“The service was beautiful, Tom,” Stacey said with a hug. “She would have loved it.”
“Tom, I’m so sorry,” Will whispered.
“You know, she always loved to dance to that song,” Paul laughed. “What was it called?”
“The Makings of You,” Tom said. “By Curtis Mayfield.”
Paul chuckled, “Yeah… She was a diamond, Tom. You let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks Paul, I’ll let you know.”
The mass amounts of people unnerved Tom. It didn’t matter why they were all gathered here at St. Benjamin’s, Tom just didn’t like crowds. He enjoyed his friends, that was true, but he mostly enjoyed the times when he could tinker. To Tom, there was nothing better than taking something broken, and fixing it.
It was, perhaps, the reason he was so in love with her. She fixed things, too. However, her endeavors were far greater than Tom’s little mechanical projects. She fixed him. And Goddamn was he broken. See, Tom brought the fight back home with him. The shell shock, or PTSD, or whatever name they gave it now, it didn’t matter. Tom just wasn’t ready for what he saw over there. He was only a mechanic, specializing in aircrafts and heavy artillery.
“Nowhere close to the front lines,” his commanding officer had said.
War knows no lines, and when the ambush came, Tom reacted.
The doctors healed all of the physical wounds on Tom’s body, but the scars in his mind needed a different procedure. He never thought he would be healed, he had become a broken record, bound to relive the same horrible day, over and over again. That was before he met Clara.
Tom’s life after the war had become routine, comfortable. He worked as a mechanic, fixing Fords, Oldsmobiles, and Chevys. Tom did not mind, it was better than working on B-52’s. Tom loved to tinker with other machines, he would go to the local scrap yard, grab what he could, and fix it up. It did not matter what he fixed, Tom never cared to sell it or show it off, he just needed something to do. Fixing refrigerators, lamps, and lawnmowers was an activity for Tom. It kept his brain occupied and focused. Kept his mind away from the memories of the battlefield. Whenever Tom finished, he would usually give the newly fixed appliances away to folks that needed them. He never took credit for anything. “Just doing my part,” he would say to the lucky benefactors, “no need to thank me.”
It was after ten years back, when Tom went into the local malt shop to install his latest fixer-upper, that his life would change again. It was a 1940 Wurlitzer Jukebox 700, the poor thing must have fallen off a truck, for the feeder had been snapped, and most of the records were broken. Tom had built his own mechanism to feed the new records, many of which Tom bought and installed himself. He had the perfect mix, he put in Elvis, The Beatles, and some of the new R&B that was becoming increasingly popular throughout the states. Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Tom’s personal favorite, Curtis Mayfield.
“She looks brand new,” commented Jerry, the owner of Jerry’s Malts, as he rubbed the glass “WURLITZER” sign, “how long this take you?”
“About a year and a half,” Tom responded matter-of-factly. “Had to find the right head cover, that was the hardest part.”
“You sure you don’t want any money for this?” asked Jerry.
“Nope, not a dime.”
“Well, Tom, just know that your money is no good here. I owe you big time,” Jerry said as he put a hand on Tom’s shoulder.”
As Tom turned to go, he heard a voice, “What the heck is this old thing?”
A woman not three years younger than Tom, with flaxen hair curled around your shoulders, was staring at the machine. “W-earl-izz-urrrr?” she cocked her hear.
“It’s a Wurlitzer record jukebox,” Tom said as he approached her. “Look, you can play anything from Elvis to-”
“I know what a jukebox is!” she interrupted, bobbing her curls. “Just never seen that name before. ‘s it any good?”
“Well,” Tom hesitated. He never liked to brag, so he let the machine to the talking. “Every heard of Curtis Mayfield?”
“The Gentle Genius of Georgia!” she shouted as she pressed her nose to the newly cleaned glass. “Who hasn’t?”
Tom looked at her and smiled for what seemed to be the first time, “I’ll get it started then.”
“Dance with me,” Clara asked as the record began to spin.
“I, uh, don’t really dance,” Tom said, looking down.
“Well I do, so let’s go,” Clara grabbed Tom’s hands and they danced to Curtis Mayfield’s The Makings of You.
Again, Tom was smiling.
As the music hummed in the background, Tom and Clara sat and talked in between slurps of chocolate malts and bites of hamburgers, on the house of course. It was their fifth date. Clara did most of the talking, which was fine by Tom, who never liked to talk much.
“Your turn,” she said, abruptly.
“Wh-What?” Tom pulled himself out of the trance he was in. “My turn for what?”
“To tell me about yourself,” Clara waved her hand in front of Tom’s face. “You awake Tommy boy?”
“Yeah, just enjoy listening is all,” Tom said with a smile. He enjoyed this ambush. “Okay, well what do you want to know?”
After the funeral service, Tom pulled into his driveway, opened the garage and sat. He killed the car, walked into the garage and closed the door. The car could wait outside, he needed the workspace in here, inside his sanctuary. Tom started his project like he did all the others, by meticulously laying out every screw, bolt, tool and part he would need to complete the task. He had all he needed in the basement, Tom knew that. This project was one he was planning to do for quite some time, but never this early. Tom continued to work through the night, ignoring the telephone and its insatiable ring. The beads of sweat rolled down Tom’s nose as he leaned over the machine, finishing the final touches. He gently connected the diamond needle to the newly crafted arm, laid the record on the pad, pushed the arm down, stepped back and waited.
The record spun, and the song repeated, never moving onto the next track. However, the record wasn’t broken, it was just how Tom built it.
He wiped tears away for the first time since losing her, and as the sound of Curtis Mayfield’s The Makings of You echoed throughout the garage, all at once he was dancing with her one last time, over and over again.