"Ford on Fire" by Troy H. Cheek on Dec 08, 2008
Yawn. Long, boring drive. Just like every morning. No change. No excitement. Just another day on the road. That same old road. Same old bypass. Same old shopping center. Same old parking lot. Same old sports car engulfed in flames.
I was just pulling in at Bubba's "Family" Style Restaurant and Drive-thru "Taxidermy" Service for my regular morning sausage sandwich and diet drink when I heard the squealing tires. A red and black Ford Mustang of indeterminate vintage cut in front of me. Stupid kids in their stupid muscle cars. What makes him think he deserves that parking space more than me? I ought to just climb right out of this truck and climb right up in his butt. I should give him a piece of my mind!
Yeah! That's right! You'd better run away from me! Yeah! You'd better scream like a little girl. You'd better bang on the door of that restaurant? You'd better scramble inside like the hordes of hell are following you? You'd better come back outside carrying a... fire extinguisher?
Glancing back behind me, I did notice that his car was smoking a bit. I thought he was just running his fuel mixture a bit rich. I watched as he returned to his car, popped the hood latch, and sprayed the extinguisher in the resulting crack. I hung back because I wasn't sure what kind of extinguisher the young man had snatched. If that was a gasoline fire under the hood, spraying water on it might just spread it around. Water sometimes just lets electrical fires spark to new fuel.
Fortunately, he'd snagged a chemical fire extinguisher designed for pretty much any household fire. The flames that had been licking out from under the hood were quickly, well, extinguished. There was still plenty of smoke pouring out, however. The smart thing to do would be to stand back and wait for the fire department to show up.
My young genius instead decided to open up the hood.
If he'd asked me, I would have told him that opening the hood was a bad idea. In addition to adding fresh air and perhaps even fuel to the fire, the fact that his custom paint job was bubbling up in the middle of the hood was an indication that the metal was probably uncomfortably warm. He confirmed that theory just a few seconds later.
Wrapping a shirt around his good hand, he was able to get to the latch and open up the hood. I sprayed down all the parts of the engine that were still red and smoking. The fire had apparently started on top of the engine near the rear. At least, that was where most of the red and smoking things were. While my young genius had decided that a fuel line had come loose, I was of the opinion that the fire was started by an electrical fault. The wires that were still sparking kind of gave me that impression.
"You might want to disconnect the battery," I told him.
"Nah, the fire's out," he said, ignoring the sparks coming from the firewall. "Besides, the electrical system is top notch. I just finished putting in the Electrofux 4000 ignition system this morning."
"This Electrofux 4000 ignition system, does it mount at the rear of the engine near the firewall?" I asked as I pointed to the sparks.
"Yeah, but that had nothing to do with the fire. It was probably a fuel line, like I said. Those armored metal weave fuel lines are real easy to rub holes in." Poor guy was so upset about the fire that he started flagging down cars and asking to bum cigarettes. His were in the pocket of the shirt he'd used to beat out some of the flames.
I ignored him and wandered over to speak with the state trooper who had just pulled up. I explained what I had seen, that I'd already called for a fire truck, and that I couldn't get him to quit messing with the car. I should mention that I had made it a point to stay several feet away from the engine compartment at all times. He was leaning over the engine and trying to reconnect burnt wires.
The trooper called him over and threatened to lock him in the back of the patrol car if he didn't stay away from his car until the fire department came. My young genius explained that he just had to work on the car now. He had to have everything fixed and the car running before the fire department arrived, he said, because otherwise they'd hose everything down and ruin his engine.
"Everything I own is in that car," he sobbed. I thought he meant he was living out of the car, but I eventually gathered that pretty much every cent he'd ever earned in his adult life had gone into restoring that car to mint condition and customizing it into a unique ride. Yes, I know those two goals are mutually exclusive, but that's what he kept saying.
He also kept begging the trooper to call and cancel the fire department. He also begged the city police officer when he stopped by to see what the problem was. That was about the time I noticed that the smoke was getting thicker again. Curiously enough, it wasn't getting thicker near the engine compartment, though a bit of smoke was blowing around there. It was getting thicker coming out of the windows in the passenger compartment. I got just close enough to see that the carpet on the transmission hump was ablaze, along with a lot of smoke and a few flames coming out of the air vents in the dash.
"Don't cancel the fire department," I advised the trooper. "And you might want to help me hold this guy. I just noticed that the fire has moved inside the vehicle."
The guy managed to break loose and spray the carpet before we could get him under control. By then, the fire department had showed up, so I had to move my truck out of the way. As long as I was moving, I pulled up to the window and ordered my breakfast. Service was actually pretty fast, especially considering that more employees than I'd ever seen working at any restaurant before were standing around watching the guy begging the firemen not to put out his car.
I gave a jaunty little wave as I pulled out of the parking lot. The trooper was the only one who waved back. I had to spend all day at work smelling like burning rubber, but it was worth it.