Touhy Avenue Motors
by Jim Salvator
The fucked-up thing about going back to Touhy Ave is seeing my old man again. Like I’d been in solitary, okay? And then I was stuck too fucking long inside the psycho ward. Like I didn’t have a number to kill. I just had to stay there until the doctor let me go. Sure, I try to blame seeing my old man again on my Traumatic Brain Injury. Who wouldn’t? And I go there whenever I can get away with it. It helps me get good meds. But, you know, the truth is that I was seeing him all the time anyway, no matter where I fucking landed. Medicated or not. Tripping or neat as a pin.
I mean I just can’t keep the fucking dead guy out of my fucking mind. He keeps the hairy eyeball on me. But I just want to say, I never did screw off too much when I was working for my old man at Touhy Avenue Motors. Why would I? It was my dad’s place. So I kept my nose to the grindstone. And nobody else would give me a job, you know, because of my invisible impairments. But no matter, I couldn’t help being who I really fucking was. I mean, I had this fucking gene for thievery and addiction. And that’s what my old man hated me for. So I can’t blame him. You can’t blame the guy. He was a hell of a guy.
Christ, I look around now, and there he is, my old man, standing there, just watching me—cogitating, as he called it. So I say, “What you been doing, Dad?” And he says, “I been cogitating. You know what that is?” Trust me, Dad, I know what fucking cogitating is. I’m working my ass off right now, cogitating right here in your fucking Parts Department, deep within the bowels of your fucking car dealership. Touhy Avenue Motors. It’s a sacred place. I know. Like the fucking Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The goddamn Vatican City itself.
Yeah, the dealership is omni-fucking-present. Like when I was a fucking little kid I would call up the dealership and ask for you, Dad. I had the fucking phone number burned into my skull: “T-A-3-2171.” T-A stood for Talcott, so sometimes people said “Talcott-3-2171.” But I always said “T-A.” I suppose it was more fucking modern in those fine days to use just the fucking initials, but most of the old people said Talcott. Like they croaked when they said it—Talcott—like they were coughing up phlegm from smoking too many Luckies.
Yeah Dad, so I’d phone the dealership and the receptionist would answer: “Touhy Avenue Motors, 826 Touhy Avenue, can I help you?” Then I’d ask for you, my old man. They’d page you over the intercom and I’d listen to the loudspeaker. It was Miss Jane Mansfield’s purring-singsong in the background, calling you to the phone.
“Hi Dad, are you busy?” I’d ask every time. We weren’t supposed to fuck with you if you were selling a car. It was your motto: “You Auto Buy Now.” Fucking-A. Can you believe that shit? You Ought To Buy Now. Fucking bullshit advertising crap lodged hard in the brain. Even a dead brain that’s not even a brain anymore.
So Dad, now you’re watching me from your place beyond the grave as I hack and spit around the dealership. I got nothing to worry about, I guess, because we are the fucking busiest Parts Department workers in the whole fucking United States. All two of us. Me: Jimmy, the Parts Driver. And him: Joe, the Parts Manager. We stand raised up on a platform with a zillion bins and drawers and boxes and shit. Fluorescent rows of metal shelves with chipped yellow paint. They tower overhead full of fucking bolts and wires and fucking open boxes all over the floor. Parts and shit half spilled out of them. Enough to trip you up and send you sprawling. You could break your motherfucking neck. I mean you got to keep an eye peeled. Like there’s Joe, wearing his little gold crucifix around his doughy greasy neck. He stumbles and rips his skin on some sharp-edged shelf drawer left ajar with a hard piece of shit sticking out of it, like an unwound ring of wobbling steel. And there you are, my old man, sitting on your grave, watching us.
The Parts Department has a big window with a countertop where we hand over parts to the motherfucking mechanics, who don’t say much except for a lot of shit coming out of their shit fucking mouths. They all just call our place “Parts.” Like they say, “I’m going to Parts.” Or like, “Fuck you, asshole, get your ass over to Parts and find me that fucking bulb.” Or, “Meet you at Parts, dickhead, and please bring me a fucking Coke.” And so on. But they were like geniuses. Fucking wizards. With union cards and tools and spit. Like you’d see one of these fucking wiz mechanics with googly eyeglasses drooling Coke all over a car’s battery. “Like what are you doing,” I’d say. “That’s how you clean the fucking cables, Jimmy. Take a look,” he’d say. So I’d take a look. Sure enough, the Coke acid was eating up all the white and green corrosion on the battery cables. Fucking chemical geniuses. They could do all kinds of complex shit that are now algorithms.
Parts is also where you get (and in my case steal) such supplies and items as you may require for your own mechanical endeavors. I was fixing up my sky blue ’58 F-100, a real piece of shit that only I could fuck up more no matter how many parts I stole. And Dad, take a look now. I’m just sorting and counting some big-ass body parts, like this unpainted front quarter panel. It has a rusty-brownish-powdery surface and nice sharp edges that cut my fucking hands, and this fucking heavy fender, chrome crap. And delicate shit too, like gyroscopes and wires and what fucking not.
So, yeah Dad, I’m filling some dumbshit order, as my dumbshit job requires that I do. I’m working all the time, and you are watching me from below the platform. Your skin color and clothes blend into the varnished cement floor making you pretty near invisible. You want to check if I am going to sluff off, but I never do. Well, at least in my opinion I never do. So you probably think I’m a pretty good worker.
You know, we workers believe that Touhy Avenue Motors is perfection guaranteed, and so it has become for us nothing less than the ultimate test of fucking redemption. We have to live up to Touhy Avenue Motors and even go beyond it, and then we’ll be like Jesus Christ himself, or even better, like my fucking old man. I mean if we can’t measure up in the giant mirrors of the showroom then we are just like the rest of those bums, without a fucking pot to piss in. And we all know plenty of those piss-ass personages, don’t we? Most of us slime balls at Touhy Avenue Motors fit right into that illustrious fucking group, starting with the top big winners right here in the Parts Department, and going on up through the union men, and then down deep into the cracks and crevices of the known universe where the honest-to-God grease rack workers hide out to take a crap and get a little needed rest while still on the clock. And why shouldn’t they?
Yeah, I got to live up to Touhy Avenue Motors and go beyond everything the boss has ever done. Hell, he got thrown out of every high school in Chicago, but here I am, with my fancy-ass educational background, á la mode, and every other fucking benefit a shit-ass person could ever fucking want, and what do I do with it, huh? Throw it all away? So easy come, easy go, huh? Yeah. So get the fuck in there, Jimmy, and pull that asbestos off of those stinking old pipes. We got to clean that old shit out to make room for the new showroom.
So in I go. I got a hammer and a pipe wrench and a determination to do just what the boss told me to do. Clean the joint up. It doesn’t matter that it’s a dirty job. If the boss gives me the dirtiest job in America it shows that he is confident in me. I will get the fucking job done right, more or less. Like I am the one guy who can do the shittiest job there is, and be proud of it. Like Christ, how fucking pathetic can you get without puking up? Despite all my fucking so-called fancy-ass educational and social advantages I proved I’m not too damn fancy-ass to knock asbestos off those old fucking pipes. Hell, in those halcyon days when Touhy Avenue Motors was building its new showroom nobody fucking knew asbestos was dangerous and caused fucking lung cancer, or the boss wouldn’t have given me the deadly fucking job. He just wanted to show me what work was all about, so I wouldn’t amount to nothing and become another fucking bum, which he hated, and which is how I turned out anyway, covered in asbestos and looking like a fucking snowball.
So where is the shit? Can you bring me a bag of shit? I got to eat some.
If I can do the dirtiest job there is then the boss can’t hate me. Like he hated the very idea that I would become one more goddamn fancy-ass fucking asshole waiting for all his hard earned dough to fall into my fucking lap without me lifting a fucking finger for it. See what I mean? So haven’t you got a spoon and fork? I don’t want to eat this shit with my hands.