12. Something More

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Sunday, March 3, 1918

The next morning, Sarah stood over the chaos in the garage. She had removed every salvageable part from a 1910 Auburn Coupe. In piles across the floor lay springs, gears, rods, shafts and other parts like the carefully dissected organs of a frog. The bright morning sun filtered in through the layer of dust on the windows, dancing on the various collections on the floor.

Sarah stood and arched her back, trying to rid her body of the nagging aches from long hours of hunching over engines and cramped under car bellies. Clasping her hands behind her back, she popped her right shoulder and that felt good. As she did that, Sarah looked outside at the lot – a junk yard full of half-fixed vehicles that Uncle Albert had purchased over the years.

Along the back wall of the garage stood a waist-high wood counter. Sarah set the car mirror, brass cowl lights, and horn on the counter top. She dipped a hand into her pants pocket, removed a handful of nuts and bolts, and dropped them into an open drawer. Then she slid four pistons into one of the numerous shelf slots above the counter space.

Sarah stepped outside and started strolling around the lot. She knew every dilapidated car by heart.

A white 1914 Stanley Model 810 Mountain Wagon, ugh.

One red 1916 Apperson Touring Car, not bad.

An apple-green 1912 Lenox with a rumble seat, oh my.

Not to mention two dozen other rust buckets in various near-death stages.

Albert had bought these old cars with the idea of restoring and selling them. There was more money in selling one car than in repairing twenty. Three years ago in '15, he restored and hawked twenty-four cars, clearing over $5,000 that year. In '16, that number dropped to sixteen. Last year, he restored just eight cars and only sold six.

On top of that, Sarah noticed an unsettling change in her uncle's demeanor as if something inside him had been snuffed out. She wondered if he had lost his mind the way her grandpa had in his eighties, always forgetting things and not really caring about anything ... or anyone.

This past January over dinner, Sarah dared to ask Albert about his state of health. He huffed and said he was fine. And when she tried to coax out of him how many cars he might restore this year, he snapped back. "None of your business!" he said and stormed out of the room.

When March loomed, Sarah offered to restore cars for Albert but he said, "Over my rotting corpse." That led to a heated argument about a woman's place in the world. Sarah contended there were women working in factories. Building bombs for the war. Some even going to the battlefront as nurses. Doing some pretty amazing things. To that, Albert's responses included "What war?" and "Women building bombs, hah!" and "I'll believe that when I see it."

In the end, Sarah managed to convince Albert to let her salvage and sell whatever car parts she could. At least that would bring in a little bit of money. She knew her uncle had a nest egg but she had no idea when that money would run out.

As it was, even looking at these cars brought a churning anxiety in Sarah's gut. It was like one long corroded to-do list. Sarah grimaced as she fixed her gaze at one of the clunkers – a cigar-brown 1911 Paige Detroit Challenger.

"What's the matter?" her uncle called from across the yard. "Something wrong with that car?"

Sarah groaned on the inside. Albert must have noticed her frown of death. In his mind, every car in the lot was in fine shape. But since he wasn't going to restore any of them, she really didn't want to fuel that argument again.

Sarah pasted a smile on her face.

"Nothing," she said plainly. "Just planning my work day. That's all."

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