The power of positive investigation.

There’s that old axiom about what curiosity does to the cat… then there are circumstances in which the reverse is closer to the truth.

I could be chasing a ball around a golf course in my now-rare spare time (how quickly the isolation/quarantine disappeared!), but – as many of you already know – I find it less frustrating to chase down problems plaguing my two sports cars. (Their age requires I have two to keep at least one running at all times…)

Memorial Day seemed like as good a time as any to run ‘Little Red’ out on the expressway. The battery seemed a little weak the last time I started it, and I knew a good little drive should charge it up to where it ought to be.

It’s a five-speed manual, and I have always enjoyed that merge-lane burst of acceleration, running through the gears, the whine of the engine, and the respect of the speed limit rolling into a cruising rate. (It is a bright red color – which, combined with the patience of the officers who have pulled me over – has trained me to look down at the speedometer.)

For a car that has spent a lot of time in a parking space, ‘Little Red’ doesn’t disappoint. I didn’t want to wind up in Muskogee, so I made an exit and turned around, running through the gears again and merging back onto the expressway in the opposite direction. Back in Broken Arrow, I sailed down the ramp and geared down at the stop light.

Sniff. Scent of gasoline.

Looking around, I see what I assume to be the culprit, an older vehicle (as if mine isn’t old) that is probably in need of a tune-up. Light changes, and I am off again, second gear, third gear – wind it down – another stop light.

Another scent of gasoline. That’s curious, I thought.

When I pulled into the hardware store and shut off the engine, the gasoline smell was strong. More importantly, there were no other cars close by on which I could place the blame.

I popped the hood and leaned in. Sure enough, the pressured fuel line was damp. Right away, I was thinking of how hot that engine was, running up the RPMs, highway speeds. The engine ticked away, but it couldn’t have cooled quickly enough for my comfort.

On my way back out of the store, I began thinking about odds and options. Not being particularly comfortable driving a car that – by all indications – was leaking a flammable liquid onto a hot surface, I considered the alternative. Calling a wrecker, waiting (on Memorial Day afternoon) in a parking lot, and then shelling out the cash for the privilege of not blowing myself up.

The choice was obvious.

I drove back with my fingers crossed as an insurance policy, thinking so many positive thoughts about making it safely that I was afraid my ears might begin to bleed.

When I popped the hood in the safety of my parking spot, the same fuel line was still damp, but I noticed the line next to it had a rubber connector – clearly ravaged by time. Which line was leaking?

Only one way to find out.

Actually, there are probably many, many safe ways that a good mechanic would make the determination, but – as I don’t profess to be a good mechanic – I just started the engine and jumped out to have a look.

I will admit shock at seeing a four-foot stream of gasoline shooting out beyond the front end of the car onto the drive. Immediately, I thought, “that’s not a good thing.” Then I remembered that expressway-heated engine and that amount of fuel geyser-ing under the hood at the stop lights. Another old axiom: What we don’t know, won’t hurt us. Patently false.

It will be like a short distance par-four to repair. A project for next weekend, weather-willing.

And I’m more emphatic now that – as regards curiosity (along with the power of positive thinking and crossed fingers) – I am decidedly in the corner with the cat.

My, my, my… My Corona.

Probably time for an update… A little over a month since we served a meal, but – remarkably – I’ve sold a few books since we hung up the Closed sign. One of our reader-regulars called and asked me to pick out a few books for him, and gave me an ample budget.

Made me feel good. We have had others who have offered to buy gift certificates (thanks, Mr S., for your generous purchase!) and have had some books donated that I have since placed on the shelf. Plenty of time for keeping up with the inventory, just now.

There are always projects to keep me busy. Many of you know that I have collected hand tools most of my life, and love to putter around using them on my various “to-do” items. I’ve become particularly fond of the telescoping magnet that lets me pick up objects from the floor without having to bend down. As I have gotten older, I discovered that things that fall to the floor tend to roll or bounce to the spot most difficult to reach.

Many times they disappear completely – ‘cause I ain’t getting down low enough to look under the bed.

Used those hand tools to replace the brake calipers on the old van, which were in such a sad state that I was afraid to back it out of its parking spot. Driving is good. Stopping better.

The lettering on the front door now reflects more closely the wording of the awning above the windows. Washed the windows even though there aren’t as many folks walking by and looking in. Plenty of people out walking, but many are being dragged by a dog on a leash and are unable to slow down, much less – stop.

Lots of dusting and organizing going on. Those are the projects that keep getting pushed down the priority list that are finally getting some attention.

Like everyone else, we are trying to anticipate what it will be like, once the isolation orders are lifted. We’ve had emails and voice messages from folks who are wishing us well and urging us to “hang on” – promising to come in as soon as possible. I hope people will, although I wonder if it will take some time to feel comfortable in public after such a time in quarantine. Fingers crossed.

Coming to the shop, I glanced down at the odometer and realized that the numerals were rolling up on a number that would happen only once in the entire life of the car. (That presumes the vehicle won’t make it to the two-hundred-thousand miles mark.) I looked ahead and spotted a church parking lot to turn into, and did so just as the tenth of a mile rolled to the one – which completed the across-the-dial synchronicity.

I looked at it a couple of seconds, took a picture, and then thought “so what?” Got back on the road and the mileage kept on rolling. Here’s where I was going to have a complete philosophical rant about our lives keep relentlessly on, traveling the course of…

Aaah. You get the idea. No need to complete the analogy which would have been quickly tossed on the scrapheap of pandemic musings anyway.

Time for me to disinfect these fingers and get back under the mask.

Hope to see you soon…

Growing Pains.

The paper sign on the door was wrinkled from condensation, so I printed another one. After the bold-lettered CLOSED, I didn’t include an explanation. Just wrote, “I think you know why.” Needless to say, Dustin and I are finding other things to occupy our time, since we have locked the doors until further notice.

Carrot Top from one of the last stew batches. Enough to feed one cartoon rabbit. UPDATE: It died.

When the New Year rolled around, I was thinking about projects, and what sort of activity I might take on that is unrelated to the business. No pressing car issues for the time being (or at least until the weather warms up a little…), and I was hoping to come up with something as a distraction rather than a burden. No house painting. Nothing requiring a climb into the attic. Maybe something that could be done in stages, say. – on my Sunday afternoons off from work. Turns out, I have more than just Sundays just now.

I wound up buying some garden seeds, starter cups, and soil, which have been sitting in the office now for months. Some of you have been gardeners for years, and will have to forgive my elevating this project beyond the trivial thing it would be for you. But the only thing I’ve grown lately is mold on bread. (And I don’t mention that with any sense of pride…)

Celery end rescued from the kitchen and set in water. Will never make a meal.

So, here I am in the bookstore-turned-greenhouse, with my food service gloves on, packing little cartons with dirt and sprinklings of seeds. I intended to read the directions but quickly discovered that you expert gardeners recommend differing soil temperatures and germinating times and lighting quantities.

After chucking all that to the side, I just laid down some dirt, dabbed in some seeds, tamped, and watered. About midway to the finish, I realized that – even with a fantastic harvest – it would have been cheaper to buy these things at the store.

Then again, I never did pick up a golf club hoping to make the PGA Tour. Some things can be ‘just for the fun of it.’

Then again, depending on our Covid status, maybe I’ll be surviving just fine on my jalapeno and chives bounty.