Over the past several months many of you, dear readers, have inquired about the state of my car, Stella. It’s been a busy couple months and sadly she’s largely fallen off my radar, but with the new year come new priorities—or at least a reorientation back to old ones—and lately I’ve spent a good amount of time working on her.

The brakes have been the big issue—specifically, they’re very soft, which means that when I press on the pedal I get a lot of squishiness instead of a lot of stopping, which, as you can imagine, is a wee touch less than ideal. With the help of several friends I’ve been bleeding her lines, over and again, a dirty grimy undertaking whose progress has been un-rewardingly slow.

Last evening I received some help from yet another friend—this time I called in an actual mechanic for assistance—and under his tutelage yanked off the rear drums and inspected and adjusted the shoes. This is not a terribly complicated procedure, but when working on Stella I learn over and again how something so seemingly straightforward takes an absurdly un-straightforward amount of time. True to that form, several hours and one trip to the auto parts store later I had finally finished adjusting one drum. There was a noticeable change in responsiveness on the brake pedal, and with optimism shining bright as the sunrise in my eyes I moved to the other side.

I removed the rear tire, in itself a feat of herculean strength—Stella hasn’t been worked on in a long, long time, and over the years of disuse she’s grown stubborn. Specifically, loosening nuts and turning bolts is, even with the assistance of copious amount of WD-40, a perpetual challenge. After nearly uncoupling my elbow from my forearm I finally got the lug nuts loosed, jacked her up, and removed the tire.

On Stella, in order to remove the drum and access the shoes and springs underneath you first have to remove a rather large nut that holds the drum in place. The nut runs the length of the axle and requires a 1&1/4″ socket, so we’re not dealing with small change here. I fitted the socket atop the nut and tried turning—no go. I tried lifting the wrench up, I tried pushing it down, I even tried kicking it—still no luck. This thing wasn’t messing around. I went through the above again and again from various angles, all without success, until finally I positioned the wrench so that it was parallel to the ground and decided to stand atop it.

Facing Stella, and steadying myself on her rear window, I climbed up on the wrench until all my weight was atop it. 165-pounds and still this damned thing refused to budge. I bounced up and back down, hoping to loosen the nut, but instead of accomplishing that I got a nice surprise when the wrench decided it had had enough—apparently it could foresee nothing in its remaining days worth living for. Such feelings of desolation and loneliness make me terribly sad for the poor wrench, especially because to my eye there was so much good left for him to enjoy.

When the wrench broke broke it sheared off completely from the socket extension, which left me in a position familiar to anyone who’s ever seen poor Wile E. Coyote go over a precipice—granted I was only 18″ in the air, but suddenly there was nothing underneath me.

Per gravity’s rules I fell, quickly and unexpectedly. The first thing to hit was my face, which went directly into Stella’s rear window. My feet hit shortly thereafter but by that point I was recoiling backward from the head shot. A moment I’ll never remember later I was on my back on the cement floor, the insides of my head ringing and my eye socket beginning a fierce tom-tom pounding of complaint.

At almost 40-years of age I’ve finally learned that rather than hopping up in surge of adrenaline from an injury, especially one to the head, it’s best to stay in place, collect your wits, and generally not move for a bit. I laid on the cold dirty cement floor until the insides of my head stopped their tinny timpanic torture. Fortunately I’d just brought down a cold beer from my apartment—in all honesty it was my first of the night, and none of this is the fault of the Coors family—and I held its chilled, sweaty side to my eye.

After a bit I dug around for another socket driver and extension but didn’t have the proper pieces, and I never got that nut loose. Hopefully later this week I’ll have time to hit the hardware store and re-stock for Round 2. I’ve got a nice little shiner forming in the outside crease of my eye, a flare of bright aubergine that I like to imagine makes me somehow mysterious, quasi-dangerous, or both.

Either way you call it, for now the score is Stella: 1, Aaron’s Face: 0. But there’s always tomorrow.

Why Dear Wrench?


Why, dear wrench, why? There was so much good left to live for