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Check Engine Light

I recently made a brief presentation at my Sisters in Crime chapter meeting. The topic was Writing Prompts, something my weekly blog posts thrive upon. Following my short talk, group members got out their pens and papers or logged-on to their computers. We chose a prompt from a list I’d prepared, and then we began to write. The prompt chosen: My Check Engine light just came on! Twenty minutes later, we stopped, and each read the unique story that had popped into our individual writers’ minds. The varied results we fantastic. After the assorted personal hurdles I’d had to jump over prior to the meeting, the tale that oozed from my writer’s brain is also this week’s blog post. Here’s hoping neither my readers nor I ever share my character’s experience.

Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

Check Engine Light

Although it was Thursday, it should have been Monday. The alarm didn’t go off—I knew I’d set it. Then, the toilet wouldn’t flush. Lifting the tank lid revealed the plastic flush arm had snapped from the lever. “Well, crap… Well, no, I guess not.”

In the kitchen, the Keurig cups container sat empty. Didn’t I just buy a box last week? Glancing at the clock, I wouldn’t have time for Starbucks either.

Following a quick shower, I donned my skivvies, stuffed my feet into the only non-white pair of socks in the drawer and then through the legs on my dress pants. Squatting to retrieve the hairdryer, I felt the seam split along the pants inseam. That’s weird. Last week the scale indicated I’d lost five pounds. Problem was I didn’t have another pair of work pants that weren’t in the laundry hamper. “Guess casual Friday will occur a day early. But bright blue socks with brown loafers? Nope. Chuck Taylor high-tops will go better with my jeans anyway.”

In the car, the gas gauge needle leaned hard toward empty as I backed from the driveway. Didn’t I fill the tank when I got the Keurig cups? “Oh yeah, what Keurig cups?” I shrugged and motored toward the freeway. As I sailed down the entrance ramp, the Check Engine light came on. “What the…”

I thought about my pal the auto mechanic—excuse me, auto technician. For the over one-hundred bucks an hour labor rate his shop charged, I should’ve been able to call his kind whatever I wanted. The last time the car was in for repairs, I had. Surprised the service manager hadn’t added a special customer service surcharge to call the cops. Oh well.

I tried to recall some of the things that my buddy had told me could trigger the light to come on. He’d talked about soft failures and hard failures, which seemed contradictory. After all, I’d had both at once—one because of the other—but mine never had anything to do with cars.

Geez, what did he say could be wrong? Something about the computer and the computer sensors going haywire. Closed loop and open loop, whatever the hell that meant. Oxygen sensors—something I’d needed after receiving my repair bill the last time…before the cops had arrived. And loose gas caps. “Hey maybe that’s all that’s wrong. Maybe I didn’t get the cap tight when I filled up and I got the Keurig cu…” Crap. Nevermind.

“Okay, I’m gonna be late. I should call my boss and tell her I’m having car trouble. Least I can do. She’ll understand, right?”

Breathe. In…out. In…out.

“Okay, scroll down to her number.” Ha, her number. I wish I had her number. Too bad she’s a lesbian…with a master’s degree in engineering. “Hey, maybe she’d know what the hell is wrong with my friggin’ SUV.” Nah, she knows a lot but probably nothing about cars. Still…

I poked at my cell phone’s ON button. The screen came alive, then a window popped up—low battery. “Dammit, what next?”

I scrambled through the console for a charging cable. The guy in the lane next to me swerved and blew his horn, then let me know what he thought about my IQ. I mimicked his salute. “Yeah, you’re number one with me too, pal.”

The car behind me flashed its lights. I waved in the rear-view mirror. “Have a nice day too, bub. Bet you at least got your first cup of coffee.”

At last, the cable. I plugged in the phone and logged on. About the time I made the connection to my boss, another set of lights began strobing in the mirror—red and blue. “Geez Louise, think I should go back to bed and pretend this day never happened.”

I pulled to the shoulder and reached into my jacket, then visualized my wallet lying atop the dresser. “Huh. With the way this day has gone, my siesta could take place in the county jail. Hope they have fresh coffee. Wonder if they’ve served breakfast yet?”

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