Growing up in the Southwest, where land is cheap and roads abound, you need a car. Some missteps out of high school that delayed my entry into college had left me with a rather poor cash-flow situation. For other kids I knew, as 18 wore on into 19, 19 into 20, the compact but late-model Honda was part of the territory, probably financed in part through parental generosity or judicious allocation of student loan funds. Me, it was all I could do to get a first car that was as old as I was: an old 4-cylinder BMW 2002 sedan.



For those reading this who may be unfamiliar with this long defunct model, don’t let the number fool you: 2002 was the model number, not the year. (I don’t even know the exact year of the car but it was in the 70s.) And don’t let the make fool you either—BMW would eventually come to be best known in the United States for its sport and luxury models, but this squat, boxy, vaguely Eastern-bloc looking sedan was (or had been when brand new) no more than a German grocery-getter.



When I finally took possession of it, seeming destined to be its last owner, this rusty, dented, tired looking old nag of car had the dubious virtue of being, in the words of Mike, a co-worker at the gas station where I worked, a “hipster Eurotrashmobile”—strangely admired by a certain skinny-jeans-and-bowling-shirt set, who perhaps enjoyed the irony of a status-symbol label on such a piece of crap. (Honestly I’m not sure what they saw in it. I would much rather have had a later model that had a warranty and started reliably.)



So I had a love-hate relationship with the car. It was hard to start cold, smoked like a train, stalled out at idle, and had sticky vinyl seats that were sagging and distended, with springs and foam and horsehair protruding errantly through various tears and gashes in the upholstery. Almost nothing on the instrument panel worked—AC, heat, cigarette lighter, dome light, radio. And yet I couldn’t help but enjoy the persistent compliments from strangers, sometimes averaging one a week, even if they were mostly from hipsters whose aesthetic sensibility generally bewildered me. It wasn’t just a car; it was a conversation piece.



“The dyke from next door likes your car,” Mike told me one day after I came back in from changing the price signs. The “dyke” he was referring to was a tall, heavyset, tomboyish blonde named Sam who worked at the oil change shop whose lot adjoined ours. She was dour, apparently humorless, and would grace our shop at least once a day with her grease-spattered coveralls and whatever hair she had up tucked into her ball cap, to buy Marlboro Lights and fountain Dr. Pepper. She was not unfriendly—not rude the way many customers can be. In fact, I always thought there was something good natured and trustworthy in her deliberate southern drawl, her steady, confident, no-nonsense gaze. She just wasn’t one for chit-chat, that was all; not one who recognized any value in the social lubricant of please and thank-you, greeting and leave-taking. She would come in, place her order, pay, and leave. That was that.



And she was, very probably, a lesbian, or so I thought. But I privately disliked Mike’s insistence on referring to her as “the dyke.” She may not have been the most pleasant person, but she wasn’t exactly unpleasant either; she had never given me any reason to disparage her behind her back. In a business like ours where so many people are rude, it seemed wrong somehow to trash-talk one of the better customers, even if she would never find out.



But there was more to my private mental defense of her than that. What I could never admit to Mike: I actually found her quite attractive.



She was fat, which I don’t mean pejoratively—just descriptively. I’ve always liked bigger women. She had a belly and love handles and big boobs and a great big round behind. But even so, fatness was not her most salient feature; the impression she gave was of someone strong and sturdy, a tall, square, durable frame hung with capable muscles. Her womanly traits were dampened by her boxy coveralls, her strong, businesslike carriage, and the fact that she never wore makeup. But her womanly traits were there nonetheless, available in plain view to the observant and the imaginative. You could tell she had the boobs even if she wasn’t doing anything to help you notice them, and the fact that she looked as good as she did without makeup, with her deep blue eyes and smooth pink-freckled cheeks, should have been a clue as to how nicely she would clean up.



It was so unusual to think of Sam actually chatting with one of the cashiers that I wasn’t even sure I believed Mike at first. “When did she say this?” I asked, probably betraying a note of challenge in my voice.



“Just came in a minute ago when you were out changing the pump sings. Said ‘who’s car?’, and I told her it was yours and she said ‘nice car’, and that was it.”



“Really?” I asked, and looked futilely across the lot to the lube shop as though I could gain some information by studying the open garage bay doors.



“Yep. Dyke digs your car bro’.”



I know. I really should have protested, should not have been tacitly complicit in his disrespect. But on some level I was part of the same stupid conspiracy he was furthering, to deny what I liked, to consent—if only by my silence—to the ridiculous truism that a 5’11″, 180 pound Amazon woman with boobs and biceps can’t be gorgeous, as Sam so obviously was. Or that a big strong woman who worked on cars had to be a lesbian (which, alas, seemed a slightly safer generalization).



I was intrigued, though; my curiosity was piqued. “So,” I thought to myself with a smile, “the dyke likes my car.”



* * *



I was scheduled to open the following Sunday. Sunday-open is both the best and worst shift to work at a suburban convenience store. What makes it the worst the fact that it’s, well, Sunday morning; opening up at six means waking up in the five o’clock hour on a day when the rest of the world is sleeping off a hangover. But, paradoxically, this is precisely what was nice about actual workload of the shift itself. Weekday-open you’re always slammed, and everyone’s irritable and in a hurry to get to work, and you have to juggle the endless line at the register with the near-constant need to brew fresh coffee. Sundays it was not unusual to have the first coffee-and-newspaper customers saunter in at a leisurely pace, happy and well-rested, well into the nine o’clock hour. Once I made it all the way to ten—literally half-way through my shift(!)—before seeing my very first customer of the day. Unlike weekdays and afternoons, they only schedule one cashier for Sunday open, and there’s a certain peace in the solitude.



The sun was still low in the east, the sky its morning pink-orange-blue, and, sitting on my stool and sipping my coffee, I looked up from my newspaper to gaze out the window and take in the serene view. The spell was broken by the tinny clatter of the bell-string tied to the door to announce the entry of a customer. I spun around in my stool and there, in fresh blue coveralls with embroidered patches—an ovular one over the breast pocket that ringed a cursive “Sam,” another high on the sleeve advertising “ASE” certification, whatever that meant—was “the dyke” herself, padding over to the soda fountain to fill a quart-sized plastic cup with Dr. Pepper. “Morning,” I hailed, not expecting and not receiving a reply. I plucked a pack of cigarettes down from the overhead rack and set them on the counter.



She came up to the register. I looked at my watch. “You’re here early. Thought you guys didn’t open up until ten on Sunday.”



“I’ve got inventory today before my crew gets in. Marlboro Lights soft-pack.” The pack was already on the counter so I slid it forward to draw her attention to it, and to the fact that I had helpfully anticipated her order. If she was impressed by this example of great customer service she did nothing to so indicate.



I watched as her clean strong hands retrieved bills from her Harley-Davidson chain wallet and noted how spotlessly clean her closely cropped fingernails were, which they never were at night. An image flashed into my mind of her with pumice and brush, scrubbing assiduously until every trace of grime was dispatched, knowing full well she would repeat the ritual the next day, and every day after that. She had meticulous streak in her, I decided. Suddenly, I had an urge to make small talk, to try to keep her in the store if only for a moment longer.



“It’s beautiful eh?” I tried, gesturing with a cock of my head to the east-facing window behind me.



“What?” she asked, looking up from her wallet, as though annoyed by the interruption.



“Rosy-fingered dawn,” I said wistfully.



Her eyes narrowed and a deep furrow cut into her brow and, with a surprising note of hostility she snapped: “What?! What are you talking about?”



I was so surprised by her apparent anger that I had no idea what to say. After a few glottal stops I managed: “Just trying to make conversation.”



“Well look, I don’t know who the fuck this Rosie and Dawn are or why you think it’s okay to tell me this—”



“N-n-n-no!” I interrupted hastily, palms forward, “it’s-it’s-it’s Homeric epithet! From the Odyssey. You know, mythology? Eos the dawn has rosy—rose-colored—fingers like, like, like the uh, you know, like those pink streaks of clouds,” I pointed out the window.



She studied me with arched eyebrow, the skeptical air of someone trying to determine whether she’s being had, and eventually broke my gaze to look out the window behind me. She looked at the sky for a moment, her face betraying no particular appreciation of the view, and then her eyes brightened noticeably as they lit on something in the nearer distance. She looked at my name tag and then at me and said, with as cheerful a tone as I had ever heard from her: “You’re Bart!”



I was puzzled by the sudden change in tone. “Yeah,” I confirmed warily.



“I had you confused with another dude in here works nights. That’s your car,” she pointed.



“Oh. Yeah. Yes it is.”



“That is a great car, sir.”



I was still a bit back on my heels, reeling from her rapid change of mood, which is probably why I flubbed my first and probably only opportunity to find common ground with this woman. Perhaps all that was needed was for me to agree with her enthusiastically, and we might have proceeded to have a pleasant conversation. But instead, unthinkingly, I damned my car with faint praise, saying, “yeah, it’s okay I guess.”



Immediately her face fell, any trace of brightness or felicity extinguished. “It’s a great car,” she affirmed, with the tone of someone who doesn’t suffer philistinism well.



“Yeah, no, I didn’t, I mean—uh” I hastened to save it, blurting out: “I’ve always liked BBWs.”



Now her brow sank again into an expression of withering disdain. Then I heard it too, the Freudian slip, and clumsily tried to fix it: “BM!” I nearly shouted, and then, miserably, realized that that too demanded correction—I couldn’t seem to open my mouth without digging a deeper hole. “W!” I added. Finally: “BMW! Was… what I meant to say. Instead of, you know…. Look, can we start this whole conversation over? Like maybe you could go out and come back in.” I flashed what must have seemed a simpering grin.



“How much oil are you losing?”



“God, it’s ridiculous—like a quart every time I get gas, feels like. Is that typical for those cars?”



“No.”



“Well, then, how did you—”



“Because you’re getting blue-black smoke. I saw you pulling out onto the road the other day.”



“Is that bad?”



“You think it’s good? Means rings eventually. But in the mean time at least you can try heavier viscosities, maybe an additive. When’s the last time you had the oil changed?”



I averted my eyes and, in a conspicuous poker tell, looked anxiously at the floor before saying: “Um, it was—”



“Don’t lie ’cause I’ll know. Soon as I get a look at that dipstick I’m gonna know.”



Absurdly, all I could think to say to this was: “I’m sorry.” To this day I’m not sure if I was apologizing for thinking of bullshitting her or for not being a better custodian of my car.



“Sir, a high-mileage vehicle like that—the oil is the single most important thing.”



“Guess I figured as often as I was adding quarts the oil was kind of—” I shrugged and let out a nervous chuckle “—changing itself.”



At this she let out a heavy, exasperated sigh. “Listen, sir—”



“Wh-why don’t you call me Bart?” (Honestly, what was this “Sir” business anyway? She had to be at least five years older than I was. And she was talking to me like I was an oil-change customer—but she was in my store, I wasn’t in hers.)



“Bart. Why don’t bring her in and let me get under that hood. You can pull her round right now if you want. We’re starting a special on oil and lube tomorrow but I’ll give you the discount today.”



“Well, that’s awfully kind of you to offer but, didn’t you say you had inventory?”



“I can work around my crew this afternoon if I have to. I consider this like a medical emergency.”



* * *



It was not even eight o’clock when she phoned the store to summon me to her work bay, where I stood feeling a bit like a kid at the principal’s office. She had the hood propped and the dipstick lay out on an improbably clean looking shop towel. “I just figured I’d leave this out for you, let you see it.” She presented the stick for my inspection. “See how black that is. Now touch it.” I hesitated. “Go on. Wipes right off. Just see how watery it is.”



I touched it. “Pretty watery,” I agreed.



“That’s what you’re doing when you just add instead of changing. Viscosity breaks down over time. You end up with a crankcase full of black water and sludge. She wiped the stick, slid it into its housing, and retrieved it once more. The stick was now coated (to within a millimeter of the correct quart mark) with a transparent yellowish oil. “That’s how it’s supposed to look, sir.”



“Bart.”



“Bart.”



But my dressing down continued as, point by point, she walked me through all of the evidence of neglected basic maintenance: Sooty spark plugs; underinflated tires; corroded battery terminal posts. If my car had been a dog she would have called the SPCA.



Oddly, as all this was taking place, I didn’t feel nearly as miserable as one might expect. In fact, it was actually turning me on. Maybe it was just because I’d been attracted to her all along, and so welcomed the opportunity to follow the sway over her big blue-clad hips as she circled back and forth around my car to point out the various evidences of neglect. Or maybe it was deeper than that—that I felt somehow cared for through all this attention to my car, as though I had finally broken a thick layer of ice with this mysterious “dyke next door,” even if her attitude was like that of a drill sergeant inspecting a particularly sloppy platoon. Or maybe I was discovering a submissive streak in me that I didn’t even know I had—maybe I actually liked the drill-sergeant treatment a little.



Whatever it was, it was getting worse and worse: The longer she talked the less I could seem to concentrate on what she was saying, and the more brazen I became in my attempts to steal glances at her, here at her wide hips and big butt as she bent into the engine compartment on the leeward side of the car, there as she betrayed a rare glimpse of cleavage when she bent over windward. As the lecture wore on I started to get an aching boner. It was mercifully soft, as boners go—not the kind to press noticeably against my pants. But even at half-strength it was throbbing ravenously and siphoning off all my attention.



To make matters worse, she was so stern and serious that I found myself strangely tempted to make inappropriate jokes at about every other sentence she uttered. I managed to restrain myself (for a while), but the urge was uncanny. I was like the kids in that old cartoon show, Beavis and Butt-head, hearing sexual innuendo in every little thing she said: “…getting some blow-by here…”; “…need to get that good and lubed up so it slides right in…”; “…getting some pulsation on the rear-end…”; “…and it slides in and out over and over at very high speeds…” It was dizzying. I could barely contain myself. Everything she said sounded like it had a double meaning!



“One more thing,” she said, with a welcome note of finality. “On these terminal posts, after you do the baking soda thing we talked about…” she walked over to a work bench where there sat—I hadn’t noticed it before—and institutional-use, gallon-sized jar of Vaseline. I felt my pulse quicken a little at the sight of that jar here, in this setting, incongruously placed amidst all the various parts and tools. I may have even blushed. The reason is a little embarrassing.



I grew up in a religious (you might say fundamentalist) household, where I spent much of my pubescence shamefully convinced that I was among a tiny, insignificant percentage of the human population that was actually depraved enough to masturbate. My weapon of choice had been the family’s community stock of Vaseline, tucked away under the sink in my parents’ bathroom, and I was probably kidding myself in hoping no one in the family noticed its frequent, too-rapid depletion, nor even just the oily smell of it on me. I have long-since discontinued the use of Vaseline for this purpose, but I still get a giddy little twinge when I see a jar of it—afraid to look at it lest someone decode my facial expression and instantly know my history with it.



Accordingly, as she popped the lid off the giant jar (the old familiar smell wafted up to my nostrils and—talk about conditioned response!—I felt my stiffening cock actually jump in my pants), I quickly averted my eyes. She scooped out a thick handful of the yellow-gray goop and walked over to the far side where the battery sat; I stood motionless, feet fixed to the floor.



“If you’ll just smear a little like so, it will protect against corrosion.” Finally I gathered the courage to look up and, directly in front of me, across the expanse of engine, there was the single best cleavage view I’d ever gotten of Sam. Ordinarily she kept the coveralls zipped pretty high up on her chest and wore a crewneck t-shirt beneath. Today, perhaps owing to the fact that it was Sunday, she had some type of tank-shirt on underneath the uniform and, at the same time, the zipper was unzipped nearly to the bottom of her bosom.



My eye moved back and forth from where her strong hand was spreading translucent goo onto my freshly cleaned battery, up to her enormous freckled boobs that were now jiggling in time with the mildly circular motion of her hand. I couldn’t help but juxtapose the two images in my mind, a sort of gestalt, as I imagined her spreading lubricant on my shaft and then enveloping me between those large tits until I erupted in orgasm onto her chin, neck and sternum. I was staring now in a mute trance and I’m pretty sure my mouth hung slightly agape.



Then she froze. I looked up, about two-beats too late, and found myself looking directly into her now-narrowed eyes. Busted. “Getting all this?” she asked, with a note of angry sarcasm.



At this worst of all possible moments, as though from some kind of neurological misfire, I did perhaps the worst thing I could have done. I did not apologize; I did not try to play it off or protest my innocence. What did I do? I finally succumbed to the idiotic urge to make a double-entendre and, before I could even think what I was doing, blurted out (smarmily): “Now that’s what I call a lube job.”



She immediately stood up and zipped her coveralls up to her neck. “I’ll go get your invoice,” she said huffily, and started to walk away.



“No! Wait! Sam!” I cried, “I’m sorry—please!”



“I’ll get your invoice.”

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