Virgin Islands Stories: The Mechanic

It was the summer of 1969 and I was still living on St. Thomas. At the time I was driving an old Willys Jeep. Although usually extremely dependable, one day the old jeep began to have some rather serious problems that needed the attention of a professional. I was then living on St. Thomas’ Northside and I had a neighbor, a big, bearded, white boy named Norman, who was an excellent mechanic and not too expensive. I called Norman and the jeep and I limped over to Norman’s house and deposited the jeep inside the detached garage where Norman did his automotive repair work. The garage lay at the end of a steep, crumbling, concrete driveway and I knew that it wouldn’t get back up that road until it’s problems were solved.

I secured Norman’s promise to start work right away and went about my business – on foot.

I don’t remember what the problem with the jeep was exactly, but it must have been serious enough, because when I returned the next day there were jeep parts spread all over the garage mixed in with Norman’s tools and, for lack of a better description, “stuff.” It was really quite an impressive mess.

“How’s it goin’, Norman?” I asked.

“Under control,” said Norman.

I had to hand it to Norman, and to all those whose mechanical intelligence so vastly surpasses my own, that he would actually, not only be able to put the jeep back together again, but also to render the old fellow St. Thomas road ready once again.

As I stood in the blazing sunshine outside the wooden garage marveling at the expertise of this mechanical wizard, I saw a black sedan turn off the main road onto the driveway making it’s way towards us. A middle aged black gentleman, who I recognized to be Al Wiltshire, a detective in the employ of the Virgin Islands police force, stepped out of the vehicle.

“Afternoon,” I said

“Afternoon,” he answered. “Norman, I have some bad news for you.”

Norman looked up from his work.

“What’s that Al?”

“I have a warrant for your arrest. Appears to be an old stateside beef. I gotta take you in.”

“No Al! Please, not now! ” I pleaded. “Can’t you just come back later. Let Norman finish up. Please!”

“Sorry, can’t do it. Let’s go Norman.

Norman and Al disappeared into the car leaving me staring at a thousand and one parts, bolts, screws, soda cans and tools and the stripped body of my old jeep.

“Don’t worry,” I heard Norman shout from the open car window. “It’s no big t’ing. Be right back.”

I did bump into Norman again, a little more than a year later, but by that time I had moved on to St. John. The jeep was history, but all else was just fine.

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