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It Should Have Been a Great Day
by Don Drewniak

I worked fifty-eight hours a week at H. Schwartz and Sons Lumber and Hardware in Fall River, Massachusetts for four consecutive summers beginning with the end of my sophomore year in high school. The only breaks were Sundays, the Fourth of July and Wednesday afternoons when the business closed at noon.

Following lunch at home on those precious afternoons, I drove rain or shine five miles to a small beach in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The third Wednesday in July following my graduating from high school proved to be a disaster.

After taking a swim, I discovered that I had parked my 1951 Mercury in loose sand on the beach and was unable to back out. Rather than ask for help to give me a push by the few beach goers who were there, I foolishly decided to floor the car in first gear and make a U-turn to get off the beach. Bam! Thud!I snapped the driveshaft.

Car repair was easy back then. I hitchhiked home, borrowed my father's Ford (he had used the company truck to go to work), made my way to a junkyard and paid fifty cents for a used driveshaft. It was back to the beach. The new driveshaft was in place fifteen minutes later.

Meanwhile, a small crowd of people gathered around to watch the show. Six or seven of them pushed the Merc while I accelerated just enough to get the tires moving. I was on hard-packed sand moments later.

Following a round of thank you’s, I parked the Merc in a nearby parking lot. After returning the Ford, I hitchhiked to retrieve my beloved Mercury.

I had a drive-in theater date planned for the evening with a girl I met a month or so earlier at an A&W in Fall River. It was closing in on seven when I hopped into my car and attempted to start it. Nothing. Dead battery. My father had taken his Ford to go fishing. The truck was off limits.

So much for the date.

Sleep was difficult to come by that night as I keep dwelling on the disaster that was my afternoon and evening. In addition, there was the specter of the next three work days. Thursday, 7:30AM-5:30PM with one hour for lunch. Friday, 7:30AM-9:00PM. Thirteen and a half hours with one hour for lunch and one for supper. Saturday's schedule was the same as that of Thursday.