Some things you see never leave you. They settle down deep in your marrow, inform your worldview. Your experiences push you through the rest of your life on a trajectory of fate that you can only see in retrospect, the stunning clarity at last possible when you are no longer able to correct the mistakes, make things right, issue a rational apology that sums it all up and closes the book on the hurt you have caused others. I was a flat rate mechanic, and this is my story.

The year was unimportant; all you need to know about the times I existed in was that it was a time of excess, like many. But it was also a time of poverty, and the two existed hand in hand. Overpowered high-margin aspirational vehicles filled my bay and my work docket, complicated electronics and last-minute partsbin designs constructing the inescapable tasks which would lie on my plate once out of warranty.

Book time? It was low, that’s all you need to know, but still my customers would be stripped bare, their bones bleaching in the harsh economic truth of how fucked they and everyone else were, the intangible appearances of a functional society and their own success being less than skin deep.

After a day and night of GMT800 labour, ending in less money than I had started the work with, I retired to my local watering hole to drown my spirits. Accusations of alcoholism aside, I greatly enjoyed how I spent my time with alcohol. The problem here, as it always was, was customers.

I looked down the bar and saw a man in a corded sweater loudly explaining to a disinterested woman about how he once changed his own oil. He was practically a mechanic, he said, chuckling, trying to get her to slot him in the “handyman” category of the desirable manmeat table. Practically a mechanic.

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I’m told by my public defender that shouting “stolen valour STOLEN VALOUR” into a man’s ears as you club him to death with a Snap-On catalogue is not in fact justifiable homicide. Be that as it may, my days are much simpler now.

The guard raps on the bars. “I heard you were a mechanic,” he said. “I’ve got this weird light flashing on my dashboard. Looks like a genie’s lamp. It’s a Jeep.”