Where Boss is in danger of loosing is driving permit
Onion enters the Body Shop through the door that opens on the street. He wears a uniform of a funny looking yellowish tint with flashes of orange here and there that make him look like a master of ceremony at some exhibition that no sane person would want to be seen at. On each of his shoulders, one can see a badge with the letters CIDI on it. This stands for CONSOLIDATED INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION INC. Onion walks toward the counter and wait till Boss finishes talking on the phone to whoever is, at that instant, making his life miserable.
-“… Bottle? You mean that as a color? Hum, hum, but what are you talking about, for god’s sake?”
Boss who clears his throat all the time and would swear he is not doing it throws a desperate look at Mouse and rolls his eyes. This conversation drags on and from her work station, Mouse, the office girl, signals him another call. Besides, he takes notice of Onion’s presence and greets him with a slight movement of the head. Then, he works the phone again:
- “No Sir… but will you, hum, hum, listen to me… what? … no… we have your car since three days ago, hum, hum, and that fellow from the insurance, he took his time to show off and, when he did,… what…what… but let me, hum, hum, finish… for Christ sake… So… where was I… oh yes, the adjustor, hum, hum, he has authorised Green grade 3 …”
- No, this is not an option…
And then, all Hell brakes loose:
- “Sacrament… bottle green! But what the Hell, hum, hum, are you talking about, now? Your car, its color, it is green grade 3, take it or leave it. And I would bet, hum, hum, ten to one, that it corresponds to your flask, decanter or whatever, hum, hum, you use to hold your liquid in that island of yours.”
On that, he bangs the phone handset on its receiver while saying to the others, looking astonished and his voice quivering:
- “Would you, hum, hum, believe it? This idiot newcomer called me an asshole.”
He leaves the office that looks upon the atelier and which is separated from it by a glass pane that makes all two interior walls of the small bureau. From there, one can see everything going on in the place, a large enough space with its three 12 foot’s high garage door that permits ROGER MÉCANIQUE ET CAROSSERIE GÉNÉRALE ENR to service all kinds of vehicles. Onion follows Boss. Onion got his name from his eyes that are always watering. He would have been a great asset in a funeral home, always looking like if he had lost his entire family to cholera the day before. A strange discumfort, that makes people around avoid him, pretending fear of catching his trouble but the reality of it is that Onion is a talker and once started, you are in for a very long tale. Beside, the candy deliveryman is an Anglo and thinks himself well versed in French. As if that crowd would know the difference.
Then, Mouse’s voice is diffused by in house communication system speakers to announce the coming of the maître, who is the lawyer, the one that Boss found for himself because Boss is in big trouble and is loosing his sleep over the misfortune that make it necessary for him to call upon the good advice of Me Périquet. And now, Mouse is making fun of him, pronouncing Maî-aî-aî as if she was a sheep calling for attention. Still, he walks toward LePique and asks him:
- “So, what about, hum, hum, that door?”
- “It is Hell, I am telling you. It can’t be done.”
Beside the passageway from which they have come, there is a candy distribution device. Boss makes a point of showing a dime around before dropping it in the overture made on the top of a tin box that Mouse, who does the accounting for Boss, once decorated with bold characaters from her black marker: 10¢ – 2 for 25¢.
Boss thrust his hand into the container, moves the goods around and then, starts to grumble while he looks at Onion the wrong way.
- “But… but… where are, hum, hum…”
In the end, he forces himself to catch one dark jujube, his face showing a pout of growing irritation. He get the jujube out of its plastic wrapping and, reluctantly, puts it in his mouth. Next, he approaches LePique work station:
- “The lawyer, he is,hum, hum, on his way.”
- “I know. I heard it.”
LePique shoves his shoulder, shows Boss the piece of metal that was once a car door and looks now like a counterpane, all putty, not enough metal left.
- “I can’t weld a strap hinge on this spineless piece of shit, no, sorry boss, but it can’t be done. It’s too soft. Therefore, this lawyer of yours, if he wants his car now, it will have no door on the passenger side.”
- “Don’t you worry. We will find him, hum, hum, another door in a scrap yard.”
- “One Isuzu Bellet of I don’t know what year?”
- “I know, hum, hum. No piece of cake it is…”
- “Anyway. What kind of a lawyer drives in such a rattletrap?”
His eyes are on the rust color remains of what must have been a decent car decades back, the poor thing that is now outside, enjoying what little sun there is and that all can see through the open garage door.
Boss answered him:
- “He is good, hum, hum, for speeding tickets.”
- “With this fire ball, he is not at risk of getting a lot of those.”
- “What matters is that, hum, hum, I got myself one.”
- “Your lawyer, then”.
Boss justifies himself:
- “He is in my swap network.”
- “I see. The door against points of demerit.”
- “That’s about it!”
Onion that stood near the “bonbons” distributing machine all the time of this exchange gets a key out of one of the numerous pockets of his uniform. He opens the money box and collects the change it contains, puts it in a pouch with the letters CIDI on it.
- “There are again three pennies left there, says he with an air that implies that riffraff have taken over the place.”
- “Why is he looking at me, that half-witted?”
Boss says to Onion:
- “By the way, those sweets of yours, hum, hum, how come I can’t find any of the orange, yellow or hum, hum, green variety?”
Onion looks him over, seems to think - oh, what a strange question that is – or – what, am I supposed to have some kind of control over people’s taste. – A moment passes. And then, he says:
- “Yiaa… and what about it?”
- “Well, you could, you know, put hum, hum, some more.”
That is precisely what Onion was at that precise time preparing himself to do. But now, he is on the defensive and when that happens, his propensity is to talk nonsense.
- “Why, he now objects. There is still plenty in there.”
- “Exactly. Prune flavour hum, hum, raisin, blueberry, liquorice, mint… all those black or dark untasteful rejects, those that nobody wants, hum, hum, the proof of this being what is left in this sorry container… look at it, nothing with an honest color.”
- “It is a matter of taste. And I know the clients. They do with it.”
- “But, why not, hum, hum, offer them just what they like?”
- “You mean, you want me to sort out the goods and throw away all that is not orange, yellow or green?”
- “What I mean is that you could hum, hum, buy from your suppliers only the flavours that people like. What’s wrong hum, hum, with that?”
- “Listen now. I will part with you of a secret. What you suggest has already been tried.”
Boss repeats the word:
And now Onion bends forward and whispers in his ear in a conspiratorial way:
- “You ever heard of the CONGLOMERAT MONDIAL DU RAISIN or of GRAPES CONTINENTAL INDUSTRIES and, oh, those are the worst, the CARTEL DES VIGNES in Columbia and what else, oh yes, the VINE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL SYNDICATE?”
Onion surprised himself. What inspiration he has!
And this looks contagious because, Boss himself gets into the game:
- “And we did not even, hum, hum, talk yet of the prune…”
- “Tout à fait, continues Onion with this wet look of his. So, when it came to my mind to do as you just suggested, then I understood that these people existed and as you say for the prune, the blueberry and all that grows, well, it is the same story, isn’t it? Damn! The pressure that they can put on you… I did try myself to get involved in this debate… and it didn’t took long for them to react… they wrote to me, they called me on the phone, they sent me mafia type muscle guys to threaten my enterprise and the lawyer’s letter I received, you wouldn’t believe…”
Here, Onion takes the pose of someone who is very much afraid and makes his mouth emit a sound that means to hint at fear and end up at frilosity.
Boss is still quite impressed. He says:
- “Really! It is hard hum, hum, to believe.”
- “That’s the way it is, though!”
And then, he adds:
- “You don’t want to mess with these people.”
When emitting this, he assumes the posture of a survivor.
- “Nevertheless, Boss insists, how come, hum, hum, all the others who are growing oranges, lemons and the likes didn’t rally to your cause hum, hum, you know, to help you…?”
- “Ah, those! You want to know what they told me. “Mon pauvre monsieur, if we were to take all the undesirable flavours out of a candy mix, it would be the end of us, suppliers, unable would we to satisfy demand.”
Me Périquet has a dilemma
On those words arrives Me Périquet. He also is attracted by the candy container. He wears a worn thin suit but it is perhaps the butterfly bow that gives him the antique air. The lawyer puts his hand in his pant pocket and looks at what gets out while Onion, who knows that sort, would bet his life there is nothing that resembles currency there. The solicitor feeling that he is observed makes a fist with his left hand and then, plunges his right one in the dispenser’s belly and lingers a long time at upsetting its content, his arm moving like the agitator in a washing machine. It looks like he does not find a candy to his liking when, at last, his hand appears holding a pale looking specimen which he examines briefly and throws back in again as if it was an attack at good taste.
- “Banana, he hisses dejectedly.”
Boss whispers to Onion:
- You see now, he doesn’t find hum, hum, what he wants and he is not buying.
Onion that knows perfectly well what is going on:
- “I know this type. He wanted to put “une cenne noire” or nothing at all and didn’t dare because we were all looking at him.”
- “Come on, hum, hum, he is a lawyer!”
- “They are the worst of the lot, I am telling you.”
- “But that one, he has his photo in the Journal de Montréal. You must hum, hum, believe me. This guy is not anybody.”
- “Yes. Now that you are telling me, I do recognise him. And in good company he finds himself, with the masseuses, the whores and the fortune tellers. Anyway, your lawyer, everybody is running after him.”
- “I know. He has a lot of clients and hum, hum, he is a winner.”
- “Na. I mean, that story was in the newspaper, quite a long time ago, something about him not paying his bills and so on. They even did a story on the T.V. over this. You did not see it?”
- “I am not much into, hum, hum, news.”
- That pissed him off all right and he decided to sue the network for injury to his reputation. Why? He won. The judge condemned the station to pay him one pant’s button.
- “Now, what did I told you hum, hum, that he was a winner.”
A lawyer in needs of his car
Me Periquet moves toward the others. Onion glares at him distrustfully while, almost without realising it, he touches the wallet he keeps in his back pocket. The lawyer takes an imperious tone to address the assembly:
- “I will need my car.”
LePique tells him:
- “No problem! That is, if you don’t mind driving it with no door on the right side.”
The other makes an appeal to Boss.
- “You told me that there was nothing to it…”
- “I had not see, hum, hum, the diseased.”
Me Periquet has a quick riposte for that. At court, they granted him that. Whatever nonsense he emits, he does it fast.
- “Precisely, in my case, it is the same. There is a certain file that will not settle the way I had thought. But this is not that bad. There is a metro entrance not far away.”
Boss interrupts him:
- “Please, I believe hum, hum, that we should discuss this matter in my office.”
Onion realise that he is in the way and says:
- “That’s it. I am leaving.”
Introduction of a Lady
Back in front where his desk is, Boss is very upset. He implores his lawyer:
- “But you did tell me that it was just, hum, hum, a formality. Why? All I did was going a little over the speed limit.”
- “Wrong place. Wrong moment. Too bad, my dear friend but the Crown attorney has decided to make an example of your case. Here is what he told me: “Me Périquet, it is now too long the time that your interpositions have deprived me of the just sentencing I desire.”
- “Still, I can’t loose hum, hum, my driver’s licence, Me Périquet.”
- “All clients say the same.”
- “And all their lawyers say hum, hum, that they will fix the problem.”
- “And those same clients who know how to mend a car door.”
- “That door hum, hum, Me Périquet, consider that it is a done thing hum, hum. But it will take me a few days more.”
- “As of me, I must deliver an envelope to someone this afternoon. Can you loan me a car?”
- “Where is it for, this delivery?”
- “Leave it to me hum, hum. I will see to it personally.”
- “You sure?”
- “No problem.”
Boss reaches then for the envelope that shows up into the hand of Me Periquet and as the lawyer exits through the all glass front door, every body else’s attention is drawn on a Honda VU that barges unexpectedly into the garage through the middle entrance left open. And before anyone has time to react, a woman rushes out of the car. She looks very much in a hurry. She has on the face at least one centimeter thick of make-up which gives her the appearance of a very tired transgender or a long ago dug up mummy. From the office, Boss sees her holding out her keys to Smatte, he who just left the paint shop, repeating for all to hear what he has denounced now for the last ten days:
- “The stink of chemicals becomes unbearable in that shit house. It is about time that someone gets to that damn window all glued in its frame. And it has to be done fast. One can’t work in there.”
He smells of paint. The lady makes a face, pinches her nose. Smatte catches the bunch with all kind of knick-knack attached to it and hisses:
- “Now what?”
Unperturbed, the woman proceeds with a set of demands of her own:
- “You fix the windshield and then, you wash the car in and out plus vacuum the poor thing.”
Smatte has recognised the dame. She is the celebrity Me Périquet bestowed upon them. Like a sex disease, he thinks and his lips form a smile. Now, he addresses her:
- “Isn’t you who got your car stolen twice?”
- “No luck I have, do I? And this time, when the police found it, the windshield was ruined. You will see to it, will you? Me Périquet told me to come when convenient. So, I have to go, now. Joker is waiting for me at l’Entrejambe and he hates waiting.”
Thereupon, she runs outside toward the lane and the strip joint which is not far away. Boss too has made out the older performer. She is Suzy Salée who had flirted with a dubious celebrity in the sixties and was still making it in the scandal Press with her pranks and silly deportment. She was the queen of Me Périquet’s clientele for the last 25 years while the numerous writs and claims (of the going nowhere variety) he had referred the court over her ways should guarantee him judicial immortality. On two occasions now, Boss, to draw the good graces of the counsellor had authorised the former star, for selling purpose, to park her VU on his lot and both times, the Vu was stolen and found again.
Looking quite miserable, Boss returns near LePique. He shows him the piece of junk and is about to give up the notion that what he is looking at may become, under his employee’s ministrations, anything useful. He says anyway:
- “You must find a way, hum,hum, anything that will stay in place until next week when I go to court hum, hum. After all what counts in the end is what has the appearance of the real thing, hum, hum. What do you think?”
- “I could weld a handle and if his passenger holds it from the inside, maybe that could work.”
- “A passenger… why a passenger hum, hum, because you believe that someone in his right mind would get in that old crock? Na… but I think hum, hum, that perhaps you could weld the door in place and then destroy the door lock and just tell him hum, hum, to forget access from that side. What, I am sure he, will not care about.”
Smatte had now joined them.
- “Hey, you saw that crazy bitch? Mend her windshield. Who the fuck she thinks she is?”
- “I don’t know.”
- “So, what are we to do with the VU?”
Boss throws him an exasperate glance. What he wants to roar is “Shove it up your ass” but ends up saying:
- “Put it in the paint shop hum, hum, and later if you find time, you fix that damned windshield.”
Looking chagrined, Smatte moves away. LePique repeats:
- “I don’t know…”
- “Smatte, do this for me, please, Boss Implores. Because hum, hum, if I can’t give him back that Isuzu with a door at the expected place, I will have hum, hum, to walk for the next three months.”
- “Don’t you worry a bit, Boss. We will find a way. I will drive you morning and night…”
Boss cuts him off:
- “This isn’t funny, hum, hum, so instead of playing the buffoon, use the little brain you have to think of a way of fixing that sorry piece of scrap.”
Good grammar is always useful
Boss is now in the little office where Mouse works. He faces the owner of a huge Chevrolet with a Panama on his head. The man looks pissed and talks with an affected civility that tells of a trouble ahead.
Behind the two is a counter and he is grateful for being out of reach.
- “I would like to be told what was wrong with my front seat.”
Boss looks at the invoice to be paid and he has his eyes fixed on the Visa card that his vis-à-vis holds in his hand.
- “Well, he says, you got, hum, hum, a set of new brakes in front. There is no mention here, of the, hum, hum, driver’s front seat.”
- “Et voilà! Now, let’s talk of the car’s radio. Please, tell me what was the problem that needed fixing with the device?”
- “That’s for you, hum, hum, to tell me.”
Boss is a model of patience and it takes a lot for him not to throw the tiresome individual out the window. In any case, not before getting payment from the guy.
Who is yet not finished.
- “You know. I can’t believe what you are doing.”
- “What is that?”
- “What you do? Are you going to pretend that you do not know?”
- “We repair cars, sir. That’s what we do, hum, hum. Now, SIR, if you don’t mind my asking, will you, hum, hum, come to the facts.”
- “Then, Sir, I will tell you what you are doing. You and your sort mess with the interior fitting of the car. To drive it less than fifty feet, you permit yourself to alter the seat and back seat’s position, you create havoc in the radio memory system so that I get silly rap music where I expect news or serious entertainment and, worst of all, you put the volume so loud that when I started the car, the noise from Celine Dion was so overwhelming that it almost threw me out of the vehicle and my heart was beating so fast that I could have expired then and there. So, this is what you are doing, Sir! You, SIR, disrupt my peace of mind, Sir!”
Onion throws a look at the work sheet over Boss shoulder.
- “I don’t know. It says here hum, hum that Smatte worked on your brakes.”
- “Smatte? Is that someone’s name?”
- “Around here, he, hum, hum, responds, yes, to that name.”
- “And we can meet with him, this… Smatte?”
Boss uses the intercom and Smatte is not long in appearing. He sees the accusing client and suddenly, he looks uncomfortable.
Boss asks him:
- “Tell me, Smatte. It is you hum, hum, who did the brakes for the Chevrolet Impala?”
- “Why? The car doesn’t stop?”
- “This gentleman here, hum, hum, does not appreciate your kind of music.”
The car owner specifies:
- “Not only that. The blast like music and all those witless stations entered into the audio memory system and the changing of the seat position…”
Smatte ignores the nuisance and addresses himself directly to Boss:
- “But what is he talking about? I didn’t fuck off with his car. All I did is work out his goddamn brakes and that’s all! Why would have touched his radio. When I work, I don’t listen to it. As for the seat’s position, we are of the same build.”
Even for Boss who was used to Smatte antics, this was a good one. You had to give him that. The guy had nerves. The customer could have been mistaken for Pavarotti while Smatte was more like a shrimp.
Pavarotti erupts in a dismissive way:
- “This is a farce.”
Boss sees an opportunity to meddle back in:
- “Now, if he says hum, hum, that he didn’t touch anything. Nevertheless, he will see that the seats get back to their original, hum, hum, positions, don’t you agree, Smatte?”
- “As if he could do that better than myself. All I am asking is why they are doing this. All those who wash the car, who do repairs, who move vehicles in parking lots…”
Smatte interrupts and says:
- “Ask him who got the Chevrolet in this morning.”
- “Do not change the subject, objects Pavarotti.”
- “I will give in some subject. Ask him if he prefers a complement.”
Smatte was always quite good at grammar and, some time, it shows.
- “Indirect, then. Perfect to play the fish.”
And the big man is most happy with this one. Looks now at the others like they were an audience and he expects a round of applause. While Smatte is not seeing things that way. Now, he addresses Pavarotti directly and tells him:
- “Are you for real? You gone to tell me who the fuck drove your wheels in this morning, yes or no?”
The abuse so much surprises Pavarotti that he drops his panama on the ground. He then admits with some strain to keep his dignity intact:
- “As a question of fact, it is not me. My son who had the car since yesterday night brought it here this morning and then, he took the metro to get to his college.”
At the mention of the underground, Boss misses a beat. Smatte, on the other hand, concludes like this was all just a theorem that he had just proven:
- “That’s it! End of story.”
Pavarotti looks defeated and acquiesces to terms by handling Boss his credit card. He seized it with a bad feeling, the mention of the metro, without a doubt.
- “My son would not do that, he grumbles.”
A moment passes. Then he adds:
- “He knows better.”
Smatte can’t refrain himself and says:
- “That proposition, I heard it before.”
And to Boss, he says:
- “Is that all?”
- “Hum, hum, yes, it is.”
Boss finishes with Pavarotti. From the corner of his eye, he sees Smatte walking outside and get in the Chevrolet, disappear inside for one or two seconds and then re-erect, closes the door and walks back inside. Meanwhile, Pavarotti leaves at last. Boss realises that it is now 13h00, that the time to lunch has passed and he has this Périquet’s business to take care of, that envelope to deliver somewhere in Laval. Too bad, he will buy himself a sandwich at the “Dépanneur” nearby and will eat it driving. He asks:
- “Mouse, did you googlemap me hum, hum that address in Laval, you know…”
- “26 minutes, it should take you.”
Boss picks up the printed itinerary and the envelope from Mouse’s hands. He says:
- “I will be back in one hour, then.”
He gets through the glass door and moves toward one beat up Toyota Corolla, which shows the Atelier’s logo on both doors. He engulfs himself in and leaves.
At that early hour in the afternoon, circulation on the expressway is fluid. Hence, he rides easily to the address indicated and when he wants to drop the envelope through the door mail overture, he realised that in the entrance hall on the other side, there are piles of stuff one foot high. In addition, someone has pushed junk in the access hole with a vengeance, so much so as to make any additional insertion impossible. It takes him twenty minutes to make his way in and in doing so, he learns all what there is to learn on local business in the area. At last, he is free to go, his mission being completed. The street is quiet and there are nobody to be seen anywhere. Whilst he is in the act of reinserting himself in his small car, his gaze is attracted by a strange apparatus on one lot the other side of the street. One with an open mind would say that it was a sculpture, of the modern sort, some kind of giant mobile. The gadget is massive, perhaps as high as ten feet with multiple arms projected in all direction and from which dangle all kinds of alien looking objects. Boss approaches the artsy display and realises then that what he sees are metallic pieces, sections that were once part of an automobile. There are wheels, part of a differential, one hood, hub caps, one sun roof, a few headlights, one engine, one back window, one fuel tank, one grille, side moulding, one fuel tank flap and… and… is it possible… but yes, his eyes are not betraying him, what Boss is seeing at that instant is… is… a miracle…without a doubt because, there, in front of him, hanging between heaven and hearth, two feet over the ground, he stares at a car door and it is not any car door. It is the car door of an Isuzu Bellet in splendid condition, right side and right model into the bargain. On his way back where he came from, a plan forms in his mind. But he must act fast.
A dog rest in peace
In the atelier, he hastens to LePique work station. The poor man finishes welding a scrap of alloy onto the Isuzu’s door and now says, as if he was a doctor at the bedside of a not yet dead patient.
- “It needs to cool down, now.”
And then, he adds for the benefit of a better understanding:
- “It should stiffen that “peau de chagrin”.”
Because, “il a des lettres”, LePique.
Some time passes and then, he raises very carefully the door from the table where it was resting. This is enough for the piece just welded to detach from the structure and to fall on the metal surface of the work station with a bang that left them both thunderstruck, the more so when LePique let go of the door, who now hits the floor the wrong way and separates into four useless entities.
He lets go of a cry:
- “This is it. I am done. I can’t do it any more. Trop, c’est trop! This is too much to ask. I prefer to sleep under the bridge and wash windshields on a street corner than touch this piece of shit again.”
Boss tells him:
- “It’s O.K. LePique. Don’t put yourself, hum, hum, in a state. It is bad for your health. Forget about that job. Come now. We will go get the VU in the paint shop, hum, hum, and we will fix her windshield in no time for that prima donna. Because, hum, hum, you know what, she will want us to sell it again, the damn thing!”
Once in the paint shop, the smell of chemicals hit them like a punch in the stomach. It is overwhelming. Boss gets behind the steering wheel and LePique waits by the shop open doors to shut them after him. As soon as he gets the engine going, the VU’s speakers fires away an ear splitting detonation of noises and Boss is almost blown out of his seat. He misses hitting the cement floor by a beat. Now, with trembling hands, he fights panic, blindingly trying to hit buttons and other protuberances on the front panel to free himself from that sonorous aggression. Then, it stops. Smatte, from where he works, has seen the episode and makes a discreet exit.
- “What was that?” asks LePique, after the car settles and Boss is out. Who has in his hand one CD neutral plastic box with the name CELINE DION black marked on it. Smatte’s hand writing. Still, LePique does not react the way he should. Instead, he shouts:
- “The lady singer, she told you that she had a pet?”
- “A pet?”
Boss is still recovering from the shock he just experienced and his heart is running madly. There is in his mind the blurred memory of a Chevrolet and all the right connections are yet to be made. He parrots:
- “What are you saying hum, hum, a pet?”
- “Yes tells LePique. I don’t know. It looks like a very sick rat in a cage.”
Boss has suddenly the sensation of an impending disaster waiting to fall on him. Also, they both hear Mouse’s voice on the intercom:
- “Boss, it says, there are two police officers in front who want to talk with you.”
He who now has seen the cage left on the back seat of the VU and the inanimate animal it contains. The thing could be a squirrel. He says to LePique:
- “Get rid of that cage, will you. We will talk later.”
He then turns his back to the mechanic and walks toward the office worrying a bit over what they do in this country with high speed traffic offenders. Do they put them in prison?
© Copyright 2017 Jean Lagace. All rights reserved.
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