Chapter 27: A Day at the Tire Shop

Soon enough, spring came. Trees grew brown buds, birds sang loudly, and tiny green plants sprouted in the soil. It was a happy time for everyone, even the cars, because the warmth was always welcome after the brittle months of winter. There was one last, blistering snowstorm in mid March, then it was all over.

April was warm and VB's owners began driving him to the parks and cemeteries where they walked or fed the ducks, or sometimes played at playgrounds. The van enjoyed sitting in parking lots watching them have fun, or having a friendly chat with a car who parked near him. Time went by fast. Sometimes, as VB sat in the driveway watching the orange sun sink beneath the rooftops, he thought back on the day he came here, which seemed so far away yet so close at the same time. For five years his owners had had him. For five years he'd gone on weekly (or twice weekly) grocery trips to the same place, sitting in the same parking lot, often seeing the same cars. For five years he had watched the kids grow older, and seen them play in the yard almost every day. For five years he had taken them up to New Hampshire every year. His surroundings had changed. At first, it was him and the old white F-150, then him and Matt, then him, Matt, and Cameron. Now, it was him, Ella, and Impala. And the kids, his owners' kids, they had all grown bigger too, and there was an eighth now, who was almost a year old already! All around him, his surroundings had changed, but the place hadn't. He hadn't changed much either, except that he was now older and wiser, now more like the "Matt" of the driveway. The one who gave the good advice, and comforted the others when they had to leave for good. VB hoped he never had to have that conversation with Ella or Impala.

By now, each and every one of VB's kids was old enough to be on their own, though most weren't grown up. They all had owners who lived at most an hour away, except for Willow, the silver Kia Forte, who hadn't been bought yet. She was VB and Ella's youngest, and had arrived at the dealership in the start of April.

Despite them all being gone, Ella still didn't want any more. Although she was still young, (quite a bit younger than VB) and able, she told him she wanted the rest of her life to herself, and VB was fine with that. He was getting tired of taking care of so many kids too. May came, turning all the maples bright neon green with tiny flowers that dropped all over the driveway (and VB's roof) by the end of the month. Some even blew onto Impala and Ella, who didn't even park under the tree. Impala's owner was sure to bring Impala to the wash on his way home from work a few times.

When June came, that's when VB's owners started planning their vacation (which would be in July this year). When VB thought of vacations now, all he thought of was lugging that 5,000 to 6,000 pound pain in the bumper and how bad it would hurt his old, weak transmission. I'll make it, he told himself, wondering if that was true or not. I have to.

Also in June, VB's owners replaced his front right tire with his spare, the reason being they had accidentally driven him right over a cement step when he slipped on ice that previous winter. It made a slash in the side of his tire, which didn't seem to release any air, but his owners knew he would never pass state inspection with it.

After putting VB's spare on (which was the same size as all his other tires, unlike the tiny, temporary spares some cars came with) his owners realized that it had been recalled, which meant he would need a new tire. So, a few days later, he was driven to a tire shop on the busy side of Route 44 (not far from the dealerships) to have it replaced. It was the oldest tire on him and worn a lot from his travels, so he was glad to be getting rid of it.

Since there were a few cars ahead of him, he would have to wait a while to be serviced, so VB's other owner drove Impala to bring his owner home.

Alone at the shop again, VB thought as he watched Impala leave, remembering the other June, two years ago, when he'd had his tow hitch installed.

"How's life treating you?" a voice suddenly startled him.

He looked to see a red 2014-2016 Toyota Corolla S sitting beside him. "All right," he responded.

"All right," she mused. "So, what's wrong?"

"My owner had to put my spare on because of a tiny slash in my tire, but my spare was recalled-"

"No, not with your tires. With you."

"With me?" He looked at her, confused, and slightly offended. "Nothing."

"You told me you were 'all right.'" she said. "Usually when I ask someone how they're doing, they'll say 'good,' and if not, there's always a reason. Your owners thinking of putting you out to pasture soon, is that it?"

"No!" he said quickly. "They aren't, trust me."

"Okay then, what is it? I've got to know, we've come too far in this conversation to turn back." She eyed him.

VB thought for a moment. What is wrong with me? He asked himself. Nothing that he knew of. "I honestly don't know," he told her. "I think I'm doing great, I'm married to a car I get to see every day, my parkmate's my best friend, and my owners are a great big family who treat me well. I've got fifteen kids of my own, all out to new owners or dealers, and my life to myself. So really, everything's great and nothing's going wrong."

The Corolla thought for a minute. "Great," she said. She seemed to take the words VB said and repeat them a lot. As if she were analyzing them, figuring them out on a deeper level. "Usually great is too good to be true."

VB snorted disdainfully. "Nothing's good enough for you, is it?" he asked. "'All right' wasn't good enough, and now 'great' is too good. Make up your mind!"

"I have," she said. "And I'm telling you right now to watch yourself. Be careful, because when everything seems good, happy, and wonderful, trust me, that's when something goes wrong."

"And why should I believe you?" the van asked.

"Well," she said, "you've got no reason to. After all, I'm a Toyota Corolla. It couldn't get more average or boring than me. But, I see the souls of cars and feel things from them. And right now, I feel something from you. Some kind of energy."

"What are you talking about?" VB was dumbfounded. "What do you feel?"

"I can't exactly tell. Just watch out, okay?"

Then, a mechanic walked over with VB's keys. He was angry that he had to go in the garage now, and he wouldn't hear any more of what the Corolla had to say to him, although he didn't know to believe it or not. Deep down inside, he didn't want to believe it at all.

The mechanic, rather carelessly, drove VB into the garage and raised him a few feet off the ground.

"This one's due for inspection!" he hollered at another mechanic all the way across the garage. "Give 'im the look-over and I'll do the tire."

"Coming!" he called back, walking over. "Throw me the keys."

The mechanic tossed VB's keys over his hood and right into the hands of the next one. He then hopped into VB's driver's seat, started the engine, and stayed there for a few minutes. He didn't know why mechanics always had to sit up there, fiddling around for so long during his inspections, and they barely seemed to look over anything else.

"I could use a tire rotation," VB told the mechanic who would be replacing his tire as he looked through a few drawers for the tools he needed. "I'm starting to feel a little stiff and sore on my treads, y'know?"

The mechanic sighed loudly. "I'm being paid to replace a tire, not take every single one off and move them around."

Rude, thought VB. "Well, I really needed them-"

"Hey, we're already giving you an inspection on top of all this, okay?" he interrupted.

"My owner's paying for that, too," said the van.

"Yeah, well, have someone else rotate your tires. I'm not in the mood today." And he walked over to VB's right rear tire, rather than his front, to remove it.

"That's not the right-" VB began.

"Would you shut up, please? Boss wonders why these stupid cars annoy me so much. Well, this is why." He was mumbling to himself now.

Fine, thought VB. Change the wrong tire, then you'll have to redo the whole thing. See if I care. His decision was final. He was going to let the mechanic replace a tire that didn't need replacing, and his owner would notice then they would have to do it all over again. Serves him right for being so rude!

VB felt the drill turning loose all his lug nuts, then down went the weight of the tire. It felt strange with the weight gone. He wished it was back on now.

The other mechanic, who had been in his driver's seat, jumped out and looked under his hood for a minute or two, before hopping back in to shut his engine off. Then, he came back out and closed the hood.

"This thing's got one of those stupid 2 valve Triton engines," he said. "Shockingly, there don't seem to be any spark plug issues."

"He's got miles lower than my grandma's Camry," said the other. "It's no wonder. Not even at 70,000 yet."

"Serpentine belt's a little squeaky, though."

"A little?" asked the man. "Sounded like they were castrating a rat under there!"

The other one burst out laughing, and VB snorted loudly. "News flash, I've got side mirrors and I can hear you," he said.

"And I've got your tire," the mechanic responded. "So shut up or I'll keep you this way."

VB wished there was something he could do or say to these mechanics, (mainly the one who was doing his tire) but he just let his anger boil up in his cylinders and stay there, deep inside of him. He disliked almost every mechanic who had ever worked on him, they had all treated him as less than equal to them, and for what?

"Those brakes look terrible," said the one who was replacing his tire as he rolled the new one over.

"Yeah," replied the second. "Should I let those pass inspection?"

He shrugged. "It still stops, doesn't it?" He fitted the new tire onto VB, with the help of the other man.

The one who had done the inspection then jumped into VB's passenger seat, and using an ice scraper, removed his old inspection sticker from the inside of his windshield that said 6/2018, and added the one that said 6/2019.

"You're good until 2019," he told VB, stepping out of him. "Now I'm gonna go grab that Corolla from the parking lot."

Her, VB thought. He had forgotten all about her with everything that had been going on with the mechanics, and his tire.

Then, he felt the lug nuts being tightened back onto his new tire, in place of the perfectly good one that didn't even need replacing. He hated the feeling of lug nuts being tightened on, especially with a drill. It was a strange tightening, squeezing feeling, but at least it didn't hurt.

Once the new tire was mounted on, the mechanics went into the office to let their boss know. When he was giving VB's owner the paperwork, that was when he realized the mistake that had been made, and the mechanics went right back to work, this time with orders from the boss to rotate the tires while they were at it.

VB was feeling quite pleased with himself, because he was now getting his tires rotated like he wanted, and the rude mechanic had even more work to do.

"Why didn't you say something if you saw that I was doing the wrong tire?" he asked angrily.

"Well, you did tell me to shut up," VB said as he felt his right front tire come loose. Now there were a few more men working on him, so hopefully it would be done soon.

Once they were finished, the old tire that had needed to be replaced was mounted under VB's rear as a spare (the damage on it was not severe enough to throw it away) and his previous spare, which had been recalled, was disposed of. Now, he had one brand new tire and his tires had been rotated, meaning his two rear tires had switched places with his two front tires, so they wore evenly. Now, because of this, the new tire was on his back right instead of front right. The mechanics had rushed with the job, so VB hoped they had tightened his lug nuts enough.

On the drive home, he did notice his rear left tire feeling a little funny, but he figured he just had to get used to them being rotated.

"How did it go?" Ella asked a few minutes after he got home.

"All right," he answered, "apart from the mechanic being an idiot. He changed the wrong tire, and I didn't say anything 'cause he was being rude to me when I asked to have my tires rotated, and he told me to shut up, so in the end of it all he put the new one in the right spot and they rotated my tires."

"So I guess it all ended well then, right?" she asked.

"I guess. But they wrote Ford E-250 on the paperwork and I'm an E-350."

Impala started to laugh now. "And there's a world of difference between the two, ha?"

VB just ignored him.