“I wonder if I need to change the oil,” Jeremy thought to himself as he held his car keys in his hand, gathering the courage to put them in the ignition.
Jeremy Tanner, 37, had been unemployed for several months now, and was unable to obtain unemployment benefits. His wife had taken off to LA for a few weeks to work on a project, and now was the only time he’d have to do this. He thought back to when he and his father spent a lot of time in the garage, working on his fathers motorcycle or a go kart or using his fathers wood working skills to make something for scouts. Jeremy smiled, thinking of how much time he’d spent in the garage over the course of his life.
But, with his father dead and his mother living elsewhere now, Jeremy couldn’t get into his childhood garage any longer, as she’d sold the house when she moved. Jeremy sighed and thought back to that garage; he could recall every square inch crystal clearly, the shelving system he and his brother had installed when they were teenagers, and the lighting their father had put in one year. It was so nice. Jeremy could remember all the time he’d spent as a teenager with his friends, laughing, watching TV and listening to music. The door lead directly into the kitchen, and they could often hear his mother cooking or his parents talking.
But this garage? His garage? No personality whatsoever. So bland, so plain, so blah. Jeremy sighed, stuck his keys in the ignition and started the car as he glanced down at the hose that was leading back into the car from the tailpipe, pumping the exhaust into the car with the windows mostly rolled up. He sighed and leaned back in the drivers seat, shutting his eyes. His father would understand, he knew he would, he’d have to. After all, his father had done the same thing only 10 years prior, on this very same day. He knew if anyone would understand, it’d be his dad. Jeremy thought back to the last time he saw his father, which was, coincidentally, in the garage.
His father was putting something together, sitting at his little workshop desk, while Jeremy paced behind him, talking about having just gotten married. He remembered telling his father he was terrified of letting Lana down, about never being good enough for her, and worrying he’d never be as good a dad as his own had. His dad had chuckled, turned around and said, “You don’t have to be a good dad like me, just be a good dad like you.” Jeremy never forgot that, but unfortunately the advice never came into play, as Lana had a miscarriage a few weeks later, and they’d been unable to get pregnant since. That’s part of why she’d gone to LA, was to see a specialist. But now, here he was, ready to end his life, and all because he couldn’t handle the financial burden that was now upon them, and he was worried he’d just take his wife down with him, and felt she deserved better than that. And with that thought, Jeremy drifted off into the long quiet.
When Jeremy opened his eyes, he was laying on a couch. He looked around, his eyesight blurry at first, when he noticed his neighbor, an older man named Robert, coming in from another room, handing him a glass of water.
“Jesus Jeremy, you alright?” he asked.
“What happened?” Jeremy asked, and Robert shrugged.
“Near as I can tell, it looked like you almost suffocated. I opened your garage to find you passed out. I…I was bringing your lawnmower back, and, I was really scared for a bit that you weren’t going to be okay, but Lorraine, she said you’d be fine. Guess that’s what I get for being married to a nurse all these years,” Robert said, as Jeremy took the glass of water and chugged it.
“…you were returning my lawnmower?” Jeremy asked, “…I guess I forgot you borrowed it.”
“You okay?” Robert asked.
“…not particularly,” Jeremy said, sitting up and rubbing his eyes on his shirt sleeve, “…everything is fucked, Rob.”
“You’re alright, everything’s alright. Here, come with me,” Robert said, helping Jeremy up. He lead Jeremy into the kitchen and opened a door that lead into a large garage, in which from the ceiling were hanging what appeared to be at least a hundred or more birdhouses. Robert was grinning, hands on his hips, clearly so pleased with himself. Jeremy was surprised, his eyes wide as they stepped inside.
“The hell is all this?” Jeremy asked.
“This is what I do now,” Robert said, “Felt like I wasn’t worth anything since I retired, felt useless, so I figured I’d do something with my time, something that actually made a difference to somebody that matters.”
“These are incredible,” Jeremy said, “You made all of these yourself?”
“Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, Lorraine paints ’em, but yeah I built ’em,” Robert said, “…she’s not here at the moment, you wanna paint one for me?”
Jeremy smiled, feeling ever so lucky this old man had found him. So Jeremy stayed in Roberts garage that afternoon, and had dinner with him and Lorraine that night. He returned the following day, and the day after that and the day after that and so on. Eventually, he and Robert had made a collection of their own birdhouses and started a beautification project, putting them up in the neighborhood, at the park and selling them at crafts fairs in town.
Sometimes, all it takes is the comfort of a garage to save a life.
I’m Maggie. If you like this thing I made, you might like some other things I make, like my depressing webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, the satirical online newspaper of “Nowhere, US”, my podcast “Coping With Tonal Shifts In Reality” or my writing over at Medium. You can also find some published work for sale over at my Payhip.
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