Short Story: Oil Change

INTRODUCTION: Here in Oregon City, we have a fifteen year old phenom named Brendan Swogger. He’s a high school student with a passion for writing dark and twisted stories that rivals my own. He recently wrote a short story based upon on idea that came to him during a visit to the dentist. I don’t know what type of dentist Brendan goes to, but the end result wound up being something straight out of the movie Saw.

I had an idea. In order to help stimulate a budding young mind, I presented Brendan with a writing exercise. If he could concoct such a deliciously devilish story based on something as routine as a trip to the dentist, I wondered how he would do with something even more mundane, such as waiting on an oil change. I submitted my challenge to Brendan, and he had responded with a completed story within a couple of hours. You can read Brendan’s story Acid Eyes here.

It wouldn’t have been fair of me to make Brendan do this challenge alone, so I decided that I would take part in the same exercise. Below is my offering. Happy reading!

Oil Change

Brendan Huntley leaned in through the rolled down car window and kissed his wife on the lips.

“You’re sure you don’t need me to stay and wait with you?” she asked.

“No, honey. I’ll be fine.” He smiled and stroked her cheek with the tip of his finger. “I’ll be home in just a little bit.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.” She took her foot off the brake, letting the car roll forward a few inches before bringing it to a stop again. “Oh, and you have your keys just in case you beat me back home?”

“Yes, dear.” Brendan patted his pants pocket. “Go on. I’m fine.”

Brendan’s wife blew him a kiss and drove away. Brendan stood and waved, watching until her car became a tiny speck in the distance. He turned to face the mechanic’s garage, surprised to find all the bay doors closed. He checked his watch.

12:54 p.m.

They said to be here at one o’clock, he thought. Maybe they’re not quite back from lunch.

Brendan approached the main entrance and placed his hands on the glass to block out the sunlight as he peeked in. The door was unlocked and pushed open. He stepped inside the building and found the lobby unoccupied. There was no one behind the counter either.

Brendan heard voices. A TV in the corner of the waiting area was playing clips from NBC sitcoms at low volume.

“Hello?” Brendan called out.

A man entered from the garage through a swinging door, wiping his hands clean with an oil-covered rag.

“Can I help you?” The man slipped the dirty rag into the back pocket of his navy blue coveralls, then grabbed a toothpick tucked behind his ear and put it in his mouth.

“Hi, I’m Brendan Huntley.” Brendan reached out to shake the man’s hand, but he just stared at it, chewing on the toothpick between his front teeth. Brendan retracted his hand. “I’m here to pick up my car. It’s the red two thousand seven Kia Rio. You guys told me it would be ready at one o’clock.”

The man mashed a few buttons on the keyboard without looking down at the screen. “Doesn’t look like its ready yet. Why don’t you take a seat and wait a few minutes while I go check on your vehicle.”

“Uh…” Brendan glanced down at his watch. “Well, do you have an estimate on how much longer it’s going to be?”

“Sir, if you can just wait for a few minutes, I’m sure it won’t be much longer.” The man scratched the back of his slick, black hair. “I’ll go check on it now.” The man exited back through the swinging door. The words EMPLOYEES ONLY were stenciled in bright yellow paint.

Brendan walked into the lobby and took a seat on a plush, leather chair with a chrome frame. He looked around at several displays of car parts, but could only recognize the windshield wiper blades. He leaned forward and sifted through a pile of magazines on the table in front of him. The covers of periodicals such as Mopar Monthly and Gearhead were adorned with slender women in short shorts making love to the camera while holding metallic cylinders up to their mouths.

Maybe it’s a car guy thing, he thought. Or I’m too old to find this type of thing appealing.

The crashing sound of steel spilling onto cement came from the direction of the garage, causing Brendan to drop the stack of magazines in his hands. The noise was quickly followed by a bloodcurdling male scream.

Brendan sprang to his feet and ran toward the front counter. He was met by the same toothpick chewing mechanic from before. The man entered the room with complete calmness, leaning against the door with his hands behind his back.

“My Lord! Is everything all right out there?”

“Yes, sir. Everything is fine.” The man slid his toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. “Just a little accident.”

“A little accident?” Brendan rubbed his forehead. “You about gave me a heart attack! I heard a scream and I…”

A spatter of blood across the chest of the mechanic’s coveralls caught Brendan’s attention and stopped him mid-sentence. He didn’t remember seeing it on the man before.

“Are you bleeding?” Brendan pointed at the man’s chest. “Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

The man looked down at his coveralls, then wiped off the blood with his bare hand.

“That won’t be necessary, sir. Like I said, we just had a little accident. Happens all the time.” The mechanic grinned.” It’s a… hazard of the job, you could say.”

“Oh… okay. So, about my car?”

“Right. The o-seven red Kia Rio. Let me just go grab the keys for you. Please, have a seat and I’ll be right with you.” The mechanic once again left Brendan alone in the lobby.

Brendan took a deep breath to regulate his pulse, then sat back down as instructed. A few minutes of silence passed before the slow whine of a hydraulic lift filled the lobby.

“No! No! No!” a voice begged from the other side of the employee only door, followed by a deafening crunch.

Brendan stood up and walked over to the counter slowly. The mechanic re-entered the room, accompanied by the sound of his shoe soles sticking to the tile surface with each step. His face, hands and the upper portion of his coveralls coated with droplets of crimson.

“Oh my God!” Brendan’s mouth dropped open as his face went pale. “Is that…?”

“No, sir. A carburetor exploded on us out there. Spewed fuel all over the place.” The mechanic pulled the rag out from his back pocket and wiped his face. “We’ll be mopping up that mess for days.”

“I’m sorry. I feel so foolish now.” Brendan put his hand over his heart as color began returning to his cheeks. “I’m not much of a car guy, so I have no idea what all goes into what you guys do. Sounds pretty intense, though.”

“It sure is, but once you have the love for the job, it gets easier over time.” The mechanic reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “Your vehicle is parked outside and ready to go, sir.”

“Great! Thank you very much.” Brendan reached for his wallet. “So, what do I owe you?”

“No charge today, sir. On the house.”

“What?” Brendan furrowed his brow. “That can’t be right.”

“I promise, sir. It’s right. It’s a… a repeat customer special.”

“Wow. I, uh, I don’t know what to say.” Brendan put his wallet back into his pocket, then collected his keys from the mechanic’s moist, grime-covered fingers.

“No need to say anything, sir. Have a great day.”

Brendan headed for the door. He stopped and turned back as he reached the exit. “Say, I don’t believe that I caught your name. I’d like to tell your manager how happy I am with the star treatment that you’ve given me today.”

“Me, sir?” The mechanic pushed open the swinging door halfway and stood in the threshold. “I don’t work here.”


  1. Wow, David! I think you’ve beat me on that challenge. After all, you’ve been at this longer than I have. Brilliantly written, David! Now, to get started on Tony Healey’s request… 😉

    1. I wouldn’t be so sure about that, my friend. Your story is very good, and I smile ear-to-ear knowing that you’re only going to get better.

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