Following the episode at my cousin's new house, our next few days at Mom and Dad's settled into a peaceful routineme helping with chores and looking for a job, and Mike talking, reading or building strength in his left arm by lifting a kitchen chair and trying to hide the constant pain along with his humiliation of living in my parents' home. I admired his self-control around my mother, and wished he could do likewise with the diabetes.
The assumed routine would be short-lived, however, broken by an unexpected phone call one sunny autumn afternoon when Mike and I were outside, engrossed in conversation about our future. We sat on the concrete bulkhead that separated the paved driveway from the knee-high level of the front lawn. It was the common sitting area at my folks' place during the summeran aged concrete barrier on which four small handprints of my siblings and I remained frozen-in-time from the fresh pour in 1946.
"Helen, telephone!" My mother's call from the back porch interrupted our discussion.
I hurried into the garage, up the steps, into the breakfast nook and took the receiver from her outstretched hand. "Hello?"
"This is Harold Williams, office manager at the Ford dealership."
"Oh, yes." What a surprise. I'd sent them a job application over a month ago and since figured they had rejected it.
"If you're still interested in the job as title clerk here, I'd like you to come in for an interview."
His words shot through my body like a double dose of adrenaline. "I am, thank you." I slapped a hand over my heart, trying to calm the hard and heavy beats that threatened to push it right out of my chest. "When should I be there?"
"Would tomorrow morning work for you? Say around eleven-thirty?"
"Yes. That would be fine, thank you, Mr. Williams."
"You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow then."
"Yes. Thanks again." Wow. A job interview! Now, how will I get there?
Mom lurked around the corner, close to the refrigerator. As soon as I hung up the phone she questioned me. "Was that about a job?"
"Yes. At the Ford dealership in the University District. They want to interview me tomorrow." I flashed my widest smile at her. Finally, things were looking up—we'd be moving into Cuz's house soon and now I had a chance at getting a much-needed job.
"How you going to get there?" she asked, smiling as if keeping a powerful secret from me. "You know Dad leaves for town a lot earlier than that."
"I know," I said. "I'll call Sis and see if she can take me." I turned back to the phone and dialed. No answer. Mom waited, smiling expectantly. "She's not home," I explained. "I'll try again later."
I hurried outside to share the good news with Mike. He was happy for me, spending not one thought on the possibility that I might not get the job. Me? Not so confident. I'd never worked for a car dealership before, and although the ad had stated "experience required," I submitted an application anyway. I believed my experience working for finance companies could be helpful.
I stifled my insecurities to help Mom with dinner and called Sis once more, only to learn that she had school conferences with the boys' teachers in the morning. She couldn't take me to my interview.
Dad arrived home and was excited for me. I queried him at the dinner table about the bus schedules and received an unexpected response.
"Take Mommy's car," he said, matter-of-factly, giving her a look across the table that said, here's your chance to practice Christianity.
I knew she didn't like the idea, but Dad insisted until she acquiesced. I thanked them both, helped clean up after dinner, then went to the garage and searched through our two cartons of clothing until I found something suitable to wear to a job interview, and went to bed.
Morning was rushed, with limited time for sharing the bathroom and available hot water. I encouraged Mike to go with me to the interview, so he wouldn't in any way be burdensome for my mother. We scraped up a few dollars and left early enough to stop for breakfast along the way. By the time we had eaten and were leaving the restaurant, he had badgered me enough about letting him drive that I reluctantly gave in—it was either that or be late to the interview.
We got into the car, Mike grinning and proud, behind the wheel for the first time since his accident, and me admonishing him to, "Be careful. If Mom finds out, we'll never hear the end of it."
He did just fine, and soon we were cruising along Roosevelt Way, a south-bound only street through the University District, about five blocks away from the Ford dealership. As we overtook an older car in the lane to our right, I noticed its left-turn signal start to flash.
"Watch out, Mike!" I warned. "This guy over here is signaling to turn left." The guy edged closer, never looking in our direction. "Slow down, Mike!"
Instead of braking, perhaps following instinct from his race-car days, Mike stomped on the gas to out-pace the other car. My mother's Chevy Biscayne did not possess enough power to charge ahead as anticipated and, yes, the other car punched us in the door of the back seat passenger side. My God, will it ever stop?
We both pulled over onto a side street and got out of our cars. The other driver, an elderly man, began screaming and waving his arms at us for passing him when we had no right to do so. Mike hollered back that this was a one-way street and we had every right to pass a slower vehicle. The man's wife stood at a distance, steadying herself with a hand on the hood of their car. I approached her and explained about the one-way street. She was more courteous than her husband, and admitted it was their fault. They were from Grays Harbor County and not familiar with Seattle streets. Suddenly a police car drove up. The officer took a report, handed out follow-up information, and dismissed us all.
Mike waited in the car as I walked into the Ford dealership around eleven-forty and found the receptionist.
"I'm here to see Mr. Williams," I said, and gave her my name.
"One moment." She pulled the cord of her headset out of the switchboard and walked to a desk at the rear of the office. A short, older man carrying some papers in his hand followed her back and introduced himself as Mr. Williams. We shook hands and I followed him to one of a few small cubicles in the new car showroom. He put the papers, my application and employee enrollment forms, on the small desk between us and began the interview—me apologizing for being tardy due to traffic, and he sharing that my references all spoke highly of my abilities. He understood that I had never worked in a car dealership, but that I was willing and eager to learn.
I walked out of the building twenty minutes later having agreed to start work the following Monday, on a trial basis. "Thank you, Mr. Williams," and thank you, God.
I was happy. Mike was happy. We reveled in the momentary respite from our situation until reality hitwe must go home and explain to Mom about the dent in her car.