A knock, then a scream


What's that, Timmy? Tell you a bedtime story? A scary bedtime story? Gee, I'm not sure your old dad knows any scary bed . . . well, OK, here we go.

Once upon a time a man was driving a late-model sedan, which he was paying for with a back-breaking four-year loan.

Suddenly, he heard a funny sound from under the hood. Then the car began to lurch badly.

This made the man very angry. He said some bad words and pounded his fist on the --board because, see, the car's warranty had just expired.

That day he called the dealership and spoke to Tony, the nice man in the loud sports jacket and bad toupee who sold him the car.

All of a sudden, though, Tony wasn't being as nice as he had been before.

In fact, Tony didn't seem to want to talk to the man at all.

When the man tried to explain about the funny noise in his car and the lurching, Tony said: "Look, pal, can we speed this up? I'm going to lunch."

So the man shouted into the phone: "Oh, yeah? Well, how about if I come over there and punch your lights out?!"

But Tony said there was nothing he could do, and hung up.

This made the man so angry that he pulled the phone from the wall and hurled it across the kitchen.

It smashed against the refrigerator and broke two of those little pineapple magnets and a plastic cow that said "Moo From Vermont!" causing the man's wife to yell: "Dammit, Vern! Now look what you did!"

So the next day the man took his car to Roger's Auto Repair ("24-Hour Towing -- Major Credit Cards Accepted.") This is where it gets really scary, Timmy.

The man found Roger sitting at his grimy desk beneath a Miss Valvoline poster. After describing the problem with his car, the man asked: "What do you think it is?"

Roger took a long drag off his unfiltered Camel and said: "Won't know 'til I get 'er up on the lift."

"When will that be?" the man asked nervously.

"Hard to tell," said Roger. "Got a Buick that needs a valve job. And we're puttin' a rebuilt carburetor in that Toyota over there. Gimme a call tomorrow afternoon."

The man's shoulders sagged, but he said nothing, for he had been through this many, many times.

All that night, the man worried about how much all this was going to cost.

Plus, without his car, he had no way of getting around. He called a co-worker, Bob, and asked for a ride to work.

Bob said, yeah, no problem. But he didn't seem very happy about it, and the man thought: "Maybe if I get him a six-pack of Pabst. . . . "

Anyway, at 2 the next afternoon, the man called Roger back.

"Don't look good," Roger said. "Car needs a new transmission."

The man felt his knees buckle.

"How . . . much?" he said in a weak voice.

"Parts, labor, you're lookin' at. . . ." The man could hear Roger's adding machine clicking in the background. ". . . 1600 bucks. Maybe more."

Suddenly, the man's face felt very hot.

"Sixteen hun . . .?" was all he managed before the room started to spin.

When he came to a few minutes later, the man did not feel very good. He called Roger back and gave him the go-ahead to start work.

"Call me Friday," Roger said. Roger seemed very cheerful, indeed.

All that week, the man was very sad. One day his wife snapped: "You said you'd pick up new refrigerator magnets. . . ." and that was when the man just lost it.

"God almighty, Harriet!" he thundered before stomping out of the house.

There was also a nasty row with Bob on the way home from work Thursday, when Bob pulled into a Sunoco station and said: "Geez, Vern, would it kill you to chip in for gas once in a while?"

Somehow, the man resisted the urge to brain Bob with a tire iron. He called Roger the next morning.

"Had to order a new part," Roger said. "Hasn't come in yet. Call me Monday."

Now the man was even sadder. He spent the weekend in bed, staring up at the ceiling.

On Monday, the car was finally ready. The bill came to $1,765. Roger was whistling merrily when the man arrived.

What's that, Timmy? Did the man live happily ever after? I'm afraid not, son.

Now the man's working a second job on a loading dock. He drinks too much and recently started smoking again.

His wife says he should see a shrink.

Now go to sleep, Timmy.

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