No Crime In The Castle: Part One
Maggie turned the ignition switch on and then off again. The silence filled her ears with panic. She would be late or worse, not make it at all. Eyeing the pile of white bricks at the curb, she fought the anger bubbling up inside. The notice on her door read that construction would begin tomorrow. The new wall would run through the middle of the city, separating North Jackson from South Jackson. It would also separate Maggie from her sisters.
Pulling her tangled black hair into a rubber band, she bit her thin lips and turned the key again. Silence remained. “What’s wrong, Miguel?” Maggie’s friend and local postman walked from behind the hood and wiped his oily hands on a rag.
“I think it’s the starter.”
The weight of the words made her shoulders slump. Despair soured the milk she’d had for breakfast. Acid rose from her gut to her throat. She forced it down before it could escape. The whole world seemed to spin. Putting a hand to her forehead, she steadied her worsening anxiety. “What can I do? I have to get to the other side of town.”
Miguel rubbed his smooth chin. “My Dad told me a joke once.” He smiled at himself, rather amused with his thoughts.
“A joke,” Maggie turned to him, confused.”What kind of joke?”
“It’s worth a shot,” he replied more to himself than Maggie. Dropping down on the cement, he laid with his back to the ground and crawled underneath the car. She heard the tap, tap, tapping of metal on metal and told herself she’d never make it. The general public hadn’t been allowed to drive since 2020 when public transportation and location logs became institutionalized. That was over twenty years ago. The odds of someone knowing how to fix a vehicle now were slim to none.
She flipped the sun visor down and looked in the mirror. Her brown skin looked dull in the sunlight. The tightness of her eyes reminded her of a cat. Her fine, wild hair looked like a feather duster, and she wondered where it had come from. What did her parents look like? What kind of music did they like? Miguel’s instructions interrupted her soul searching. “Try again,” he said, pulling himself up from the ground. Maggie obeyed. Turning the switch, she held it steady. The engine sputtered for a moment, then roared to a start.
“Yes! Thank you! Thank You!” She jumped out of the car. “You’re a genius, pure genius.”
Miguel smiled shyly. “I don’t know about that.”
“Well, no one around here knows how to fix cars, and I never would’ve figured that out myself. How’d you know what to do?”
“My dad used to work on cars before the war. He taught me what he knew, but I always thought the bit about tapping the starter was a joke,” Miguel chuckled. “He used to talk about someone in the family owning a repair shop one day.” His glittering brown eyes went blank, staring at hope long forgotten. “What a dream, huh?”
“Yes.” Maggie reached up and squeezed his arm. “It’s a good dream too.” Miguel regained composure and studied the road ahead. “I better get back to work.” Strapping the seventy-pound bag of mail onto his back, he turned to walk away.
“Are you sure you don’t need a ride? At least let me take you to the next street. It’ll be safer.”
“Not for you,” he replied. Of course, he was right. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine,” he said, waving goodbye. Slowly he began the trek down Wilson Avenue.