I let go of the ground cable and the alligator clip settled into its new position with a sizzle and pop. We were in business.

For years, in order to maximize street, driveway, alley, backyard and garage parking, I had been breaking up my car collection and distributing them across the neighborhood. It had gotten so bad that I had to purchase a new car, a Festiva, just to serve as a shuttle vehicle when I needed to visit some of the far-flung cars, which were often as much as a kilometer away and sort of impractical to walk to in order to drive them to work.

Recently, though, one of the neighbors had gotten irritated. He had stolen the license plate off an admittedly-non-functional Plymouth Sapporo and demanded its execution to our parking authority, which towed it away and put it up at the abandoned-cars auction. Not realizing it was already my car, I repurchased it alongside a new-to-me Dodge Ramcharger before finally getting around to noticing that it was mine and working backwards to the guilty party.

What else was I supposed to do?

Security screws were expensive, but breaking open a light standard and using its 220V power source to tack weld the license plate onto the bumper was cheap.

I stubbed out my cigarette, lowered my welding mask and tapped the wire-feed trigger twice in my customary good-luck twitch. The Millermatic growled with anticipation. My earpro was so good that I almost didn’t hear the neighbor on his porch, cocking his shotgun. Almost.