Joe Clark had gone to the bank, and
Stan Hicks was left in the Model Garage office-showroom to take a turn at
answering the telephone.
"Yeah, all right," he shouted into the
transmitter. "What's the name again?"
"Spinker!" snapped the voice.
"Shrinker," Stan repeated confidently.
"What didja say the address - "
The line sizzled. "Not Shrinker, you
dope! Spinker! S-p-I-n-k-e-r!"
"Oh, now I get you, Mr. Stinker," Stan
said in a pleased voice. "Whatja say the address was?"
Expletives answered him. "I've told you
three times where I live!" barked the irate Mr. Spinker.
"One-seven-two Orchard Street.
Now get moving, will you?"
"Yeah - you bet," Stan said soothingly
and hung up. The sports page he had been reading when the telephone
interrupted caught his eye. He picked up the paper, elevated his feet on
Joe's spotless desk, and took up where he had left off. Then he went on to
the comic strips, and he was deep in them when Joe came back.
"Nothing important," the grease monkey
reported, and he strolled into the shop.
Gus Wilson looked up from the job on
which he was busy. "Check the tube in the left-rear tire of that coupe," he
directed. "Tom Barnsley says it acts as if it had a high-pressures leak."
"There's a rush job," Stan told him
importantly. "Fellow named Stinker, 72 Orchard Street, just called up.
Says he can't get his car started. Want me to go?"
"I'll go," Gus decided. "You find out
what's the matter with Tom's tube. Stinker! That's a funny name. Sure you
got it right?"
Stan reassured him, and Gus got the
wrecker out and drove it the 10 blocks to Orchard Street. Where No. 72
should have been, there was a vacant lot. The precise lady at 88 said that
she had never heard of anyone by the name of Stinker and intimated she
thought it indelicate of Gus to have mentioned it. A red-faced woman at 60
remarked caustically that none of her neighbors was named Stinker although
some should be.
It took Gus 15 minutes to find out that
the name was Spinker and the number 172, and he wasn't at all happy about it
when he drove the wrecker up the driveway at that address. The doors of the
garage were closed, so he rang at the front door. A harried-looking young
"It was hours ago that Mr. Spinker
phoned," she told him bitterly. "My husband is a busy man, and he couldn't'
"Oh, I see," Gus said, feeling foolish.
"So he got his car started?"
"Mr. Spinker has a terrible temper," she
said with more than a touch of pride.
"When you didn't come promptly, as you'd
promised, he lost it and slammed the car door good and hard. Then, when you
still didn't come, he tried the starter again, and it worked. So now we
don't need you!" Then she slammed the house door.
He drove back to the Model Garage and
took the matter up with Stan - with the result that the grease monkey, who
had put a new tube in Tom Barnsley's tire, was as deflated as the one he'd
But Gus isn't one to nurse a grudge, and
within a week the Spinker incident had ceased to be a subject for reproach
even if the embarrassment hadn't been forgotten.
Nevertheless, Stan looked sheepish when
he came into the shop just after opening one morning and said: "You're
wanted on the phone, boss. It's - it's that fellow over on Orchard Street
who couldn't get his bus started. He won't talk to anybody but you."
Gus grunted, went into the office, and picked up the telephone. The voice
that sprang at him out of the receiver was as prickly with inadequately
repressed fury as a radio set is with static in a thunderstorm. About the
first printable words Gus heard were: "My car won't start, and I've got to
get to the office. Come over here and see what's wrong with it!"
Look here," Gus told him crisply, "I
haven't time to go driving around town on fool's errands. If you want me to
check your car, stay right where you are until I get there. Understand
Over the wire came a new volume of
expletives, and then the voice said: "All right - I'll wait! Make it
As he drove the wrecker across town, Gus
indulged in mentally portraying the terrible-tempered Spinker. He pictured
him as a big man with a red face and red hair - and he was right, for that
was just the sort of man who was waiting for him.
When Gus drove up, the man stuck out his
wrist watch. "Look," he roared. "A quarter to, and I've got an important
engagement at my office at nine. About time you got here! And don't call
"O.K.," Gus agreed grinning. "Let's have
a look at this on-again-off-again jalopy."
"Jalopy!" howled Spinker. "It's a '41
model. Don't look at it. Start it!"
He led the way to the garage. "Been
kicking the starter for half an hour," he growled, "without getting a turn."
"Why didn't you slam the door? That
worked before," Gus said with a grin.
"I did, and - " Spinker's red face got
still redder. "How did you know that?"
"You look the type," Gus said dryly, and
got into the driver's seat. The ignition was on. He pressed the starter
pedal, and the engine took off with a purposeful roar and ran without a miss
Spinker was wearing a derby. He snatched
it off with both hands, hurled it to the ground, leaped high into the air,
and came down on it with both feet. His jaw worked soundlessly for some
seconds, and then two bitter words emerged from under his red mustache:
"Take it easy, or you'll bust something
besides your hat," Gus advised. "You aren't the first man who's been made a
sucker by an automobile electric system."
But Spinker wasn't to be consoled, and
his shouting and expletives finally brought his wife from her sweeping broom
still in hand. She gave Gus a nasty look, and then addressed her husband in
"Hush, Horace dear. Control yourself.
Think of the children," she told him.
He went on yelling. Mrs. Spinker's
thin-lipped mouth tightened. "Shut up, jerk, or I"ll crown you," she said,
grasping the broom menacingly.
Spinker's yelling stopped as abruptly as
if he'd been gagged. His mouth opened and closed soundlessly half a dozen
"Why does the car start sometimes and not
start other times?" he asked huskily.
"Why did it start every morning for a
week when I slammed the door, and why didn't it start this morning when I
nearly slammed the hinges off? Why did it start for you and not for me?
Why? That's what I want to know."
Mrs. Spinker turned her gaze from her
husband to Gus, and in her green eyes there was the look of a watchful
bobcat. "Tell him why," she said briefly.
Gus grinned. "I'll have to find out
myself," he told her.
He poked under the hood at various wiring
connections with an exploratory forefinger. After he had got to the starter
motor and poked the lug on the starter switch, he straightened up.
"There it is," he said. "That lug is so
loose it forms a high-resistance connection - passes enough current to
operate the lights and horn, but usually it can't pass the several hundred
amperes necessary to turn over a cold engine."
He raised a warning hand as Spinker
showed signs of sounding off again.
"In this particular case," he
explained, "the lug is so loose it can't pass enough current to operate the
starting motor. Slamming the door sometimes jars it together so starting is
possible. Lots of times the same thing is caused by loose battery
Gus removed the loose lug, cleaned it
with waste from his coverall pocket, and replaced it. He tightened it until
it was snug.
"That will get you to your office," he
said, "but you'd better bring your car over to my shop for a check on all
Spinker looked at his watch. "Suffering
cats!" he yelled. "I've got to get going!"
He jumped into the car and started off,
yelling to his wife: "Pay this fellow!"
Gus climbed into his wrecker. "I'll send
the bill," he told Mrs. Spinker.
She nodded. There was a far-away look in
her eyes. "I hate to see Horace go in the morning," she said.
"It's so - so sort of lonesome when he