Casey Goes Through
by Ellis Parker Butler
The reason my redheaded garage friend, Casey, did not marry Amalia Almayer right off the bat (as he would have said) had to do with war and a rear tire on the left side of the "good" car. Maybe it will be all right now -- I don't know.
"Thim females, since they got th' vote in New York," Casey told me, "are that unreasonable there's no treatin' thim like human beans. They think they've got imperyul majestic rights. I'll leave it to you -- all I done was to --"
But you had better know the whole case. You've got to consider who Casey is, too, before you slam him with your snap judgment. Here in Westcote we have a saying: "He has the nerve of a Casey," and it is right and proper that anyone expecting to have dealings with Casey should recognize that he has nerve, and allow for it. Anyone having to do with Casey ought to have sense enough to know that Casey thinks he has a right to whatever he wants. Casey joyously believes that if he needs a longer day the sun should put its hands in its pockets and lean up against a lamppost until Casey was ready to say "All right; ye can move on now!"
With five little taxicabs scooting in and out of his garage at twenty-five cents a trip you would have thought Casey would have managed to keep the gear grease off his face and out of his red hair more, but it worked the other way. I have gone into Casey's garage at five o'clock in the morning and I honestly believe the first thing Casey does when he goes to the garage is to wash his hands and face in discarded gear grease, and shampoo his red hair with it. The trouble with Casey is that he is one of these carmaniacs. Maybe you'll know the word better if I split it -- car-maniac. Beginning at the bottom of the list, the least important thing in the world to Casey is sleep, then food, then a clean face, and so on up the list until you come to Love and Amalia Almayer, and atop of that, at the very head of the list, is The Car. I don't mean any particular car -- just any car that Casey may have in hand at the moment. He is such a crazy case of car-mania that if the church was decorated and the officiating clergy waiting, and the bridesmaids and best-man lined up, and Amalia Almayer standing with her trembling hand on old Almayer's arm, and the first notes of the wedding march had begun to ooze from the organ, and Casey was standing at the altar rail, and Casey got word that one of his taxicabs was stalled in the garage, he would hang up the whole wedding while he rushed down and ripped the car to pieces, rebuilt it from the frame up and got it going again as well as the battered tin thing ever would go. To Casey a car is more interesting and more important than any wedding, even his own.
The only thing that Casey considers more important than his cars is the war. When you go into Casey's garage and say "War work" he will drop anything. I believe, if he thought it would help win the war, he would keep his face clean until peace is declared. He is right about it, of course. I'm just mentioning it.
I spoke of the "good" car Casey owns. That's what Casey calls it, but I don't see why unless it carries bigger tires than his taxicabs or because it was a good car once. It is a big car -- seven passenger -- and it is the pride of Casey's heart. There are some people in Westcote who like to hire a big car and Casey bought the "good" car to meet that demand. He bought it at what is, by courtesy, called second hand. In the case of this car "second hand" meant that nearly every man in Greater New York, except Casey, had already owned the car. It began its career as an eight thousand dollar car, or something like that, and Casey got it for one hundred and six dollars. He told me the tires were worth more than that, so you see the car must have had a hard life. When Casey got it it had rheumatism, arteriosclerosis, pip, leaky heart, tuberculosis, flat feet and general senile decay, combined with everything else a car can have. Anyone knowing Casey and that car could have predicted immediately that Casey's wedding would be postponed. The minute he crawled under the car Amalia put her wedding garments in the bottom drawer of her dresser and prepared to wait. Until that car was patched up so it would run like a noiseless deer there would be, she knew, not even a tinkle of a wedding bell.
"She's so grouchy she smiles only twenty-four hours a day," Casey told me, "an' the way she rages is tur'ble!"
What she really said was: "Casey, is the car almost mended?" following that exhibition of rage with a kiss. You see, she knew Casey.
"Darlin'," Casey told her, "you'll not mind. A bit of a wait will on'y make us so much the more eagerer for each other. I've got to get the good car fixed up, for there's no tellin' whin th' Government will be askin' me t' do my bit iv war work, and I'll not trust th' destiny iv th' nation into wan iv thim taxicabs. Befoor long --"
"Have you got the valves ground yet, Casey?" she asked him.
"Valves? Ground? Do you think I'd touch thim valves until I git th' gears to workin' right?"
"I didn't know," she said. "Are the gears almost fixed?"
"Gears? Fixed? I'd be a fine felly startin' t' fix th' gears befoor I git th' new leaves in th' springs, and I can't touch thim until I straighten out th' bent axle, which I will be at as soon as I get th' new radiator built. But that I cannot tackle until I've put th' new spokes in the front wheels, d' ye see?"
"And you'd not be expectin' me t' monkey with a little thing like spokes, Amalia, until I build th' new ignition system I have in mind."
"Is that giving you much trouble, Mike?" she asked.
"I don't know is it or ain't it," he answered. "I ain't come to that yet, but it looks like 'twould be a long, hard job."
"Mike," she asked a bit wistfully, "do you love that car more than you love me?"
"I do not!" he said promptly and energetically. "I do not, but 'tis a dang sight sicker than you'll ever be, Molly!"
But he cured it. He cured it and painted it six coats and it was a good car when he got it finished. Of course it took time. His work was interrupted frequently, for the taxicabs were showing the results of hard service. They were always coming in with a mudguard trailing behind like a tail, or with the driver carrying a door in his lap, or trailing behind a less unfortunate brother with the gas tank on an inside seat. Casey had the time of his greasy life. He swore vividly every time one of his taxicabs came in looking like a hard drinker after a high old time, but the cuss words were mere camouflage to hide his car-maniac joy.
You don't care anything about all this, however. You want to hear about the affair that really offended Amalia Almayer.
About seven o'clock one Sunday morning Casey was in his garage giving young Breck Smith merry Hail Columbia because he had run one of the taxicabs into a telephone pole that was so impolite as to refuse to step aside when it saw the car coming, when the telephone bell rang.
"Yis, mum, this is Casey," Casey answered. "Camp Upton? Befoor noon? Yis, mum, if I take me good car. Yis, mum, I'll be right around; I'll drive ye mesilf."
He turned to Smith.
"Breck," he said, "put its fill iv gas in th' good car and see that she's got plenty iv ile in her. I'll be takin' Mrs. O. P. Cushing out t' Yaphank, t' Camp Upton, t' th' soldiers there."
"Ain't you goin' to eat that swell Sunday dinner up to Almayer's that you was braggin' about?" asked Breck.
"Don't be crazy," said Casey. "You've got a dirty, seditious mind on ye if ye think I'd let a feed stand in me way whin I'm called to war work by a lady like Mrs. O. P. Cushing, who is the Chairwoman-lady iv th' Westcote Feed - th' - Lads - That - Fight - for - You Association, or what's the name iv it. A nice sketch th' Prisident iv th' United States would think Mike Casey was if His Excillincy heard that Casey had rayfused t' drive Mrs. O. P. Cushing on war business in order that th' said redheaded mick might insult th' Food Conservation corps by gorgin" himsilf on turkey at th' home iv a Teutonic by th' name iv Almayer."
"This here left rear tire --" said Breck, giving it a kick.
"Never you mind about th' tire!" said Casey, still angry. "I'll 'tend to th' tires when I'm a mind to! A nice gink I'd look like to th' United States Governmint, filled full iv Almayer turkey until I had t' lay on me belly on th' floor t' keep from bustin' me belt, and mince pie, and mashed potatys and turnips on top of that -- Ach!" he cried as the thought of the dinner bore down on him; "if ye say another word I'll murder th' life out of ye!"
He got into the "good" car and ran it as far as the door of the garage. "Call up Westcote 1288, Breck," he shouted as a last instruction, "and tell Molly I'll not be to dinner."
This brief order was not given because he was afraid of Molly, but because until that minute he had not thought of letting Molly know. That was a specimen of the redhead's nerve. He would cut away from a dinner in that way and take it for granted that Amalia ought to think it was all right and proper. So he ran the "good" car into the street and went with a scream of his siren to pick up Mrs. O. P. Cushing.
Half an hour after that, therefore, Amalia telephoned Mrs. Henry Doremus -- the one that lives in Penn Lane - because she had just telephoned old Almayer at the electric light works that his Sunday dinner had been postponed until the next day.
"Now, please don't swear over the telephone, father," was what she had told her father after informing him of the change in her dinner plans. "It is no use, because I've heard you say all the same words before." What she telephoned to Mrs. Doremus was: "Is that you, Mrs. Doremus? Well, I will go to Yaphank with you today, if you still want me to. Oh, do you? That's nice; I'll be ready in five minutes."
Four miles out of Westcote Casey stopped the "good" car and got the spark working again, and what he remarked about electricity in general and about magnetos in particular made Mrs. O. P. Cushing cover one ear with her muff and the other with her gloved hand, as if her ears were cold. His remarks began with Benjamin Franklin, who is supposed to be the man who invented lightning and bottled it, and included every man who ever had anything to do with electricity from that day to this, and if what Mike Casey wished them comes to pass there will be no electricians or electrical scientists in heaven. Not one! You may have thought the same things; Casey said them.
Even that did not seem to produce a fat, juicy spark.
"Th' car ain't as snappy as usyul," said Casey to Mrs. O. P. Cushing. "She's as logy as a logyrythm this mornin'. Usyully she skims th' road like a deer, th' danged ould pile o' junk!"
"Just so I get this turkey to Camp Upton by noon," said Mrs. O. P. Cushing. "I cooked it with my own hands for the boys who will soon be in the trenches. It is little enough --"
"Some turkeys run small for their size," agreed Casey.
"I mean it is little enough to do for our boys in khaki," said Mrs. O. P. Cushing. "So, if you just get me to Upton by noon --"
"Whin it is war woork," said Casey, "Mike Casey gets there on time if he has t' steal a cat an" rub its back t' get a spark. Have no fear!"
Ten miles this side of Yaphank, where Camp Upton is, the left rear tire (which had done something like 100,000 miles and was entitled to decent burial) blew out with a noise like a six-inch gun. Mike got down and looked at it. He did not swear a word. It was one of the best and most thorough cases of blow out on record. It would have taken years and years to mend that shoe. It was in about the condition a rubber toy balloon would be in if you ran it through a hay cutter and whacked the pieces with an ice chipper as they came out. Casey pulled the cushion off his front seat, raised the lid of his toolbox that was under it, and began taking out tools.
"What are you going to do now?" asked Mrs. O. P. Cushing.
"I'm goin' to put on a new tire," said Casey.
Then he took off the old tire and backed the car across the road. He looked through his tools and chose a wrench, because that was the heaviest tool in the chest and the one that fitted his hand best. He fitted it to his hand and looked down the road toward Yaphank and back along the road toward civilization. The first car that came was going to lend Casey a tire; the driver of the car that might come did not know it, but Casey knew it.
His blue eyes brightened, and brightened like the sky after a rain, because he saw a car coming. It was coming from civilization, and it was coming rapidly toward one spot of barbaric America, as big around an a dishpan, where a lawless, nervy savage stood in Casey's shoes. Casey raised his hand high and ran toward the car. The car, quite naturally, stopped. It could not go by.
"Why, hello, Mike!" said Amalia Almayer from her seat at the wheel of the car.
"Hello, angel-dove!" said Casey grimly. "I want t' borry a tire."
Mrs. Doremus looked her distress.
"I'm so sorry! I haven't an extra tire on the car today, Mr. Casey, know it is bad not to carry one, but with four brand new shoes --"
Casey did not hear this. He was back beside his own car, gathering up his tire tools, and then back beside Mrs. Doremus' left rear wheel, jacking it up.
"Stop that!" cried Mrs. Doremus. "Amalia, do you see what he is doing? He is taking off my tire. Amalia, make him stop it!"
"Nobody can ever make his stop anything be wants to do," said Amalia. "Joggle the car. Stand up with me and make it bounce; maybe we can make it slide off the jack; that is the only way we can stop him."
Casey arose and wiped a fresh streak of grease across his face. "Amalia," he said, "if ye joggle th' car I'll brain ye with th' wrench. I'm on war duty and I have need iv the tire."
"Stop joggling, please, Mrs. Doremus," said Amalia. "I know him. He thinks he has a right to the tire. It is of no use whatever to try to change his mind. Michael Casey --"
"Yes, darlint?" said Mike, going to work on the tire with might and main.
"This is highway robbery and you will be put in prison for the rest of your life, no doubt, when Mrs. Doremus gets back to town, but you don't care for that --"
"Not a smather!" said Mike, jerking at the tire.
"But whether you go to prison or not," said Amalia, "I will never, never, never speak to you again as long as I live! I will never heed you, or listen to you, or read a letter you may write to me, or have anything to do with you again. I am through with you. A man who will hold up two defenseless women on the road and steal from them is a wretched, wretched savage and not fit to be any woman's husband."
"I need th' tire, ye see, honey girl," said Mike, kicking the handle of his jack so that the left rear wheel came down into the sand of the road again.
"You may need the tire, and you may get it, but you will never get me after this!" said Amalia. "Mike!"
Casey was gathering up his tools.
"I'll just take th' casing," he said. "It will save me a bit iv time, mayhap. What was ye sayin', swateheart?"
"I say --" said Amalia angrily.
"I've no time to hear ye now, dearest," said Mike. "I'll be back befoor no time at all, if ye wait here for me. If not, I'll be up to th' house after th' garage closes this evenin', unless th' good car needs me work on it."
He went back to his own car on a dogtrot and began putting on the perfectly good shoe he had taken because he needed it. Amalia and Mrs. Doremus sat in anger so deep they were actually speechless. It would not have done them any good to speak.
"He might at least have said he was sorry!" said Amalia tearfully, when Casey's car vanished in the dust toward Camp Upton. Mrs. Doremus stared straight ahead. She was afraid to trust herself to put her thoughts into words, and Casey and his "good" car disappeared carrying one roast turkey to Camp Upton while Mrs. Doremus and Amalia sat in their car with twelve equally good and equally well roasted turkeys intended for the same destination!"
"And to think," said Mrs. Doremus, with extreme anger, "that you would marry a man with nerve like that!"
"I am not going to marry him!" declared Amalia. "Never! Never!! Never!!! Mike Casey shall never marry me!"
"Humph!" said Mrs. Doremus. "That's all well enough to say. I'd like to know how you are going to prevent it, if he wants to!"
But they are not married yet. Casey is busy putting an entire new ignition system into the "good" car. He thinks, however, he has straightened out everything with Amalia. He wrote her a postcard. It said:
"Will be up to see you about marrying, etc., as soon as I get good car fixed up O. K. I enclose a kiss and hope you are not getting impatient."
Imagine "enclosing" a kiss in a postcard! Imagine hoping she was not getting impatient! Well, that is Casey all through.