Short Story

Protection: Part XV

flat tire

This is the fifteenth part in a series, so if you have not already done so, you might want to read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, and Part XIV before continuing.

“Everybody buckled in?” Sarah said. Her dad was loaning her the car for the day and she had texted Blaine and Britney that they had this one chance to go to the mall, catch a movie, and stock up on whatever they could afford on their meager budgets.

Britney confirmed she was buckled in, but Blaine didn’t respond until Sarah cleared her throat, looking at him pointedly. “What?” he said.

She looked down at the buckle for his seat belt, which was currently empty.

“Seriously?” he said.

“Seriously.”

He sighed exaggeratedly, but buckled his seat belt. Only after Sarah had heard the click did she shift the car into gear, and they were off.

They were about halfway to the mall when the car lurched to the left and Sarah had to grip the steering wheel and swing it hard to the right just in time to avoid a head-on collision with a minivan. Trying not to panic (which was easier said than done with cries and shouts from both her friends filling up the car), Sarah steered her dad’s car onto the shoulder.

“What the hell was that?” said Blaine.

Sarah had no idea, so she got out of the car and went to investigate. It took one glance to determine that the culprit was the rear left tire, which was in tatters.

She thought she remembered her dad saying something about keeping a spare tire in the trunk, so she opened the trunk. Sure enough, there was the spare tire. Now how was she supposed to get it onto the car?

By this time, both Blaine and Britney had climbed out of the car and were looking morosely at the damage. Sarah looked up at Blaine and said, “Do you know how to change a tire?”

“Not a clue.”

“Seriously? I thought guys were supposed to know everything about cars.”

“That’s sexist.”

“No shit,” said Britney. “I mean, I already told you my dad owns an auto shop, and you didn’t think to ask me if I knew how to change a tire?”

Sarah stared at her blankly, trying to wrap her mind around what had just happened. Her mom had always identified as a feminist. She had always identified as a feminist. How could she have made such a mistake?

Rather than waiting for Sarah to catch up, Britney rolled her eyes and started grabbing things out of the trunk. When she took the hub cap off the ruined tire, she handed it to Sarah, saying, “Here. Make yourself useful and hold onto this. Hold it like this.” Britney showed her how to hold it like a bowl while Britney used it to hold the bolts as she removed the useless tire, replaced it with the spare tire, and then did everything in reverse until the tire, bolts and hubcap were in place, at which point she lowered the jack and put everything back into the trunk.

Then Britney looked at her hands and looked up at Sarah. “I don’t suppose you have any rags I could use to wipe off this grease?”

“I have napkins in the glove compartment.”

“Good enough.”

Sarah fetched the napkins and Britney wiped off as much of the grease as she could while giving Sarah a lecture on precautions to take while driving with a spare tire.

The end.