Master workers

It was a warm, shining day. I drove down Main Street, turned left on School Street, and pulled into a rocky, bumpy parking lot. The building adjoining it looked like an old barn. It had been painted red long ago, and the paint was flaking off everywhere. Above a dirty window were the faded brown words, ''Master Sharpeners and Small Engine Repair.'' Next to the window were two large wooden doors, propped open with sticks.

I walked in and found myself in a huge, shadowy workroom. At the far end was a long wooden table. Two men were bent over the table, tinkering with a gray lawn mower and talking quietly.

I scraped my foot along the floor, hoping that would get their attention. It did. They both turned around slowly. They didn't say anything for a moment. They just looked at me. One bare lightbulb over their heads sent a dim golden light over them.

''You fellas fix lawn mowers?'' I asked.

The shorter man walked toward me. A smile slowly grew on his face. ''We like to think we do,'' he said. He was wearing green workpants and a soiled pink shirt. He held a wrench in one hand and kept tapping it into the palm of the other hand. His smile was growing wider and softer.

''Let's see what you brought us,'' he said.

We unloaded my mower from the back of the car. I pushed it into the shop, and the two men bent over it with great interest. They poked at it here and there. Several times they looked at one another and nodded or muttered something. At one point they both knelt on the oily cement floor and stared closely at the carburetor. They stayed that way for a good 30 seconds, staring and poking and murmuring. The dim lightbulb overhead was moving slightly in a breeze coming in through the open door.

The taller one stood up. His baggy blue T-shirt said ''Mystic Road Race 1980 .''

''Yep,'' he said.

I didn't know what ''Yep'' meant.

''Yep,'' he said again. He was wiping his hands on a cloth.

''Think you can fix it?'' I asked. ''Yep. Fine engine. 'Minds me of my daddy's old Briggs and Stratton. Thing must've cut a thousand lawns in its day.''

The shorter man wrote me out a ticket. ''Be ready on Wednesday,'' he said. He was slapping the wrench into his hand. The soft smile was still there.

They both walked with me out to the car. The sunlight was very bright after the dimness of the shop.

''Thanks a lot,'' I said.

''Yep,'' they both said.

I drove up the street to the grocery store to buy some milk. On the way back, I passed the shop again. My old green mower was out on the sidewalk. The two men were sprawled out on their stomachs, examining the engine. The sunlight made the taller man's blue shirt seem very bright. I noticed, just briefly, the dim lightbulb flickering in the light breeze far back in the darkness of the workroom.

I remember smiling a lot as I drove home. It was wonderful to think of how fortunate that ancient mower was. I pictured it shining and purring across my lawn come Wednesday.

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