The mechanic paused to wipe the grease from his hands across the murky surface of his coveralls before he grabbed the x-ray from the rack overhead. A cigarette clung precariously to his bottom lip as he held the x-ray up against the light of a lone, white light bulb swinging at the end of a length of electrical wire. Looking away from the x-ray toward a chart posted against the wall, the mechanic walked steadily towards the man on the operating table.

“Well, Mr. Guthrey, she don’t look good — and that’s a fact.” The mechanic spoke quickly, carelessly slurring his words together as he brushed grease stained fingers across the x-ray.

“Now, I’m thinkin’ we ken go in right through here — quick in, swap her out, and have you up an’ running ‘n less than two hours. But here’s tha thing….” The mechanic paused to stub his cigarette out on the corner of the operating table as he leaned in closer to the patient, speaking more hurriedly and anxiously. “The whole block’s gotta come out. The whole dern thing. I mean, it’s bad through ‘n through. Plain bad. Now, yer good for 2…maybe 3 weeks after I swap out this here part; but we’ll get those parts on order, get that new block in, have it here for you Monday, whenever yer ready, bring you in, swap’er out, in — out, good as new, no more than a few hours parts and labor.”

Mr. Guthrey stared at him for a moment from the table, “I just don’t know, Ted.” Pausing to scratch his head, he continued, “I don’t know — can’t you just rebuild it?”

The mechanic paused to scratch his head, lighting another cigarette as he returned to examine the x-ray. “Well, I mean, here’s the deal…I pull that sucker out an’ start workin’ on her, no tellin’ what can happen, no sir, no way to know. I mean, I get her open’ up, no tellin’ what all’s messed up in there, what all’s gone wrong. The heart’s a funny little contraption, and that’s no lie. I mean, say I get her out and realize that I can’t do it? Say she’s blocked up something awful? Say she’s just plain unfixable? Well, then yer stuck on the arty until Monday anyways. Nope. No sir. Don’t feel comfortable with that. Not a bit. If it was a kidney, you know — no problem. Take that puppy out, have her fixed up, good as new, stick her back in whenever yer ready. No problem. But this here…” he said gesturing towards the heart, “is the meat ‘n potatoes of yer whole operation.”

“Well, Ted, I’m just not sure — do you mind if I get a second opinion?”

“Not a problem, Mr. Guthrey. Bill’s just down the street; and you know Phil’s across town — he’s a good mech; and you know I’ll match prices with any of the locals.”

“Sure thing, Ted, I’ll let you know.”

“Well, don’t think about her too long, now — that right ventricle…she’s going down. Any day now, I swear. Got the parts right here, you know. Just you be careful. Keep putting in premium ‘till we get that baby out.”

“Will do, Ted.”

The mechanic waved at Ted and turned to walk into the shop’s waiting room. “I can take another customer in bay three,” he said.

A big man, farmer type stepped up and followed Ted into the bay. Turning, Ted looked at him and asked, “Well, sir, what ken we do for you?”

“Well, I just need a tune-up, really; but my knee has been making this funny noise lately. Can you take a look at it?”

“Sure can. Why don’t you have a seat and describe that noise for me.”