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Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six
Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Chapter Ten | Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve | Chapter Thirteen | Chapter Fourteen | Chapter Fifteen



For a short while I laid awake at night.


I laid awake at night due to the feebleness of my being able to conjure up a method for transporting my woodworking shop on a twenty-five hundred mile jaunt from Montana to Virginia.


I soon tired of lying awake at night.


In retrospect our decision to move was pretentious but during the split second it was made, it seemed like the right thing to do. I'm certain others have experienced the trauma from this type of decision. One that immediately comes to mind is the person who has just launched himself off a twelve-hundred foot bridge with nothing but a rubber band tied around his ankles. So, yeah, mine was the exact sort of action that could exude a statement like...


"Dear God...please let me live through this and I swear I won't fart in church any more! Thank you. Amen."


I like to think that God often ignores that sort of sentiment but enjoys the hell out of standing back to watch the spectacle that generated it nevertheless.


Alas, the decision to move had been made. The question of how continued to loom until one day I was driving by one of the used car lots in Ronan and there, parked at the rear of the lot, were two of your basic yellow school busses...a short one and a long one.


I pulled onto the lot and considered the short bus but realized that it simply couldn't contain all the equipment in my shop. But, I thought as I climbed aboard, what about a long one? It didn't take much envisioning to see that with all the seats removed it was a cavernous space indeed. The solution to my predicament had been solved and with that I jumped off the bus and went inside to dicker over price.


On my way over to the office I speculated on the long or short bus option. What if I had chosen the short variety? Could there possibly be some obscure or forgotten reason that it appealed to me? If so, then it could possibly mean I went to school on a short bus, which would explain our decision to move in the first place. But, for the moment, I was reasonably certain I hadn't gone to school on a short bus.


As far as selling automobiles, Ronan Auto Body is arguably the premier car lot not only here in the Mission Valley, but in western Montana. Glen Wunderlich, son of the owner, is an automobile salesman. And he possesses all the attributes you need in order to be a good automobile salesman:


You can't be stupid - you must be savvy
You must have sticktoitiveness
Do not allow yourself to be drawn into any monetary conundrums
You must have ties to the Mafia


To be a good automobile salesman, all of these attributes are important to have. The best attribute to have, however, is knowing when a good mark, vis-à-vis, a victim for a soft touch, has just walked into your office. I reflected on how good it felt to be neither of those.


"Hi ya, Glen! Alright if I sit down for a moment?"


Without even looking up from whatever it was he was reading he said, "Go away, Joe, you're bothering me."


"Ha, ha, that's a good one, Glen," I guffawed, "But, you don't understand. I'm really interested in the bus you have out back. You know the one? The one that's been sitting out there for over two years now?"


"Ah, you must be talking about the short bus."


Squinting my eyes and turning my head sideways I asked, "What's that crack supposed to mean?"


"Nothing, Joe, nothing. Now, really, can't you see I'm busy? Go away and leave me alone."


"But Glen," I objected, and then frowned at the comic book in his hands, "I really wanna buy it! Yeah, I know I said the same thing when I was looking at that truck, but...I really, really mean it this time! Honest!"


"Yeah, yeah, show me $2800.00 and I might dust off the chair for ya."


"Nah," I said as I reached down and swished my hat across the seat, "You think I just jumped off a bus? I know shrewd auto sales talk when I hear it. I'll dust it off for myself, thank you. Now, let's haggle." I said and got comfortably seated.


With a sigh Glen turned a page and quipped, "Alright will $2600.00 get you out of my office?"


"Ummmm..." I piped up as I sucked my teeth, "'fraid not, Old Bean."


"Crrraapppp," He sighed, "How 'bout $2500.00?"


"Tell you what, Glen. For $2200.00 I'll walk out your door. Hell, I'll even put the dust back on the chair and you'll never know I was here."


"That's Ok," He replied as he turned another page, "I never thought you were here anyway."


Squinting my eyes and turning my head sideways I asked, "And what's that crack supposed to mean?"


"Nothing, Joe, nothing," He said as he tossed me the keys, "Now...really...go away and leave me alone. Oh, and you'll be sure to pay Guido for the bus on your way out the door, won't you?"


I walked out knowing that a bus was the perfect choice because it would it serve a dual purpose; a moving van and be a storage facility once there. It then occurred to me that after it was unloaded it would make a great camper one day!


"Man," I said, "This is getting better as I go along."


It runs on propane and has two, big 66-gallon tanks. So, I reasoned, let's say it gets 5 miles to the gallon, that's a 660-mile range. By factoring in hills and the load it'll be carrying then I could reasonably expect a 500-mile range.


"Plus," I stretched out my arms and said to no one in particular, "Propane is everywhere."


I'd often heard dumb expressions like, "Gold is where you find it" and considered them to be of such deep profoundness that only philosophers were meant to ponder over them. It also occurred to me that for someone to utter stupid things like that they would have to attend at least four years of college and since I hadn't, I could never be one. My disappointment was groundless because before this little adventure was over I would evolve into such a capable philosopher that I could ooze out scads of profound statements straight off the cuff. But for now I couldn't be bothered with such nonsense - I had bigger fish to fry.


I had to rid the bus of its seats.


You know, I spent the better part of my school years riding in a bus - well, that is to say when I wasn't kicked off of it - and it never once crossed my mind as to how many bolts there are that secure the seats to the floor. Oh, and in those same 12 years of riding school busses I never once thought to question if all the same type of bolts were used on them, either.


Some of them had this size bolt and then that size bolt and then the bolts ranged from metric to standard to what I could only speculate as being Martian because I never did find a wrench or socket that fit them properly. Some had screws with a Phillips head, some had a flathead. A couple even had square drive. It was like a Mongolian gang-bang. Hell, I wouldn't have been a damned bit surprised if I found one that was held onto the floor with bent over nails.


I didn't have to close my eyes to imagine what Burt and Ernie, the two imbeciles who are employed as "Seat Installation Technicians" down at Clarence Durflinger's School Bus Factory, did every day...


Out behind the school bus factory is the world's largest auto graveyard and Burt and Ernie start their day by spending 3 hours removing every nut, bolt and screw they can find and then they mix them all together. When they're thoroughly mixed Ernie turns his attention on spending the remaining part of his day installing the seats while Burt heads off to Mars to get that special wrench he needs for that odd-looking bolt he found. Meanwhile, Dufus Durflinger who is Burt and Ernie's helper and Clarence's red-headed step-child, is over in the corner sniffing glue to prepare himself for when it's his turn to get on the bus and nail down that last seat.


As if to rid it of a vivid picture, I shook to my head and tried to focus on the immediate task but I was almost too tired to focus. Indeed, I was getting plenty of exercise from constantly running back inside the shop to gather up some strange wrench or exotic screwdriver or leaping from the bus to grope around underneath of it every time I ran across a bolt that had a nut. When the final seat was loosened and removed I emerged from the bus looking as if I had single-handedly stopped the entire German offensive during the Battle of the Bulge.


Continue to CHAPTER TWO