Since my wife, Betsy, died a few years back I felt, as I imagine many do in similar situations, as if a large hole was yawning beneath me, ready to swallow me up at any moment. It hit me hard, I don’t mind admitting. The Company had been a great help, and had even arranged for her to have some special treatment, but even they couldn’t do anything in the end. When I heard that she had died I was near inconsolable. My son were a great help mind, and slowly I got back to the day-to-day stuff although the gap in my life was hard to ignore.
It was a few months after she had passed that I came upon the motor car. Some old fellow from up the lane had had it there for years supposedly and had never been able to get anything out of it. I’ve always been someone who likes a challenge. I’m up with the sun and the chickens in the morning, raring to go and if I don’t have anything to work towards, if I’ m honest, I feel a bit lost. Work happened to be slow around that time. Only now do I realise that it was all the folk around me going easy on me. Which I must say I am now rightly grateful for.
So it was that I had some time free. I knew that, if I weren’t careful, it would set me to dwelling on my lovely Betsy more than I should. The motorcar was sat there, all decrepit and finished. Everyone had given up on it.
“It’s dead Tom” they’d say. “It’s just a load of metal that would be put to better use elsewhere. It won’t have run for centuries.” That got me thinking about all the stories that had no doubt gone with it. I wondered on the people who had driven it the last time it had worked – what their lives must have been like and what they would think if I were to give up on it like everyone else.
So I decided I would try and get it working again. I remember the first morning I dragged it down outside my house using two of the biggest horses in the village. I took a closer look at it and all of a sudden realised I had my work cut out. Rust most of it, on top and underneath. The tyres were gone obviously but when I looked into the engine, there was still a bit of oil in it. I couldn’t believe my luck. Not much mind, but it was there. The battery was a different matter – all clogged up and useless. So I had to set about getting around all of this. I spent a bit of time reading a book on engines and I was down at the market whenever any new stuff came in from the convoys. I would select anything I thought might help. Even times when I could do nothing more than scrape the rust off the old engine felt like therapy of a kind.
Over the months, people began to take notice of what I was doing. They would gather around and sometimes poke a bit of fun at me for trying it. All in good nature of course. I loved spending that time with my boy as well. I started at a good time, just as winter was turning into spring, so by the time I had assembled what I thought was a working engine, made myself a make-shift battery and put on some new tyres, make-shift as they were, I thought I was on to a winner. The first time I plucked up the courage to go, I did it in secret. Maybe subconsciously I knew it wouldn’t work. And I was right. A little puff of smoke was all I got. But that was enough to tell me that I was on the right lines.
A few weeks later, after making a few alterations, I tried again. This time, I had a bit of a crowd who’d cottoned on to the fact that I was a bit more hopeful this time. The sky was blue and it was right hot. The first time I put those wires together to turn on the ignition and start the engine, nothing happened. But the second time, it burst into action. The cheers went up and the way my son’s face lit up when the engine jumped to life for the first time in a long time made me hold back a tear or two. I took it straight out onto the field and gave it a right good outing. Everyone would run around behind us and chase us down. I let some of them have a go even.
It only lasted a few days of course. I always knew it wouldn’t run for long. But for that fleeting moment, I felt alive again. I had brought it back from the dead. I’ll never forget those days. Not for the rest of my life. The way the air smelt, the way the seeds in the grass jumped out of the way of the wheels as they churned on by. And when it did finally come to a stop for the last time, I didn’t feel sad. Just proud. Proud that for a short time, because I had not given in, I had reached my goal. I can still see it out of my window now, in the field where it stopped, up the hill a ways. It’s a nice reminder of that spring and summer. And I sometimes like to think that, somewhere, Betsy’s face lit up just the same as my boy’s did when she’d seen what I’d done.