Accidents are my largest source of income. In this town, people always come to me after an ill-fated incident, donning a look of utter misery and grief as they pleaded for their loved ones' lives. Some were twisted backwards in places, some staggered in their steps, almost all were invariably accompanied by trembling men - ones you'd never witness in such a vulnerable state. Ever.
Praise is a compelling motivator, although, not as adequate as money - yet they both bestowed their own fruits of glory and fulfilment. I crave that gratitude. It's a special kind of bliss that stains my mind like a gray cloud on a rainy day, just as overbearing and charged with profound wonderment.
At least six people visit daily, stammering the same vague account of a highway accident or a parking collision as I glance at the victim. A few even have the audacity to challenge my capabilities - maybe it's my lean arms - but they usually surrender with near-teary eyes having no other alternative.
It's only after a couple of hours that they return, elated to see their beloved awaken and seem so brand new. My points of advice fall onto deaf ears, so I know they haven't paid attention to my words before immediately promising to be more cautious on the road. I can't blame them for being happy. We're all fragile in one way or another. Not as precarious as glass, but rather, a fire. Obscure yet unknowing of any little gust of wind eagerly waiting to pounce. Yet once-reignited, the fire forgets the hot ashes lying beneath.
My father had once introduced me to this job at the age of eight, presuming I'd follow his shadows without a question. Sadly, I discovered no appeal in tending to such kinds of patients, ones so damaged and stiffened in their places - spoiled by the ways of the roads. Eventually, I caved to his wishes, cowering from his glare - or rather, two spotlights of disappointment. However, I did find it ironic that he had brought us a fortune from someone else's misfortune. Life's strange that way, I guess.
My mother, on the other hand, says she's proud. I think her favourite pastime is unashamedly redirecting conversations with strangers so they can gush about my work. Pride fills her like mercury on a hot day. I doubt she's ever seen the things I actually do, probably terrified that she'd injure herself somehow. Knowing her, that possibility doesn't seem too far-fetched.
The other day, as I was savouring a well-deserved nap during my break, someone had the ingenious idea of slamming the door to grab my attention - in reality, its magnitude could've drawn my consciousness back from a coma. The man was dressed entirely in black with several tattoos etched upon the bulky expanse of his arms and his footfalls resembled anvils crashing into the ground. But this man, this man, had the most devastating expression before he began to plead, declaring to pay the highest price.
His grip on the victim's long, skeletal arms was firm, protective even. There was a slight flicker of doubt in his eyes as he took notice of my slender physique. Without even looking at the damage, I assured that his "Harley" would be just fine. Rookie mistake. You never tell anyone that they'll survive. It gives them hope and hope hinders reason. He left cautiously, giving one last look at Harley. I followed his gaze and that's when I saw it.
It was an angry red, that dissolved into whispers of orange and yellow. Several cuts and scratches were carved along the surface as if it had endured the high seas. Scars had emerged from beneath the silvery skin, harsh like sandpaper. I recognised its distinct odour, felt it between my teeth as I bit my tongue. I had lost a few of my own over the years, suffering from the same disease. And since then, nightmares of its dark umber had been imprinted in my mind, planning for the right moment to taunt me.
I glanced back at the graveyard - excuse me, backyard - where I had buried the ones I had failed to save. Ones in such dreadful conditions that not even my best co-workers, Vin or Edgar could fix them. It was a monstrous plague, attacking the weak, the unkempt. Anyone in similar professions would escape as soon as they lock eyes with its horrors. It was a sickness so sinful, not even Hades would wish this sentence upon his worst. It was a mechanic's worst nightmare - rust.
Rust had once cost me a lawsuit. In fact, I still owe $82,000 to the owner of a vintage sports car who had ordered to restore his vehicle in preparation for a luxury car auction. Unbeknownst to either of us, the lethal virus had already begun to duplicate around the axel. I wasted my savings trying to find the antidote, purchasing grease and wax removers from suspicious dealers in the middle of the night - in short, the condition worsened and the last investment I made was court-approved attire.
Similar instances had happened earlier and from then on, I pledged to never revive - or attempt to revive - an infected automobile. It was the equivalent of crossing a black cat. And here I was again, practically stroking the feline. Vin and Edgar widened their eyes at the massive motorcycle I was staring at, one of them had taken a sharp breath at the red-brown tint.
Despair was evident as I trudged to the garage, suppressing the sentiment of pity that radiated from the room. I ran my fingers along the azure plating, every single memory resurfaced to my mind. My father had gifted the bike when the business had flourished. Despite finally having one of my lifelong dreams roar awake at the flick of a switch, the pat on my back he'd given was more valuable. Besides, my model was similar to the rust-contaminated one. It was my only option. After one last prolonged gaze, I made my decision.
"Looks like you're getting a new owner."