shop and got out. With
Warren eyeing his every move, he checked
the ignition and the fuel line. Then he went over the engine carefully.
Everything seemed to be in perfect condition. Puzzled, he shook his head.
"Stumped," Gus admitted. "So far as I
can see, your car is in perfect mechanical condition. To find the cause of
the stalling, I'll have to check the engine after it has stalled.
Let's leave it this way, Mr. Warren. The next time you have trouble, don't
do anything about it except phone me right away." Gus jotted two telephone
numbers on a card. "Top number in daytime, bottom one at night. I'll tow
your car over here from wherever it is and check it thoroughly. That way
I'll be able to find out what's wrong without wasting time guessing."
"I'll do that,"
It was less than a week later that Gus's
bedside telephone jangled once, twice, three times in the darkness. Finally
its disturbance hammered through sleep into his consciousness. He rolled
over, propped himself up on one elbow, switched on the light, saw by his
alarm clock that it was
, and finally picked
up the receiver.
A voice at the other end of the wire
said: "This is
Warren. You told me to call you the next
time I had trouble with my car. Well, I'm having it. The engine wouldn't
start when I wanted to go home…. What? It's right in front of the plant… No,
I haven't done a thing to it… You'll be over in half an hour? Good. I'll
leave the car keys with the guard at the gate - I'm going home in a taxi and
to bed. Your baby now, Mr. Wilson! Give me a call when you've got it
fixed, will you?"
Gus yawned and stretched, got into some
clothes went downstairs and climbed into his car, and drove the few blocks
to the Model Garage. There he took out the wrecker. He drove to the
Johnston and Fredericks plant, which was running full blast.
Warren's coupe was standing at the curb in
front of the office gate. As he got out of the wrecker, a uniformed guard
came over to him and said, "You Mr. Wilson?" Gus grunted in answer, and the
guard handed him a couple of keys.
The first thing Gus did was to turn on
the ignition and step on the starter. The starting motor whirred, but
nothing else happened. He got out of the car and using his flashlight, made
sure that the gasoline tank vent wasn't clogged up and that there was plenty
of gas in the tank. Then he checked the spark plugs. They were delivering
good, hot sparks.
Next, he had a look at the carburetor -
and found that there was no gas in its bowl.
"Well, I still don't know what the
trouble is," he told himself, "but at least I know that it's in the fuel
system somewhere between the gas tank and the carburetor. That's something
Warren's car through the deserted streets
to the Model Garage and maneuvered it into his shop. On an impulse he
couldn't have explained, he turned the engine over with the starter a few
times, the ignition off. Then he looked at the carburetor again and got a
There hadn't been any gasoline in its
bowl when he had examined it in the street in front of the
Fredericks plant, but there was plenty of
Gus scratched his ear thoughtfully for at
least two minutes before he made his next move. That was to get into the
car and step on the starter, with the ignition on this time.
The engine took off promptly!
"Right back where I started from!" he
growled disgustedly. "No - not quite that bad; I know where the trouble
was. Well, now, let's see. That carburetor is O.K. now, but it wasn't
O.K. when I checked it twenty minutes ago, so in all probability it wasn't
working right when Warren couldn't start his engine a half hour before
He examined the carburetor again, but
still couldn't find anything wrong with it. Then he removed it from the
car, carried it over to his workbench, took it apart, carefully examined and
cleaned each of its parts, reassembled them, and replaced the carburetor on
the car. "Nothing wrong with it now, I'll swear," he assured himself.
Next, he checked the fuel pump. It was
working perfectly. Inch by inch he went over the fuel line from the
gasoline tank to the carburetor. It was tight and clean.
He got back into the car and stepped on
the starter. Again the starting motor turned over without as much as a
sputter from the engine.
Examination showed that once again there
was no gasoline in the bowl of the carburetor.
"Whatever it is," Gus muttered, "it must
be in the fuel tank - it can't be anywhere else. I'll have to take the tank
He started to do this by disconnecting
the fuel line from the tank, keeping a can handy to catch the gasoline which
he expected to gush out of the opening the moment the line was detached.
But only a few drops dribbled out.
Gus turned his flashlight, so that it
shone into the opening. In its white beam something brown appeared. He
poked at it with his finger tip. It moved – and gasoline spurted out as he
had expected it would.
He drained the tank. Then, with a piece
of fine wire one end of which he twisted into a hook, he began to fish.
Before long he felt the hooked wire catch something soft. Manipulating it
carefully, he worked out a piece of wrapping paper about the size of a
Warren came into the shop smiling
broadly. "I got your phone message," he said.
"So you lived up to your reputation!
Well, what caused all my troubles?"
Gus handed him the bit of wrapping
paper. "That did," he said. "Somehow it got into your gas tank. Whenever
it floated over the outlet where the fuel line is connected, it cut off the
flow of gas to the carburetor, and of course your engine couldn't run. When
it floated away from the outlet, the flow of gas was unimpeded, and the
engine could run."
"Simple, wasn't it?"
Warren said, "but locating the cause of
the trouble wasn't simple. You see, it was just what I said it was in the
first place - a job for a genius. Don't forget that when you bill me, Mr.