Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual notebook.

Strong morning sunshine behind old oaks along the Florida avenue cast dark patterns on the road. In the treetops, small birds twittered and cardinals called to one another: wouldya’ wouldya’ wouldya’, chalk, chalk, chalk!

I had talked to my mechanic friend Chuck several times over the last three months. Early on, I had bought a new battery. Nevertheless, my 2005 Honda’s engine still sometimes refused to turn over. Starting it was totally unpredictable. Today I will probably get a new starter.

Chuck had warned me about the expense. I sighed at the thought then reminded myself, The Honda’s been a good, reliable car. It’s fourteen years old now—cars are considered “antique” at twenty.

Parking in the auto shop driveway, I walked toward two open bays. Buddy, the garage dog, came out wagging her tail to greet me. As I leaned down to pet her, a gray streak that was Chuck’s snuggling cat, Tatiana, disappeared into the office. As I stepped into the front work area, my friend called from the back, “Frances? I’ll be right out!”

Buddy and Ken

Buddy and mechanic Ken who located the dog for this photo.

When he appeared, I gave him a hug. Chuck and I had spiritual friends in common. He also often said I reminded him of his mother. He reminds me of my older son, too.

He said, “So it’s still not starting for you. What happens when you try to start it?”

I took a breath. Here goes! “Sometimes it goes errrr, e-r-r-r and then nothing. It eventually starts, but…” I shook my head. “Something’s wrong.”

“Try it now.” Chuck leaned on my open driver’s door as I started the car a couple of times. Like a mischievous child being watched, it started well enough.

He stepped back and stared at the vehicle. “This will take some time. I want to check the battery, cables and other things before I start replacing the starter. It’s a big job. It’ll take two or three hours.”

“That’s OK, I brought a book and my notebook.”

My friend glanced around his parking lot. “How about I lend you my truck?” He raised his eyebrows to me. You can drive a truck, can’t you?”

Surprised at his offer, I paused.

Chuck went on, “It’s all power: steering, brakes, windows, seat. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

I thought, What’s different about a truck except it’s big? I said, “Yes. I can drive a truck.”

Frances' friend Chuck

My friend Chuck

Chuck grinned. “Good! Wait just a few minutes. It’s really low on gas. I’ll run and put some in.”

I nodded.Chuck turned, climbed into a dark green Chevy Tahoe and drove off.

No workers were on site yet.Entertaining myself, I walked down the side of the garage, looking around. At the end of the building, I was surprised to see an older man behind a kind of chain-link fence dotted with chamois cloth and spray bottles of various cleaners. He was using an electric hotplate plugged into a long cord that snaked into the garage. I doubt he’s one of the workers. I stopped. “Hello!”

He looked up and pointed at the skillet. “I’m making fried pizza for breakfast.”

I leaned closer to look. Sure enough, two and a half slices of pizza were sizzling in the pan.

Introducing himself he said, “I’m Chuck’s adopted uncle, Bruno.”

“Well, hello, Bruno!” I stop-ped to explain. “I’m not from here. I have met only a few of the Bush family. I know there are a lot more in town.”

Fry station seen through the fence

Fry station seen through the fence

Bruno turned over all the pizza slices and commented. “Like I said, I’m adopted –not really kin.” He pointed to the pizza. “I’m single. Single people eat different.”

I bobbed my head. “Yeah. I was single for seventeen years.”

I thought about those days when I also ate pizza for break-fast! I loved the cheesy food: hot or cold. I ate “different” then, too. But fried pizza is a new one!

Peering into the skillet I asked, “What do you fry it in?”

Bruno looked up from his breakfast. “Crisco!”

I smiled. There’s a brand I haven’t heard mentioned in a while!

We were quiet a moment and Bruno said, “I live in that little house back there on Chuck’s lot.

House? Looking back, I saw a yard full of various size Cruise America RV’s which Chuck also managed. I walked a few paces and craned my neck. “Oh! I see it!” A small old-fashioned white Cracker house stood behind one large RV.

Bruno went on, “I don’t live in the house alone. Chuck lets another relative stay in the front half of it.”

Wow! Chuck is generous with his relatives—even adopted ones!

About then, my friend strode toward us, holding up his Tahoe key and smiling. “It has gas!”

I turned to “Uncle Bruno” who was still heating his unusual breakfast. “Enjoy your pizza!”

I walked with my friend to his truck. He opened the door, bent and moved the seat forward a bit. “Is the seat OK?”

I slid under the wheel. I reached my right foot for the accelerator and brake. “Fine!” I checked the mirrors. Good enough.

Chuck said, “I’ll give a call when it’s done. It’ll be noon … maybe later.”

Driving back home across a shade-dappled avenue, I reflected on my friend’s generosity. Chuck is good to his relatives, and friends. I am blessed to be included in his clan of the heart.

Frances Fritzie

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