Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Eek! (02/25/10)
TITLE: In the Throes of Metallurgy
By Troy Manning
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Although Justin did have a number of learning disabilities, he possessed remarkable motor skills and his popularity with the other children was seldom found wanting. Even when the girls in his class teased him by saying he was “just tin,” it was done more out of a fascinated affection than from malice. No small amount of his appeal was because of Justin’s knack for using his unique qualities to his, and his classmates’, advantage. Raising his hand and asking, for instance, if he could be excused to go drain his radiator turned tired cliché into magical realism. At other times, he would intentionally come to school unlubricated. And when he went to use the pencil-sharpener, it was difficult to tell whether he was already turning the crank or still just walking across the room.
While Christmas and Valentine’s Day are often dispiriting times to many, Justin’s season of melancholy tended to center around Independence Day. The year previous, some of the region’s finest psychologists and metallurgists had to be enlisted to summon Justin from his funk. Even though their efforts met with much success, their reports as to the cause of his near catatonia contained little more than conjectures. Of these, among the more credible was proposed by a specialist in pyrotechnical therapies. Personally a veteran of a few difficult deliveries, she suggested Justin’s depression resulted from memories dormant from infancy of his traumatic birth. And the trigger mechanism for these memories was the firework displays his parents forced him to attend every 4th of July. Justin was indeed quite beside himself when released from the room in which the specialist conducted vivid simulations of firework cascades and cannon blasts to the tune of Tchaikowsky’s “1812 Overture.” Still, Kevin and Michelle thought the methodologies employed in their son’s diagnosis dubious at best.
As affable as Justin was, it wasn’t until he nearly completed college before he had his first real date. This was predominantly due to the fact that there were precious few metal women around. Realizing Justin’s finding an adequate match was highly problematic, his parents thought they would get an early start on the search process. They scoured the personals in such publications as Gentlemen’s Quarterly and Popular Mechanics, and signed him up with online sites like eHarmony and Hotwire.com. Though he obtained a few face-to-face meetings, the women invariably declined any follow-up as they believed Justin would be high maintenance. In this they were only partially right. While Justin’s regularly scheduled repairs were more costly than, say, a Volvo, compared with the rates of typical medical care they were practically negligible.
As lead technician at Modesto Toyota, it was Brandi’s responsibility to stay current with the literature of her trade. Intrigued by the Popular Mechanics ad, she telephoned Justin and arranged to meet him. Although Brandi was primarily human, she did have a heart of gold and buns of steel. The latter being the result of continuing to work beneath a car while a colleague took it for a test-drive--so absorbed could she be with her craft.
It is true that many women enter relationships with men thinking they will be able to fix them. In Brandi’s case, however, this expectation had far more plausibility than usual. Her eyes widened in delight as Justin disclosed a number of his disabilities. And she eagerly anticipated their wedding day when she could address his dread of sparks.
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