“Front end’s totally shot to shit and the rim’s fucked up. It needs to be replaced.” The lit stub of a cigarette in the corner of his mouth didn’t move as he spoke. He needed a shave.
“How much, Salty?”
“Jeez, you’re looking at about $500, give or take.”
Ed Davenport turned away from the mechanic and his pride and joy Chevy. It hurt him to see it up on the lift. For Ed, it was almost as if he was staring at his child in a raised hospital bed.
Salty took one last drag. He pinched what remained of the cigarette between his thumb and middle finger, turned his head and spit, then flicked the butt to the ground and stomped on it with a heavy boot. Smoke spurted from his nostrils. “It’s fucked up. How the hell did you do this?”
Ed was worried about the $500. After five years, his Davenport’s Demolition business was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. This was going to hurt. He stared down at the still smoldering cigarette. “I hit that pothole on Route 11. You know, the one right outside of town. My teeth shook! The really sad part about it is I am more than familiar with that hole. It’s been there for weeks. I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’ve called into that worthless pothole hotline, and every time someone else told me it was going to be repaired. I can’t believe I hit it. I was daydreaming and went smack into it.”
“What’s the use of having a pothole hotline if they’re going to ignore the calls they get? This is really bad. Fix it, Salts. You’ve taken good care of her for like 20 years now. It’s only money. I’ve got to have my baby blue back.”
A week later, the pothole was still there, still beckoning unsuspected drivers. Ed poured himself a glass of rye while being parked on hold.
2 MINUTES – Ed had punched the numbers “2” and “3” on his phone indicating he wanted to report a pothole - again.
He was stoic despite the fact that every 45 seconds or so, the insipid music bombarding his eardrum was interrupted by an automated message imploring Ed to continue holding, because his call was important. He’d wait to speak to a live person.
6 MINUTES – Ed finally had the option to push “0” to speak to a city road improvement specialist.
Ed held the phone to his ear. The constant pounding of the music continued. Outwardly, it appeared as if Ed were relaxing in his den listening to his favorite jazz CD. He poured himself a second glass of rye.
8 MINUTES – Ed heard a new message, informing him he was caller number eleven in the queue and his approximate wait time was eleven minutes. Ed was also given the option to go online to the city’s official website to report a pothole in need of repair. He had previously employed that method on a few occasions without success.
22 MINUTES – Ed was informed that his call was outside of the pothole hotline’s business hours and told to call back between the hours of 9:00am and 9:00pm. He was abruptly disconnected. He checked his watch. It was 8:40pm.
Ed calmly finished the rye and headed into the garage and into his pickup. He slowly pulled out of the driveway and nonchalantly headed toward town. On Route 11, he pulled the vehicle over a few feet from the pothole. When he saw empty road to the north and south, he extracted a stick of dynamite from the bed of the truck and carefully placed into the pothole. He was a good half mile away when he felt the ground shake and heard the explosion.
In the morning, Ed made himself a cup of coffee, toast, bacon and eggs. He listened to the radio traffic reporter, “…vestigation continues as we’ve been saying all morning. Stay clear of Route 11 about a mile north of town. Traffic is backed up for miles. Police are urging motorists to avoid the area as road crews work feverishly to repair a 450-foot section of road…” Ed didn’t wait for the rest of the story. He shut the radio, gulped down the last of the Joe, and decided to take the day off and go for a drive. He got into his baby blue Corvair, shoved it in gear, and headed away from town.
Bruce Harris is the author of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DOCTOR WATSON: ABOUT TYPE (www.batteredbox.com) and a chapbook, THE MAN AND THE MARK (www.deadlychaps.com). He enjoys relaxing with a Marxman.