Jerry’s garage was the kind of place where all the young kids wanted to work. Sure, you didn’t get paid but you learned a lot about classic cars.
Jess started working at Jerry’s when she was just 15. After finishing grade 9, she took the job to secure a place to stay in the city while she attended high school. The garage had a small room in the back. It wasn’t much but it was free. And the boss tossed her a bit of money on the side for cleaning up the shop after everyone else left. Win-win for both sides.
No one else in her family had finished high school and Jess was determined to be the first.
Growing up on a northern reservation for the last four years had caused Jess to be somewhat introverted – she lacked the social graces that those who grew up in the city had. People thought she was “weird.”
Everyone at the garage was “weird” if you thought about it. They all had issues that they were dealing with in their lives. In a way, their problems were the norm – they were all “normal dysfunctional” in that way.
“Hey Jess, hand me that 7/16 wrench will you?” Dallas called out.
The wrench landed in his outstretched hand.
“Thanks! You coming over to hang out tonight after work?” he inquired, trying to engage Jess in a conversation.
“Yeah.” A woman of few words, that’s what he liked about her.
“Awesome…see you around 8.”
The boys were already set up in front of the television with their Nintendo. Characters on the screen were bobbing along to the music.
“Mindless drivel…” Jess muttered. She never could understand the draw to video games. She had spent the last couple of years on what seemed to be a never ending camping trip. She lived in a beat up mobile home with no power, no energy, and no running water (unless you counted the river flowing through their backyard). She didn’t have time for frilly things when chores were waiting. There was always something to do – the garden needed tending, the animals needed feeding. The best adventure she could hope for was a hike through a new part of the woods.
Jess wandered through the house into the back yard. She sat down on the damp grass and stared into space.
Dallas saw her come in. He had been anticipating her arrival for the last hour. He watched as she walked by and continued outside. Picking up a can of iced tea, he followed her.
He could not identify what it was about her that drew him in. She wasn’t overly pretty and she didn’t gussy herself up like other girls did. She didn’t really talk much, especially about her past. But she was smart – she learned quickly at the garage and she was on the honor roll at school. Maybe he liked the mystery.
He sat down beside her, startling her a bit. Nudging her gently with his arm, he stated, “I brought you a drink.”
“How come you’re sitting out here? Everyone else is inside.”
“It’s peaceful,” was all she replied.
He couldn’t argue with that. The night was beautiful. The northern lights danced and glowed in the sky.
“You ever think of where you’ll be in 5 or 10 years?” The question surprised Dallas.
“No, not really, why?”
“I want my life to be different.”
He waited for her response and when he was sure she wouldn’t continue, he prompted, “Different? How so?”
“I don’t want to live the way my mom and her husband live. I want to finish school, go to university and get a good job. Is that silly?”
Dallas paused, looking at Jess. “No, that’s not silly. Isn’t that what everyone wants?” Being from a middle income family, these were things that were expected in his family. “You know, my mom could probably give you some advice in that area.”
“Really? Oh that would be great!” Jess’ eyes lit up.
He was glad he’d thought to suggest it. Not only would it make Jess happy, he would benefit too. They would get to know each other better and maybe he could get up the courage to ask her out…maybe.
Jess reminisced about her past often. If things hadn’t fallen into place the way they had since that talk with Dallas, she never would have gotten her life in line.
“Jess, Edna wants to know what time to pick you up for the stake holder meeting tonight.” David, Jess’ husband, interrupted her train of thought.
Right, the stake holder’s meeting. Over the last seven years, her mechanics programs had been increasingly successful. “I’ll be ready at 7,” Jess replied to her husband.
Jerry had passed away a few years after Jess unofficially joined his “family.” In high school, she took on a larger role in the business which continued right through university. Jerry valued her work and her assistance. He had no way to pay her money-wise for her support so he left her the garage in his will. She took over as owner when Jerry passed on.
In the meantime, Jess had attained her goal of graduating high school and was successfully enrolled in university thanks to the help of Dallas’ mom, Edna, who turned out to be the exact role model that Jess had needed.
Upon graduating university with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Jess turned her efforts to helping other underprivileged youth succeed in life. She started up a chain of “Jerry’s garages” which not only specialized in fixing up classic cars, but matched up the youth who worked there with a mentor to help them where their parents had not, or could not.
The success rates were astounding. It was really amazing the difference that one person could make in another person’s life. Jess was now the role model and she was proud to carry on the tradition.