The last stack of $9.93 thirteen inch tires sat between us, a deal so great that it bent the limits of imagination. I thought of the message I had sent to my once-friend about it, before leaping in the car. What I never considered was that he would be in the area, which was bad enough, and might even have a little more horsepower than me, which was worse. An attendant, sensing what was coming next, dove behind the parts counter, pretending to be occupied with hooking up a hollow plastic demo battery to the tester.
They say Canadians are polite. I don’t think ‘they’ ever met two ice racers fighting over $39.72 (plus taxes and environmental fees) in small-diameter studdable tires before. Once, the man standing across from me had tolerated my repeated links to Kijiji beaters, had enjoined me in joking commentary about how rust-prone and terrible the hoopties were. But I should have sensed something in him even then. Not envy, per se, but perhaps a sort of rivalry.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him if I tried. Sweat beaded on my brow as the fluorescent lights of the parts department beat down upon both of us. There was a scrabbling in the background as parents drew their children into the waiting room, kept the door pulled shut as they anticipated what would come next. He went for it.
I went for it.
The store manager came running to the scene, the non-OSHA-compliant soles of his wingtip shoes skidding on the gleaming tile as he tried to intervene. “Stop! Stop!” he cried, straining to be heard over the sound of impact wrenches pulling from their holster and revving to the moon.
Somehow, implausibly, we stopped. Did neither of us truly want to hurt the other for our goals? Could we learn to get along, to share our resources? I began to feel hope swelling in my breast. Maybe only having two cheap tires wouldn’t be that bad after all. I’d still save some money.
“You guys know we have like a hundred sets of these in the back room, right?”
We looked at each other then. Should we tell the others? Such a bounty would propel the ice racists to a new level of competition, burning through ten-dollar Korean snows and the local population of small-braked Japanese subcompacts alike. I decided to turn to the Bible for inspiration, as men do for such an occasion.
Such is the dark tale of how I ended up with fifty and a half sets of snow tires. King Solomon would be proud.