With a bowl of beef stew, apple pie a
la mode, and two cups of coffee under his belt, Gus Wilson walked leisurely
back to the Model Garage. His young assistant, Stan Hicks, was sitting at
the workbench dropping banana peels into his empty lunch box.
"You got a one-track mind, Gus?" Stan
asked, taking half a banana in one bite.
"On that, Stan, I plead the Fifth
Amendment. But why?"
"Howie Stone. He stopped by to cry on
my shoulder about all auto mechanics having one-track minds."
Gus leaned over and adjusted a wrench
hanging askew on the tool board. "So that used station wagon of his is still
acting up. Were you able to fix it?"
"I didn't even get a chance to look at
it," Stan said. "When I told him that the symptoms he described sounded like
a faulty fuel pump he blew his top and drove off. And the way his car
sputtered and balked, it sure sounded as if it was starved for gas."
"Howie's a nice boy," Gus said, "but
stubborn, like all the Stones. Guess he just made up his mind it's not the
fuel pump, and that's that."
"Wish we could help him," Stan said.
"He spent all is money on that wagon, got his package-delivery service
started - and now he can't deliver."
Gus nodded. "I know. P. J. Basset told
me about it over at the diner."
"You mean Howie's going to lose the
job of hauling Pete Bassett's express shipments to the railroad station?"
"Looks like he's lost it," Gus said.
"He missed two trains last week. And Pete's maple-sugar candy got off to the
customers a day late."
The telephone rang in the Model Garage
office. Gus answered it, did more listening than talking, and came back into
the shop. "That was Pete Bassett. He's staying late making up a big order
that must make the evening train."
"Gosh, Gus, and Howie probably won't
be able to make it."
"Pete didn't want Howie. He wants me
to come over and get his old pickup running. He hopes to use it to start
making his own deliveries again until he can get a new truck."
"Maybe we could stall," Stan
suggested. "Maybe we can somehow get Howie to bring his wagon in here and
let you check it over."
Gus grinned broadly. "Maybe we can,
Stan, maybe we can - if you're willing to aid and abet."
Stan looked at his boss eagerly.
"Not quite that bad, but maybe a few
"Count me in," Stan said. "What do I
"Check the bins and make out a list of
stock parts we need while I make a phone call."
Stan looked puzzled, shrugged his
shoulders and went back to work.
Half an hour later Stan walked back
into the office and handed Gus an order list and carbon.
"Want me to run over to Milltown for
these? Nice day for a drive."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Stan, but
I've just put in a call for your pal Howie Stone."
"Oh, no, Gus. With his wagon running
the way it is, Howie'll never make those hills on the 10 miles to Milltown
An engine sputtered to a stop outside.
"Here's Howie now." Gus gave his assistant a shove. "Get back in there and
keep out of sight."
Stan pulled his cap lower over his
eyes. "The plot thickens," he said, slinking dramatically off toward the
rear of the garage.
Outside Gus greeted Howie with an
innocent smile. "Glad you got my message about that pickup in Milltown. It's
a rush job."
Howie's smile wasn't as cheerful.
"Gee, Mr. Wilson, I'm afraid I'll have to turn you down."
"You're in the package-delivery
business, aren't you?"
"Well, I thought I was until this
station wagon of mine started acting up. I can limp around town okay, but
once I get on a hill . . ."
"What seems to be wrong?" Gus asked.
"I don't know - yet. I've wanted to
ask your help, Mr. Wilson, but after I refused your offer to check the bus
before I bought it - well, I've been sort of embarrassed."
"But you've seen other mechanics?"
Howie nodded, keeping his eyes down,
and shuffling his feet. "That's right - and they all seem to have one-track
minds. Fuel pump, fuel pump, fuel pump - that's all I hear. Why, one fellow
even wanted to charge me 100 bucks to tear down the engine - just to put in
a new fuel pump."
"Maybe it is your fuel pump," Gus
"Shucks, no, Mr. Wilson. I put a new
one in myself, and it didn't make a bit of difference."
Gus held out the parts list. "Looks
like we're both in a jam, Howie. I need these parts bad."
"I'd like to help, but . . ."
"Let's help each other," Gus broke in.
"You take my truck and drive over to Milltown and pick up these parts. I'll
phone Ace Supplies so they'll have them ready. And while you're gone I'll
have a look at your station wagon."
Howie looked up, a grateful-puppy
expression in his eyes. "Swell, Mr. Wilson." He took the list Gus handed him
and climbed into the Model Garage truck.
"But you can forget about the fuel
pump. Nothing wrong with it." He stepped on the starter and drove off.
When Stan Hicks came out of hiding, he
found Gus with his head under the station-wagon hood. "Hi, boss, have you
forgotten Pete Bassett is expecting you?"
Gus straightened up. "No, Stan. And if
he phones, tell him I'm out on an emergency. Now, start this wagon and we'll
see how she sounds."
As the engine started and settled into
a smooth idle, the office telephone rang. And from then on it continued to
ring every five minutes with Stan running back and forth to answer it.
Working on the engine, Gus moved the
throttle linkage. It raced briefly, then began to sputter. Just before
stall, he let it settle back to idle and asked Stan to turn the wipers on.
Each time Gus gunned the engine, the wipers nearly stopped.
"Cut it," Gus called. Stan did, and
ran to answer an insistent telephone ring.
Gus was at work on the engine innards
when his assistant reported back.
"That was Bassett again. His help's
left for the day. He's alone at the plant with a no-go truck, a big
ready-to-go order, and that midget sports car of his that hasn't room for an
extra package of chewing gum. And he's mad at you."
"I was hoping for something like
that," came the muffled voice of Gus as he backed off the last fuel-pump
When Howie Stone drove up in the Model
Garage truck, Gus had just returned from a test run in the station wagon. He
was putting the engine through its paces. It accelerated smoothly, ran like
Bug-eyed, Howie jumped out. "What was
"Never mind that now," Gus said. "It's
running - and I suggest that you get right over to Pete Bassett's plant."
"Huh? Mr. Basset wants nothing to do
with me. He made that plain enough after I missed the train the other day.
"I think he'll be glad to see you now,
though," Gus said, sliding out from behind the wheel of the station wagon.
"Now get in, boy, and get going - but don't tell Pete you've even seen me."
As Howie pulled away, Stan cocked his
head and looked at his boss. "Talk about a mother hen and her chicks. But
wait till he hears about that fuel pump." The phone rang. "What'll I tell
"Tell him if his shipment misses that
train it serves him right . . ."
Later that evening there were lights
on in the Model Garage. Gus was doing some work on his own car when Howie
Stone walked in.
There was a broad grin on his face.
"You were right, Mr. Wilson," he said.
"Pete Bassett was glad to see me. And you know what?"
"No, what?" said Gus, pulling a pipe
from his coveralls pocket and filling it.
"He had an order all ready for me to
deliver. Said if I made the train he'd sign a contract with me for all his
deliveries. I made the train."
"That's fine, Howie. Now, I've got a
pot of coffee brewing in the office. How about joining me?"
"Sure thanks. I did want to ask you
what was wrong with my car."
When they had taken their first sips
from steaming mugs, Gus broke the news. "The fuel pump wasn't operating."
Howie put his mug down with a jolt
that splashed coffee over papers on Gus's littered desk. "But it was a new
pump. I put it in myself," he protested.
"I didn't say the pump was bad, but
that it wasn't operating. It's like this:
"Combination vacuum-booster fuel pumps
have a stronger diaphragm spring than the single-purpose types. Once in a
while the extra pressure causes the cam to wear. The more it wears, the
rounder it gets. Eventually there's a hardly enough lift to keep the pump
supplying fuel for a slow idle."
As Howie nodded in understanding, Gus
went on. "When you race the engine, the carburetor bowl empties faster than
the feeble pump stroke can fill it."
"But why should a job like that cost
$100?" Howie asked.
"Well, to fix it means removing the
radiator, cylinder heads and all the valves in order to replace the
"And you did all that while I drove to
Milltown and back," Howie said in admiration. "Well, with the Bassett
business I guess I can afford it."
"Your bill is $14 for an electric fuel
pump," Gus said. "My time is free in exchange for picking up those parts for
Howie pondered that one for a minute.
Then: "I get it. An electric fuel pump doesn't need the camshaft to operate
it. It's self-powered.
You switched pumps."
"Right," Gus said. "Mechanics have
one-track minds, Howie, but we know a good switch when we see one."