Mack Williams: Miracle of subtraction

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 26, 2019

A miracle, of sorts (I will explain) has occurred with my old car, allowing me to once again take to the road without leaving an oil slick like the Exon Valdese. I had recently been dealing so much with the pouring of oil that I started to think about what James Dean looked like in the movie “Giant”(1956) when his gusher came in.
The guy at the first shop to which I took my car evidently wasn’t knowledgeable about “great northern,” “navy,” or “Boston baked,” in other words: He didn’t know beans! He said the old Alero was hopeless, somewhere in the nature of $3,500 for repair, and that taking my money would be a sin (it turns out, he wasn’t dishonest, just severely mistaken).
So I dumped in more oil (again) and drove to a nearby, more recently neighbor-recommended garage. Before leaving my keys, I removed my alligator tooth from the key chain which my son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Rose had brought me back from Florida. I just didn’t want it to get lost; it’s not sharp enough to cause injury, without massive muscular jaws articulating it any more. Fossil shark teeth are a different matter, in some cases still sharp enough to “bite” (provided it’s pointed upward in the sand and stepped on barefoot).
While I waited in the nice, sunny, lobby, complete with tables, chairs, giant-screen TV, and giant chrome, wall-mounted hub caps, I heard strange conversation from the service desk. Fact is stranger than fiction, in fact, sometimes as strange as an old Frank Edwards’ “Stranger Than” book.
That outre conversation began with an older male employee saying to younger two female co-workers: “You may not believe what I’m about to tell you, but it really happened” (always a reliable preface to “something weird”).
He said he’d recently visited a woman reputed to have miraculous healing powers, living in a house all by herself in the woods (this stuff never happens on the 40th floor of some skyscraper, always “out in the woods somewhere”). I thought to myself: “This sounds much graver than the old Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’s  Fractured Fairy Tales, where: “A funny little man lived in a funny little house.”
The gentleman had sought out this shaman (sounds better than “witch”) for removal of a wart from his hand. She covered the wart with gauze (some superficial obeisance to medical science), then spoke a series of unintelligible words (I was glad his impersonation of her speech included nothing resembling “Yog Sotthoth,” or “Cthulhu ftagn!”). When she removed the gauze, the wart was gone.
He said when he was a young mill worker, he burned his hand, and that his mother sent him to this miracles worker’s mother, a gifted curer long before her daughter’s birth. She lived in the same house, and this time the man went into further detail about that solitary house in the woods,saying kids were too scared to venture near there, and that it was lit inside by a plethora of candles (I just now remember Elvis’ song about “Poke Salad Annie,” living somewhere down in the swamp).
I then paraphrased Dracula’s statement to Professor van Helsing (via Shakespeare), and said to the man: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.”
Just then, the mechanic came in, carrying what looked like a small bolt with a little rubber tube attached, and presented me with a bill for only $70 (including labor). He said the oil sending unit was the problem; and that he had installed a new one (in effect, meaning that my gusher had dried up).
That little device was of about the same size to my car as a wart is to the body; and this shaman of bolts, hoses, gaskets etc. had also worked the miracle of much less subtraction from my checking account.

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