The Block Island Times


By Martha Ball | Jun 08, 2013

At day’s end the rain was gone, its wrath waning as it drifted off to the north and east. A fog had settled over the land, a thick golden-bronze against which the trees at the edge of the yard stood lush and green, while everything any greater distance removed was swallowed by the strangely colored light diffused in the suspended particles of moisture, a sort of non-toxic miasma.

It had stormed the previous night, rat-a-tat rain that woke me and sky-rending lightning that sent me to disconnect the telephone line from the modem. The day was wet, the tall grass along the wall mocking me. I could almost hear it whispering “You can’t get me today” whenever I looked out toward the gray curtained ocean.

Still, the phone was working — for so long it went out whenever it rained that I presumed that was again the case, not that I had put the plug I’ll pulled out in the dark in the wrong port when I reconnected in daylight — and my car no longer had a flat tire.

The former is a nuisance, the latter is up there with water on the list of things about which I fully realize I am not completely rational.

It is the vehicle on the whole but, particularly, the tires. They are, I am convinced, going flat half the time. I check them against others in parking lots but never use my gauge for fear they will be even lower than I think and/or I’ll do something and let all the confined air escape as I stand no more able to stop it than I can stem the tides. Several years I fretted over one before it succumbed, not to whatever I imagined was wrong with it, but to dry rot.

The neighbor gives me that look of his when I tell him it is worse than it looks, that I parked so the low tire is in a hole. He pulls out his owns air gauge to be sure I’m not over-reacting and when he tells me the reading I am careful not to ask if he is sure, mine doesn’t even go that low. There is certainly something in the tire, he says, and almost immediately spots the head of a nail, deeply imbedded in the tread. He knows the drill, that the spare — one of the major selling points of this car was the spare, a real tire — is under a liner tray that fits into what I call the back-back of my vehicle. The pieces are all in place, where he left them the last time this happened.

He just gives me a familiar you-are-trying-my-patience look when I ask if he has engaged the break as he jacks up the car but doesn’t ask how many times he had done this. We have both lost track.

It’s just a tire, it shouldn’t be an adventure but it often is. This time, the wheel does not want to come off, and all the usual methods tried he announces he’s going to find something in the old shed. When I remind him there isn’t much there he gives me yet another look and announces with an annoying certainty “I can always find something!”

It has rained the better part of the day, my barnyard is soggy and I turn my attention to rocking back and forth and watching water ooze out around the toes of my boots, wondering how much sun it will take to dry the earth. The neighbor returns, triumphant, with a chunk of lumber. I cannot argue with “you’ll never find this beside the road!” but I do wonder whatever he is going to do with it. It seems a little late to be putting a block in front of one of the wheels, and it’s a big square piece of wood, hardly the stuff of wedged blocks.

It is often an adventure and there is usually a defining moment, this day when he yanks the length of carpet I keep on the liner tray, pulling it out from under the stuff on it like a magician pulling a tablecloth from a table, and throws it on the damp ground then proceeds to lie on it, wielding the club of wood like some crazy weapon of vengeance.

The first tha-whap! produces no results but I’m never sure the first try is not for dramatic effect. On the second or third swing the hub and wheel finally separate and my poor month-old tire lands on the wet ground, looking fine and plump and full of air without the weight of the car upon it. There is not one, there are two nails in it, better, I suppose than two nails in two tires. It is absurd how often his happens, and I idly wonder if a magnet stuck on the front bumper of my car would help.

The spare should be fine, he pronounces it fine, but I still hold my breath as it touches the ground, afraid it, too, will be flat. It is not.

Everything is back in place and we are looking at photos of his new grandson in Massachusetts and talking of the turtles that are moving about. He says someone accidentally ran over a snapper on the Mansion Road, one he was called to dispatch.  “How could anyone not see something that big, it’s like a rock!”  he marvels and I hear an echo of his voice in my head “and she says I think I may have a flat tire” followed by “it had five pounds of pressure in it!” omitting, for story’s sake, his initial doubt.

By nightfall the rain has stopped and the air is clearing, I can see the lights of the harbor. My phone is working, the flat tire is on its way to be repaired and the sun really will come out tomorrow.

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