Gus Wilson called. "Stan," he called again, louder this time.
"What are you doing out there?"
Stan Hicks appeared at the door of the
Model Garage office. He carried a large book under his arm.
"Just reading the new shop manuals, Boss. A good mechanic has to keep
himself informed these days. Something you want?" he asked.
"You'll have to take care of things
this afternoon," said Gus. "There's not much doing anyway. I'm
going to run over to see Jerry Otis about that fleet-service contract I've
been angling for."
"That ought to be a good thing, if you
can bid it right," said Stan. "There must 20 or 30 cars in that
"It'll take more than a low bid to get
the business," Gus said. "Otis is a stickler for having his salesmen's
cars in top shape. His firm lost a big order to a competitor a year or
so ago because a company car broke down and made a salesman late for an
appointment. Otis never forgot it."
Stan shook his head. "That
was an expensive breakdown."
"Sure was, "Gus agreed, "but not in
terms of what it cost to repair the car. In fact, if I recall
correctly, Mike Harris at the Highway Gas Station happened by and fixed the
trouble on the spot with a piece of string."
"You're kidding," said Stan.
"What could you fix on a car with string?"
"The primary lead to the coil rubbed
against the cylinder head, and the insulation had chafed away," Gus
"And of course it shorted out just
when the car was needed most," Stan put in. "Doesn't it always happen
that way?" Gus chuckled. "Anyway," he continued, "Mike used the
string to suspend the exposed wire away from the engine, and the salesman
raced off to keep his overdue appointment."
"And met the other salesman coming out
of the plant," Stan ventured.
"That's right, and he was grinning
like a Cheshire cat." Gus rose and reached for his jacket. "So
you can see that I've got to sell Otis on the dependability of our work, not
on how little it'll cost him.
"Be back late this afternoon," he
called as the door closed.
Gus hadn't been gone more than half an
hour when a car drove into the shop. It sounded as if someone had put
a cage of canaries under the hood, with all of them chirping at once.
Stan looked up over the shop manual he
had been reading, and swallowed hard as he recognized the driver. It
was Jerry Otis, the man Gus had gone to see.
Otis flung open the door and stepped
out of the car. He glared at Stan. "Is this a repair shop or the
Stan jumped up, dropping the manual.
"Sorry, sir. What can I do for you?"
Then, seizing his chance to show off: "Been reading up on those new
electronic distributors. Great gadgets. Last the life of the
car, you know."
Otis ignored Stan's display of
"What do you mean, what can you do for me?
Can't you hear that engine?"
Stan, deflated somewhat, continued
trying to impress Otis. "Sounds to me like squeaky rocker arms.
They're not getting any oil. Here, let me show you. I'll have
the covers off in a minute."
He walked over to the car, raised the
hood, unscrewed two nuts, and pried one of the sheet-metal covers off its
cylinder head. The noise became louder.
"That's the trouble, all right.
Spotted it the minute you came in," Stan said, beaming with self-pride.
Otis was obviously growing impatient.
"All right, Doctor Crankcase, but how long will it
take you to fix it? I'm in a hurry. Can you do it while I
wait? I need the car."
Stan smiled patiently, irritating Otis
even more. 'Not unless you want to wait here until tomorrow.
Those oil lines are clogged with sludge. We'll have to take off the
cylinder heads on both sides and dismantle the rocker-arm assemblies in
order to clear the passages. Should be ready by tomorrow afternoon,
"That's what they told me at the car
dealer's service department, so I came over here to see if Gus Wilson could
do one of those mechanical miracles I've heard he performs. You're not
"No, sir," said Stan.
Otis looked around angrily.
"Where is he, anyway?"
Stan hesitated, decided not to tell
Otis that Gus probably was waiting for him at his office. "Mr. Wilson
had some business to attend to. He should be back later this
"Mr. Wilson!" Otis exclaimed.
He peered into the office. "Who runs this place or is it always like
"Oh, Mr. Wilson is the boss," Stan
replied. "I'm his chief mechanic."
"Well, I can't wait around all
afternoon," Otis complained. "If I can use your phone, I'll call a
taxi to take me back to the office. But you tell Wilson that I don't
care if he has to work all night, and I don't care how much it costs, I must
have this car running quietly first thing in the morning - and I don't mean
Otis picked up the phone.
He had barely finished dialing when Gus walked into the shop.
"Couldn't get to see Otis, Stan.
His secretary told me he dashed out early on some urgent bus . . ." Gus
stopped short as Stan gestured wildly and pointed to the office, his face
screwed up as though in pain.
Otis came into the garage at that
moment. "Stop dancing around, young man," he told Stan.
He turned cold eyes on Gus. "So you're
Wilson. I suppose you were over at the plant trying to sell me on
giving you the fleet-service contract I've advertised. Well, just
forget that contract, at least for the present."
He moved closer to Gus and spoke low,
"Listen, Wilson, I'm in a spot. The president of the company is coming
out from the main office tomorrow, and he expects a guided tour of the plant
and the community around it. As general purchasing agent, its part of
my job to keep the cars our sales and service people use in perfect
condition. Now, how's it going to look if I have to drive him around
in this squeaker? I've been intending to have it checked, but I don't
put much mileage on it, just short runs, so I keep putting it off.
Isn't there something you can do? I can't drive a VIP around in a
Gus walked to the car. "Hmm, dry
as a bone," he said, looking at the uncovered rocker-arm assembly.
"Stan," he called to his assistant, "bring over the grease gun."
"Are you crazy, Wilson?" Otis demanded. "I'm
no mechanic, but any fool knows you don't grease an engine."
"Mr. Otis," Gus replied softly, "I'm
trying to help you. But it's getting late and we'll be here all night
if I have to explain every move I make. Why don't you sit down and let
me get on with the job?"
Otis moved back a step. "Sorry,
Wilson. Go ahead and do whatever you think you have to do."
Stan brought the grease gun from the
bench. He, too, looked puzzled.
"Scoop the grease out of the barrel
and pump the handle until the pressure chamber is empty," Gus said.
"Then fill the gun with heavy oil - number 50."
Stan went to the bench shaking his
head. By the time he had returned with the oil-filled grease gun, Gus
had uncovered the oil passage on each side of the engine, and had enlarged
and tapped the holes to receive grease fittings.
Gus, a twinkle in his eye, told Stan,
"Here's one you won't find in the shop manuals. Watch this."
He pressed the nozzle of the gun on
one of the grease fittings and pumped the handle vigorously until the gun
was empty. Then he went to the bench, refilled the gun with oil, and
pumped it into the grease fittings on the opposite side. He handed the
empty gun to Stan and bent over the engine to remove the grease fittings and
reset the rocker shafts. Finally, he straightened with a smile of
satisfaction and turned to Stan.
"That should do it," he said.
"Start the engine up, Stan, and let's see if the birds fly away."
Stan winked knowingly at Gus. "I
get it. What goes down should come up, eh?"
He turned the key and the engine roared to life -
squeaking as loudly as it had when Otis brought it in.
Stan and Otis both turned to Gus as
though awaiting an explanation for this apparent failure. Gus said
nothing. He stood quietly watching the engine.
A minute passed. It seemed like
an hour. Then, slowly, one by one, the chirping rocker arms quieted.
In two more minutes the engine was
purring silently except for the light, normal clicking of the tappets.
Stan shouted, "Look, the oil's
circulating. See it running toward the return passages, Gus?"
Otis slapped Gus vigorously on the
shoulder. "Wilson you're everything I've been hearing about you.
But what was all that business with the grease gun and the oil?"
Gus grinned. "Just a practical
example of the irresistible force being applied to the immovable object."
"Come again?" asked Otis, raising his
Gus continued with the lesson.
"Those oil lines were plugged solid with sludge. On this make car, the
passages don't run straight enough to clear them by rodding, so I applied
about 10,000 pounds of hydraulic pressure to the obstruction and blew the
lines clear. The grease gun supplied the pressure, and when I emptied
the gun I knew the lines were open."
"That's good thinking, Wilson.
But what caused all that sludge?" Otis asked. "This car's been driven
so little it's practically new."
"That's just the trouble," Gus said.
"Most folks don't realize that condensation is heaviest on short runs
because the engine doesn't get hot enough to evaporate the moisture produced
by burning fuel. When the moisture mixes with oil, thick sludge forms,
I'd suggest you have your oil and filter changed the first chance you get,
and remember to change the oil more often in the future."
Otis beamed. "I'll let you do my
worrying from now on, Gus. Your irresistible force has moved me into
offering you our service work. How about it?"
Before Gus could reply, a loud
squeaking noise filled the shop. Both men turned with a start in time
to see Stan pushing a dolly across the floor. He grinned sheepishly.
"I've been intending to oil these casters. No sense putting it off.
It's about time I got these birds to fly away."