Oil Change, Part 4

“You sound pretty sure of yourself.” Jen lifted the handle of her handbag higher onto her shoulder. “Tell me, when they ‘let you’ graduate in the spring, will they make you a regular employee here?”

Writing notes on a paper laid flat on the counter, the young man glanced up at her, the rest of his body remaining still. fwhrr fwhrr. And then he lifted one corner of his mouth into a toothless smile.

Jen patted her chest below the left shoulder. “Everybody here has name tags. Lefty, Derrick. Tommy.”

“Timmy?”

She hadn’t been sure about that last name. “Right. You’re the only person I’ve seen here without a name tag. Is that because you’re still in school?”

The young man lowered the pen he was holding onto the counter, and lifted his head until it was level with Jen’s. “You said you were a manager at the Stop and Shop, right?” Nod. “Betcha that means you’ve got more than a working understanding of labor laws?”

Jen shook her head. “Hey, I’m sorry, didn’t mean — ”

“It’s OK.” The young man waved a hand between them, lifted his chin while keeping his eyes focused on Jen. “I just needed to know what the ground rules were for this conversation.”

He pointed with his thumb behind him, in the direction of the garage. “Lefty, see, I’ve been living with him since I was seven. Started hanging around here after school, and started helping out. Small stuff at first, inventory and cleaning, fetching tools. But I paid attention to what everybody was doing, learned a few things. Few years ago, started doing oil changes — Lefty’d pay me twenty bucks for each, off the books. When he saw I was good at it, was ready to move on to brakes, tires, steering — this is the part, by the way, you’re not supposed to ask me how old I was at the time — Lefty comes to me, says time to make you a regular employee here! And I says, sure thing — but I told him I had one condition.”

The young man leaned forward, pointed to the vacant area on his upper left chest. “I ain’t wearing no name tag. I don’t do labels, then or now.”

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