Drafting–Sentra gives up the ghost

After some discussion and a little negotiating, Millie and Molly decided to alter their decision of stopping every hour or so and instead to take a longer break in Perrysburg. It was the approximate midpoint between South Bend and Youngstown, their ultimate goal for the day. The only exception would be if either of them had to go to the restroom.

Two and a half hours later, with a sleeping Molly in the back seat, Millie decided to bypass Perrysburg and continue on. She thought to herself: “Like, miraculously, I’d know how to resolve the grinding sound I’ve been hearing for the past hour every time I speed up to pass someone.” Although she was torn whether to return to Chicago and accept Matt’s Tahoe offer, it seemed best to continue on and contact an auto repair shop when they arrived in Youngstown. Maybe, all the Sentra needs is a transmission flush like Colton had mentioned.

Fifteen minutes later the twenty-year old Nissan had other plans. The moment it entered the long bridge across the Maumee River, the grinding noise doubled, the entire car began shaking, and the burning smell became so bad Millie thought her first and only new car might catch fire. She quickly realized with the cars and eighteen wheelers whizzing by that their progress was slowing. In a quarter mile the car lurched forward one final time, just enough for Millie to steer to her right and stop within an inch of the metal guard rail that separated them from the dark, murky water below.

“Molly, wake up.” Millie turned and reached over the seat and shook her daughter’s leg. “We’re stuck. We need to get out of the car and watch traffic.” The latter sounded silly but Millie knew they didn’t need to risk being hit from the rear. At least outside, they could walk east and away from the car enough to hopefully escape death if a car or truck creeped to the right and rammed the Sentra.

“What’s wrong?” Molly sat sideways in the seat with her back to the door. She looked behind and watched the passing traffic. “Why’d you stop here.”

“Come on, I’ll explain. Be careful, watch for cars.”

It was almost two hours before the wrecker arrived. Millie had Googled and found two auto repair shops in Perrysburg. She didn’t know why but she’d chosen Ray’s Service Center & Towing over Steve’s Family Auto.

“Are you Ray?” Millie asked as the short and stocky man in a greasy red hat exited the blue and white vehicle and approached the two stranded females.

“Nope. I’m Bobby. You got car troubles?” Bobby was perceptive. Millie described the Sentra’s problems, detailing each symptom and her in vain efforts to patch things up with extra fluids.

“You need a transmission. That’ll cost you.”

“How much?” Molly interjected but Millie closed her eyes and shook her head sideways.

“Never mind. Just give us a tow back to your shop and we can talk about it there.” Millie said, resigned to forking over thousands, her skin tingling. Not good.

It was a quarter past noon when Bobby turned right off Louisiana Avenue and pulled the wrecker alongside a neat and modern three-bay metal building. Millie opened the passenger door and Molly slide out beside her. The two had held a hand across their noses and mouths to ward off Bobby’s BO. The wafting smell coming from Perry’s Burgers across the parking lot was welcoming and prevented both from gagging or throwing up.

“Ray’s at lunch. You girls can sit inside.” Bobby pointed toward a side door with a sign that read, “Welcome.” Thankfully, he walked inside the shop, selected some tools from a giant red box, and hid himself underneath the hood of a late model Camaro.

The waiting room was small with six stiff chairs and two vending machines: one supplied by Coca Cola, the other filled with an assortment of candy bars, gum, granola bars, chips & pretzels, cookies, and crackers. Millie bought a Diet Coke for herself and a Sprite for Molly who returned to the Sentra for a bag of snacks they’d purchased at Walmart.

Ray and a woman, possibly his wife, returned at 1:15. To Millie and Molly’s surprise, the two were the total opposite of Bobby. They were dressed in neat, casual clothes, and were odorless. The woman retreated to a room marked “Office” and Ray approached and held out a hand. “I’m Ray. Sorry about your troubles. Bobby tells me it sounds like transmission issues.”

Ray led them inside the office and pointed to two chairs in front of the room’s second desk. Millie didn’t hesitate, thinking she might as well hear the bad news. “What will a new one cost?”

After detailing the options to replace the Sentra’s transmission—new one, used one with minimal guarantee, and a rebuilt one with extended warranty—and the range of costs—$1600 to $3200—Ray announced an equally troubling fact. It would take a week to diagnose the true problem, and if that’s what the doctor ordered, to secure a transmission from either option, would take at least five or six work days, given their current work orders.

Millie and Molly walked outside and pondered their options. Molly suggested calling Matt and figuring out a plan to unite them with his Tahoe. That seemed like defeat, something like a dog returning to its vomit. Millie rejected that and instead Googled the nearest Greyhound Bus station.

By 3:00 PM Millie had learned the nearest Greyhound was fifteen to twenty minutes away in Toledo and there was a bus departing for New York City at 10:30 tonight. The decision was made, with Molly reluctantly agreeing. The cost to repair the Sentra was just too much, given its age and market value, not even considering the near-week delay.

After paying Ray a hundred-twenty dollars in cash for their tow bill, Millie convinced him to ship Molly’s stuffed animals to their new apartment. The thing that felt bad was giving Ray their new address, but given their importance to Molly and the limited options, she finally convinced herself the risk was minimal. She handed Ray another twenty-dollar bill, and Googled a taxi service.

At 3: 55 PM, the Uber driver delivered them to the Emerald Avenue bus station in Toledo. Another twenty-six dollars down and all Millie and Molly had to do now was wait six and a half-hours before they were back on their journey to New York City.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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