Not Again

That blasted light!

For the fourth time this month, the Check Engine Light came on. Owning a 17-year-old car, Cal sort of expected things like this to break down, but this light continually threw the P0171 code, a general code that told him to adjust the gas cap. It was more complicated than that, but that was his go-to fix.

It got to the point that even his wife Suzanne would drive the car. Normally, if the light was on, she took the ‘good’ car and he would risk the issues with the old one. But because he had fixed it so often and the car was still operating normally – albeit a little shaky going down the road – she felt she could risk it.

“Think we should take it in just to see what’s wrong with it?” she asked over supper.

“No, I know what’s wrong with it. It could be one of five or six things and numbers 5 and 6 would cost more to fix than the car is worth.”

“But how much would it cost to diagnose the problem?”

“At least a hundred just for the diagnosis that I just told you.”

“Well, is the problem going to self-fix?”

Cal looked at Suzanne over the top of his glasses. “Hon, no problem ever self-fixes. It’s the way of the world. I’ve done everything I know of to fix it and it looks like this time the light’s on for a while. Either black tape or a ball peen hammer fixes the light, but not the problem.”

“I think we should take it in to get it diagnosed.”

“Which, when translated means, you want me to take it in. Suze, I’m swamped. Work, my writing, more work and other work coming down the pike. And only for the mechanics to say what I’ve been saying all along.”

“I know you don’t like me to say this, but mechanics is not your forte, Babe. You know that. You could be wrong. It could be an easy fix.”

Cal could feel the muscles in his neck and shoulders tighten up.

Once again, they were at a stalemate. They had the same conversation a dozen times, and usually it related to a mechanical fix to one of their cars. They finished their food and headed towards the car. On a whim, Cal opened the gas cap door and then twisted off the gas cap, waited three seconds and screwed the cap back on until he heard three clicks.

“What’d you do?” Suzanne said, after he had been outside the car longer than normal “Oh, that again.”

“Tenth time with the gas cap could be the charm.”

Cal started the engine and immediately the light went off.

He noticed it.

She noticed it, and they looked at each other and laughed.

“I’m telling ya, Cal. She heard ya and wanted to make things right with you,” Suzanne said.

“Either that or the light’s burnt out. That’s always a possibility.”

“Just drive and count your blessing, Cal. Count your blessings.”


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