20th anniversary for this poem; hope you like it.
A Visit to Old Nick’s - by Rob Reilly
‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the town,
A Jaguar stirring, just cruising around.
With two hundred synchronous horses on tap,
I’m out on a search for a long winter cap.
A crisp winter’s day about ten forty-five,
Motoring free along Fond-du-Lac Drive.
When under the bonnet there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the seat to see what was the matter.
As hot steam, that blows out when the surge tank is dry,
When it meets with a manifold, mounts to the sky,
So the louvers cut into the bonnet exhaled,
With the windshield obscured, visibility failed.
While choking I hung on but grimly with care,
In hopes that soon trickled, ‘twas doomed then and there.
I tried with the key, gave a twist and a wiggle,
Pressed down on the clutch and a bit of gas pedal,
No cranking nor whirring, not even a pop
Came forth from the tailpipe, I knew I must stop.
And moving the shift lever into reverse,
I lost all composure, how could it get worse?
A phone booth was handy, and to it I turned,
Hoping the wiring hadn’t been burned.
A number, “Nick’s Car Repair”, under my finger,
Will he answer in two rings? No, I mustn’t linger.
Too late, he is there, and I’m telling my woes
To a stranger from somewhere that nobody goes.
He says he will come, and he says right away,
He has room for one more in his last repair bay.
It was not right away, more like quarter past seven,
When I heard a loud noise, was it thunder from heaven?
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
Making sounds like an ancient two-banger John Deere?
A dirty old truck with a dirty old driver,
Came shuddering up to my car like a wyvern.
A bundle of ropes he had slung in the back,
And he looked like a gargoyle prepared to attack.
The rust on his truck and himself made me sick.
And I knew in a moment it must be Old Nick.
His eyes like two daggers, his nose like a hatchet,
His coat torn in places where no one would patch it.
His lips were all cracked, missing teeth left a hole,
And his beard was as black as bituminous coal.
He had a fat face and a great big beer belly,
That shook when he coughed like a bag full of jelly.
A slimy cigar he held clenched in his teeth,
And the smoke it enveloped his head like a wraith.
He was sloppy and crude, a right demonish churl,
And I blanched when I saw him and thought I would hurl.
A squinky red eye, were there horns on his head?
I knew as I gasped, I had great cause to dread.
He spoke many words about “dem furrin’ tings”.
Claiming not be faulted for dents and for dings.
Eventually he got around to his work,
When his hitch wouldn’t fit he blamed some other jerk.
He hoisted the Jag and he let out a whistle,
Shifted his stogie and spat out some gristle.
And laying a finger up inside his nose,
He said it would need more than just a new hose.
My eyes then betrayed me, shedding two little tears.
He climbed into his truck, grinding all of his gears,
To the top of the hill, nearly hitting a wall,
Now bash away, smash away, crash away all.
Away then he flew, with my car up behind,
And I dreaded to learn on the phone what he’d find.
The snow was beginning to fall about then.
It was slushy and freezing and ceased about ten.
In the morning I called him and asked what was wrong
With the Jag and how much would it cost and how long.
“Da battery’s shot an’ it fried up da starter.
Findin’ parts fur dese tings gettin’ harder ‘n’ harder.
Dese furrin’ jobs ain’t got much juice dey kin spare.”
My hopes turned to fears and to mortal despair.
“I figger twelve hunnerd wit parts and da labor,
Come by around Tuesday, wit cash ya can take ‘er.”
As I hung up the phone, something didn’t ring true.
Was it how he said “starter”, could I misconstrue?
Away to Nick’s shop then I flew like a flash,
Tore past banking windows, not thinking of cash.
The Jag was a’nestled all snug among hordes
Of Cadillacs, Chevys, Toyotas and Fords.
The sun on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Where it hadn’t been trodden on, gave me to know,
Not a track, not a footprint, the snow was untouched,
On the bonnet and doors it was frozen, not mushed.
The push button handles were coated with ice.
And I knew that I’d better not trust his advice.
Nick had lied when he told me those things in his call.
The Jag’s bonnet had not been opened at all!
More rabid than beagles of course I became,
As I bristled at thoughts of a crook I could name.
Now dash it, a glance at my pants and I kicks it.
I’m comp’tent, not stupid, I’m gonna go fix it.
Now off with the snow, now up with the bonnet.
This car is a lot like my MG, dog gone it.
The hose from the washer pump clearly was melted,
Revealing how steam on the windshield resulted.
It has warmed up a bit, now no further excuse.
Ah! The positive battery cable is loose!
A slight bit of movement, but only a twist,
I lever it tight with the strength of my wrist.
The key’s in the dash, and it turns to my hand.
The starter engages, there’s joy in the land!
Six cylinders roar with a wild feline sound!
We’re spinning the wheels and Nick’s looking around.
He oozed off his stool, to his crew gave a whistle,
But they’re not going to catch my own Coventry missile.
I’m not going to stop, not to beg nor to barter.
He’ll not stick me up for an unneeded starter.
And I heard old Nick scream as I drove out of sight.
Maybe this must befall, that a rogue deserves spite.
by Rob Reilly December 16, 1999 (a fictional tale but loosely based on an actual experience in 1976 with an E-type)