No Other Reason

Haswell, CO

Haswell, Colorado on the afternoon of my first day

I’d been having nightly dreams I couldn’t recall but somehow woke up happy. It was the strangest thing considering how overwhelmed I often felt when “dealing” with my life. And then I had one where she told me just to let it all unfold… – JHF

OH NO, NOT THAT! I thought about it half a second, turned right on US 160 in Fort Garland, Colorado and pulled off onto the shoulder. Stunned and shaking, ready to die, I glanced behind me at the empty seat. Eighty miles from Taos and I’d forgotten the bouzouki. A whole week spent getting ready for the trip. My brilliant plan to play it at the gravesite 1,000 miles away in Iowa. The car had been ready for days. Best packing job I ever did. I’d even gotten out the case and set it right behind the instrument, bragged to my pro musician friends, and told the whole damn world.

Kathy used to sit and listen to me improvise. More and more as days dissolved and there was less that she could do. She always smiled and paid attention. (Real musicians rule.) After she died it took a long time to make arrangements for the stone. A year later I buried her ashes next to her parents in Keota, Iowa on a cold wet day in April, vowing to come back every year to visit. This past April (‘23) I simply couldn’t face it. Summer came and mostly went. I was worried about expenses and the car and whether I could still do 600 miles a day all by myself. The worst thing would have been to wait until it got too cold but I was hoping for a sign, and then I thought about the music. Suddenly I was happy and excited. I restrung the bouzouki, arranged for sister Mary to come from Arizona to house-sit, got shiny new lug nuts for the Vibe, and made my reservations. With one insane exception, my best-planned trip was underway. There was plenty of food for four whole days. And now the old fool sat beside the road with blinkers on while traffic streamed by heading for La Veta Pass like we’d done together all the time for over 20 years…

I could have gone back for the bouzouki. But driving hours in the dark on back roads in Kansas at the end of a longer 760 mile first day or wrecking all my reservations, blowing up the trip? My sister was already ensconced in Llano Quemado. The weather was clearing. The engine ran like wolves on meth screaming up the grades at 5,000 rpm in 3rd. The goddamn tank was full. I felt I’d let us down the worst way possible, but even here there had to be a purpose. Grateful no one else could see inside my head, I eased back onto the pavement and lit out for the pass as real men do.

Just. Didn’t. Grab. It.

[continue reading…]

Man on the Water

Johnny at Tolchester

Tolchester Beach, Kent County, MD a long time ago on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay

You’re about to read three chapters of a “work-in-progress” called Man on the Water. As I may never finish (though I hope I do) I’m sharing what I have because I like them and they also stand alone. Enjoy.- JHF


MOTI SPLASHED IN THE SHALLOWS, holding on to the bow. The sand was rough and granular under his feet, the water warm and pungent with life. The wooden skiff was long, heavy, and flat-bottomed. As he pushed to and fro, a lazy inch of water sloshed gently inside over planking turned green with algae. At two years old, he knew this was a “boat” and nothing more. Rowing, maneuvering, gauging the current, sensing the inertia of a coasting vessel, none of these existed. But the air reeked of seaweed, crab shells, and brine. The flaking paint under his fingers felt hot to the touch in the white August sun. That the boat moved at all was a triumph, and Moti was a barefoot god.

Farther down the beach, the grownups were having a picnic of crabs with corn on the cob boiled over a driftwood fire. It was the sunshine of their days, the oldest of them barely forty. Had they measured up and gotten everything they wanted? For the afternoon at least, such thoughts faded in the numbing plenty. Stretching out before them, the bay was clear and clean. Mounds of seaweed lay rotting on the sand, evidence of a living deep where crabs and fishes by the millions flourished in vast green underwater nurseries. The sun was hot but comforting. There were sodas and beer, bread, butter, and fruit. The crabs were free, plucked from the sandy bottom with long dip nets from the rented rowboat. The corn, ripened in the humid summer, came from a roadside stand for almost nothing. Aside from them, the beach was empty. There was not a single piece of trash.

His father was coming, he could see that. To tie up the boat, of course, but Moti couldn’t know. Afterwards, the vessel secure, they walked back down the beach while his father held his hand. This is what I do when you are watching. The sun was lower now. It hurt Moti’s eyes to look out west across the bay. Back at the picnic fire, his mother had already scooped water from the shore and doused the flames. The embers hissed as everybody packed their things and brushed sand from their clothes.

On the long ride back to town, the evening air was heavy and warm, swarming with moths and fireflies. Through the open windows came waves of scented air: honeysuckle, cut grass, marsh, and cornfields. His trunks were damp, but they had put a towel down, and Moti fell asleep beside his mother in the back seat of his uncle’s Dodge.



THE CREEK RAN THROUGH THE WOODS beside base housing, not far from where the B-36 crews ran their engines all night long waiting for the order to take off for Russia with their A-bombs. It was neither wide nor deep, just right for five-year-olds to splash through barefoot while their mothers called them home for dinner.

The water was clear, the sandy bottom visible. He held a painted metal bucket from the seashore with a crayfish wriggling in the bottom. The animals held a furious attraction for him and were easy to catch in shallow pools around the bends. He knew he couldn’t keep them—”Where are you going to put them?”—but he was always too excited not to try. The shiny dark brown creatures were irresistible talismans from a place he wanted to be. There was nothing like this in the world of Jesus loves you, eat your goddamn peas, and home was like a jail.

“Motiii!” someone called, as if the boy would follow a so tentative a summons. The creek turned a sharp bend just a little farther where the banks rose above his head. The water looked deeper, wider. He had to wander on. As he came around the curving stream, a slab of mossy dirt gleaming in a patch of sunlight caught his eye. There was a tiny mushroom growing on it: he pulled it off and touched it to his upper lip. The end was soft and cool, like the finger of a ghost.


He heard it now and shivered. Mother would be angry. Daddy had a belt.

Ever so gently but wasting no more time, he tipped the bucket upside down and let the creature splash into the creek. It scooted a few feet away and stopped, then turned slowly upstream, antennae waving in the current. Moti thought it might have looked at him and told him that it bore no grudge. A distant screen door slammed: someone could be coming after him.

Pulling himself away with some difficulty, he scrambled up the bank and found the path. There was poison ivy here, and poison sumac. Emerging from the woods, he saw his father light a cigarette beside the wooden stairs that led to their apartment. The thirty-year-old pilot was still dressed in summer khakis with wet spots under the arms. He exhaled with a whispered breath, clacked his Zippo lighter shut, and slipped it into the right front pocket of his pants. Somewhere overhead, a single piston-engined airplane droned. He raised his eyes to look, squinting in the sun, and when he did, he spied young Moti coming quickly across the grass.

“Hurry up, c’mon, get in here, your supper’s getting cold!” he called out, then turned to go inside.

Moti hurried to the door behind him. The humid air was full of cooking smells that drifted out through open windows where other children had to sit until released to play tag and hide-and-seek before the evening darkness fell. The magic hour when he and all his friends were on their own, free to be the savages they were, all sweat and laughs among the fireflies, while fathers sat outside with drinks and mothers monitored the distant shrieks.

That summer had brought an invasion of Japanese beetles, too. As they were more numerous and easier to catch, the way to win with beetles was to see who could collect the most. The grownups encouraged this activity since it helped to save the roses that were planted everywhere, and useful children were highly prized. The boy excelled at plucking the sturdy insects from the leaves. They held on tightly with tiny legs that pricked his fingers when they grabbed, but Moti had no fear and found the creatures beautiful: an empty Coca-Cola bottle full of them was like a glass of jewels.

On this evening after supper, he completely filled one. Running back to show his parents, he slipped and fell down hard against the curb. The heavy bottle shattered, and a jagged piece of glass sliced deep into his wrist. Abandoning the now liberated prey, he ran crying into the living room where his parents were entertaining. The grownups gasped and put down their martinis. As Moti wailed and dripped blood on the carpet, his mother ran into the bathroom, came back with a wad of toilet paper, and had him hold it pressed against the wound until the bleeding stopped. When that was done, she wrapped it up with adhesive tape and gauze, kissed him on the forehead, and sent him off to early bed.

As he lay there in the almost-dark, his bandaged wrist still throbbing, Moti heard his playmates thinly through the open window. The hunt had moved on to the grassy field beyond, where there were fireflies and room to play a breathless game of tag. The squeals and shouting sounded like a flock of birds or yelping pups. Moti knew that he was missing out but held on to a dream of shiny dark brown crayfish in the pail, the mushroom and the moss, and what might lay around the bend where no one, least of all his parents or his playmates, had ever dared to go.

Drifting off to sleep, the boy thought only of the creek.

Folbot “Big Glider” kayak with sailing rig


THE THING DRIFTED SLOWLY INTO VIEW on the wide glassy surface of the river: a dead Canada goose floating half-submerged on its back as if it had just fallen from the sky. Frozen in rigor mortis, the tips of its partly folded wings acted like tiny sails, spinning it gently in the fitful breeze on its solitary way downstream. The air was mostly still and warm, humid in the late October pause before the autumn cold fronts tore the leaves from turning trees. The sky was swelling with darkening clouds. Soon the thunder would begin to rumble, driving him to shore. Reluctantly he turned around and began to paddle back upstream. Thinking of the goose once more, he twisted his head to look over his shoulder, but the apparition was already gone.

The large kayak shot ahead with every stroke. He loved the way the ripple of his wake spread wide and long behind him, as if he were the only one to ever paint a picture of his passing on the river. When he was out there on the water, especially this lonesome stretch with forest reaching to the bank, he felt a kinship with the Indians before the English came, paddling their dugouts home heaped high with oysters, fish, and other game. The presence of any other boatman broke the spell, so he was careful to schedule outings for weekday afternoons when he might have the river to himself. But now the landing was in sight. The scrunch of bow on sand was how it always ended, final and a little sad. How different from the promise of a launch, the moment when the stern slid free.

The tidal river opened up here, far too wide to recognize a person sailing up the channel, and Moti had the landing to himself. A bit of cornfield past the driveway, forest growing to the shore. On either side, a strip of marsh to frame the little patch of beach. He swung his legs over the side, found the sandy bottom, and stood to look around. His truck sat unmolested in the grass not fifty feet away. Moti backed the homemade trailer to the sand, hoisted the bow up onto the rear, and waded to the stern. With an unheard grunt, he lifted the kayak free of the river and shoved it forward into place. The effort loosed a rivulet of sweat that ran down over his glasses before he could reach up and wipe it away. A deer fly landed on his arm and died a second later. At least it isn’t raining yet, he thought, and realized how tired he was. He stood there for a moment, remembering the goose and how he’d tell the story. In the shallow water at his feet, a tiny crab shell shivered in the current and moved on.

Moti climbed into the cab of the old brown Ford and turned the key. The big straight six did not disappoint and dropped into a clattering fast idle. As he pulled out onto the unmarked county road, the trailer hit a bump and cargo shifted. Not enough to make him stop, but he would have to watch the rear-view mirror all the same, past stubble, pastures, woods, and fields where dry stalks rattled in the rising wind. Here and there a combine labored into evening, spewing golden kernels into open trucks to beat the storm, while nearby houses sat like square white pumpkins in a sea of grass.

Moti drove along the back roads, happy to be moving. He didn’t feel a different kind of wind inside his belly that pushed against his secret thoughts, spinning truck,, house, and everything he loved like feathers in the storm. His life was none of his own business but he played along pretending to decide.

By the time he pulled into the driveway, the maples in the yard were heaving in the gusts. Dry leaves blew across the gravel in fits and starts but only one direction. There were sheets of rain beyond the woods and cold air tickled on his bare tanned arms. Moti unhitched the trailer, lifted it by the tongue, and walked it back beside the garage. He’d almost lost the kayak in his laziness and needed to find the tie-down straps again before he grabbed his gear and walked up to the steps. The last thing he heard before the screen door slammed was honking from a flock of geese he couldn’t see, flying low and fast before the wind, haunting and nostalgic all at once, before they turned and gathered for the long trip home.

Adobe Hell Motel

Adobe Hell Motel post image

The things we do for love. All kinds of love, in fact.

THE CLOTHES, THE CLOTHES… It was a beautiful day with pure white clouds in a deep blue sky and I went out and did it. The lady I trusted at the consignment shop suggested the Big Brothers Big Sisters donation bins at Super Save, but I opted for the closer Del Norte Liquors location for more privacy that morning. Good thing, too. The first thing I saw when I pulled up were two non-matching torn-up men’s shoes lying in the dirt out front. Oh God. Don’t stop, I told myself, then tested my resolve with the largest bag because I knew I’d be committed then. The lever squeaked in the dry cool air. The door opened wide and the bag disappeared with a terrible thump. I let go the handle and the green bin shrieked. Maybe some poor girls will love their Pendletons.

I’m sorry, Kathy. It still feels like a sin. But the clothes just aren’t you and you told me so.

All of these were summer items. I’d already consigned the best of them but there were many more. For two and a half years they’d hung in the bathroom “closet” in the old adobe or rested in dresser drawers, the cedar chest, or dusty piles on the bedroom floor I couldn’t face and learned to walk around. In the process of gathering them up, I set aside a few iconic items for keepsakes or to give to friends someday. I’d already taken her winter things to the storage unit to hold for early fall when I could sell the camel hair coat and all her sweaters. She had so many.1 Jeans and skirts and blouses, too, that filled the bags I loaded in the back. There was nearly a full pickup load.

I cried a little when the first bag fell. Then one by one the clothes I’d seen her wear for years went thudding into the bins. (I’d carefully folded everything into paper grocery sacks, then put those into nice clean plastic garbage bags.) Each one went more easily than the last and I knew that it was right. The goods would go to Santa Fe and Albuquerque so I wouldn’t see anyone wearing her things. When I finished I felt shaken, also different, like I’d suddenly grown wings. If I could do this anything was possible. The universe had shifted.

There was still much more to do. When I got home I transferred my clothes from what I call the “Methodist” dresser2 with the peeling veneer from West Virginia into the gorgeous cherry one3 we picked up from her grandmother in Keota years ago. Gram also gave us artifacts from the garden shed and a collection of high-fashion vintage hats from Kathy’s great-aunt Emily. All this went home to Maryland with us in my green Volkswagen bus. I couldn’t tell you which year that was, but as I worked I remembered how good it felt to be driving home in a van full of love and loot, the headers thrumming up and down the hills on clean Midwestern interstates, how young and ferocious we were.

Early ‘80s maybe, Big Bend National Park.

The memory gave me hope. I wanted to start all over in the bedroom so I could breathe and knew that she’d approve. Moving fast, I gathered up her jewelry, the Japanese music box, the Bavarian porcelain dresser set, the tiny perfume bottles we carried home from Venice, the postcard she sent me from Scotland, the scarves, her handkerchiefs, and more for sorting later. Replacing the brown wool Chimayó weaving on top of the dresser with a piece from an artist we’d known in Maryland4 was perfect. On that I centered my own burial urn4—empty of course—next to my bolo ties and a mysterious necklace I’d found in a drawer. The antique shotguns with my .22 rifles6 wanted to go in the space by the wall. The scary bronze cat skull sculpture ended up on the other West Virginia dresser (hers) for being so cool and utterly me. The piles were gone. I had a room. And every night since I’ve slept straight through.

Hope it keeps me honest, too.

[continue reading…]

Late Spring ’23

Rio Grande Gorge

The great rift valley of the Rio Grande south of Taos

Slowly building up my strength again, I hit the trails at dinner time to have the vastness to myself. The peaks in the far distance are over 40 miles away. Sometimes I see farther. The clarity cuts cleanly through the fog of thought and part of me is home.

WHEN I DROPPED OUT IN ARKANSAS IN ‘71, I never intended to come back either. I felt so close to secrets beyond my grasp and knew my path would open up in ways I couldn’t dream of. All I ever wanted was to drink from that clear stream forever. When winter came I realized I was unprepared and decamped for the thrills of pre-boom Austin, which I already knew quite intimately. But Austin proved to be too hot and bothered after several years—time to cut the cord again—so in ‘75 I packed up everything I owned and moved to Maine. I gave it a month, but it was cold and wet and everyone smoked cigarettes. Free housing at my granny’s place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland proved irresistible, however, so I headed south with welding gear, guitar, and faithful German shepherd to be a famous sculptor with no training. I soon fell in with local iconoclasts, met my future wife, and life exploded with a richness I’m astonished to recall. We moved down here in ‘99 and 22 years later she was gone. It still does not compute and I know less than ever. The only thing that sticks is that she told me “share the beauty and the joy” and this was after… Those obviously aren’t my words which makes them real and what a perfect mantra.

Flowers on an unmarked trail at Taos Valley Overlook

“Queen o’ the Mountains” (‘01 Dodge Dakota) beside the apricot tree in bloom

Adobe Hell in Llano Quemado

Inside looking out. “Old Taos” in spades.

High up in the mountains, Rio Pueblo flooding at Agua Piedra

Self-explanatory, also at Agua Piedra

Amazing colors on this side trail at Taos Valley Overlook

Wasn’t kidding…

One of my favorites

Evening walk at Taos Valley Overlook, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

That’s it for now, take care. – JHF


photo of author

A man’s gotta eat, right?

A Juan del Llano Special originally published at my Substack, April 25, 2023.

HE MADE IT BACK from the grocery stores. Hardly any food but out two hundred. Juan didn’t mind because he couldn’t. Didn’t lose it on Hot Springs Road either as he passed the spot he pulled a U-turn when the nurse called though the hole in his heart was daring him to poke it. Instead he parked at the bottom of the driveway to unload and sat there in the driver’s seat a good long time with all the windows closed. It was a cold day and the sun was welcome. He stared out at the doorway with its rocks and steer skulls. There were hoes and shovels propped against the wall. A man lives there, he thought, that must be what I am. The setting was quite pleasant, even homey for a jerk with no ambition. He felt he had some though, at least a hankering, which meant that he was sane and anything was possible. And then he saw the door mat as the last view of his life and could he have another, please?

It started as a clicking sound. For the longest time he thought it was the valves. The ‘07 Pontiac Vibe had four per cylinder on the 1.8 liter Toyota engine. As long as they were only clicking, though, he figured he’d be fine. No reason yet to worry they weren’t closing all the way and burning white-hot on the edges. He took a week-long road trip to Iowa bury his wife’s ashes and the thing ran great. A whole year passed. The clicking was a little louder now and every now and then a muted clunk. But still he drove it up to Colorado in the fall, convinced the noises went away when all the parts warmed up and only idiots worried about the things they couldn’t see. The trip was flawless and spectacular. The engine sucked in air and revved like glory all the way home. Even so, at hot idle Juan could still hear clicks and knocks. Time passed like it always does. The days grew short, he switched and mostly drove the truck. It made no funny noises, 4WD was useful in the snow, and the Dodge reached heating temps a mile before the Vibe did. The smaller vehicle was still the economical ride of choice for his trip to Silver City after Christmas. He studied the map and saw the roads where nothing better break, then realized the noise might also be the timing chain, which would not do. The very day before he left he called the garage to make an appointment six weeks down the road and loaded up the truck, happy to have no choice because he loved the roar the V-8 made and never mind the gas. After he came back the Vibe just sat there while he waited. One day Metric Motors finally got their wrenches on it. It took them a whole week.

First spring of its purchase in ‘08, already running a temporary spare

Finally he got the phone call. He don’t know everything they’d done or why it took a week but they were good guys and he trusted them. They’d looked at the timing chain and it was perfect. After much befuddlement, they determined the racket was coming from the air conditioning compressor. To nail this down they’d taken the serpentine belt off and started the engine. Lo and behold, not a click or clunk to be heard. (The belt also drives the power steering and the water pump but the steering and engine cooling worked just fine.) The service manager explained that automotive AC refrigerant also provides lubrication for the compressor’s internal parts. Since he never used the air conditioning at 7,000 feet, the lubricant hadn’t circulated and the compressor had been chewing itself to pieces. Neither their explanation nor anything he googled told him how this could happen with a supposedly free-wheeling compressor clutch and pulley, but they said there were “bits of metal” in the AC system and the whole shebang would need replacing, not just the compressor, to the tune of $2,700 dollars! They assured him that he could certainly still drive until the pulley seized—“If you smell something like burning rubber, that’s what it is”—but then the belt would melt and fall apart and he’d be stranded. He took the car home. If anything the noises were even louder and he knew he’d never drive it again in that condition. The Vibe had been his wife’s car, purchased new. He’d always used full synthetic oil in the engine and transmission. It had never broken down, was fun to drive, and got 35 miles per gallon. Not time to junk it.

The Vibe was actually a Toyota Matrix with a General Motors body. A Twitter friend casually mentioned that he’d bypassed a busted AC compressor on an old truck once by using a special bracket and a shorter belt. Juan hunkered down and haunted online Vibe and Toyota user forums. The amount of bad advice was staggering but here and there a nugget gleamed. He followed the trail back in time to the late 2000s and learned that Toyota used to sell a Matrix model (and Corollas) without AC, whereas the Vibe had always been so equipped. Since the engines were identical, that meant there had to be a part number for a shorter serpentine belt that didn’t wrap around a compressor pulley. Searching databases was a game he played quite well and once he plugged the right words in, he found a forum entry at GenVibe that gave him part #5060605. He didn’t know the brand or whether he could even fix it on his own, but the belt and tools he needed (a 19mm socket plus a 3/8” drive breaker bar) cost less than $70 altogether and the lure of so much cheapness reeled him in.

This is the before photo. The serpentine belt is out of sight on the far left side.

The first thing Juan discovered was the job was basically impossible. He managed to remove the old belt using the 19mm socket and breaker bar to compress the tensioner spring—scary business in itself—and thus commit himself to finishing or having to call a tow truck. But placing the new belt over the power steering pump pulley and scrooching it down to the crankshaft was maddening. There wasn’t any room to place his hands. He couldn’t see. The belt flopped every which way, undoing any progress that he made. No wonder the clerk at the parts store suggested he take the right front wheel off for access through the wheel well. Ha-ha, tho. No way. The sun was going down, too. His tools and flashlight kept falling in the dirt. He’d planned on finishing within the hour but had already taken three. There was blood running down the back of his hand. He hadn’t eaten and it was getting cold. And then he had an idea. Other people had done this just like he was trying unless they lied. He knew how to thread the belt because he’d memorized the diagram. The belt had a mind of its own, though. Well then, maybe listen?

Instead of push, he pulled a little. Here and there a twist to guide it. By keeping just enough tension on the thing to keep it from jumping off the pulleys, he finally got it into place except for at the alternator. By now it was almost completely dark and freezing. He peered into the engine compartment with his flashlight, bending low to follow the track of the belt half a dozen times to make sure he had it right. It ought to go on now, he told himself. Just pull on the breaker bar to get some slack and wrestle the belt over the lip on the alternator pulley. That was all he needed. One last bit. He tried a couple dozen times at least. Another quarter inch of play would do it but there wasn’t any. He carefully laid his tools where he could find them in the morning, lowered the hood, and walked back down the hill. Maybe tomorrow he could do it. Better light, more warmth. A fresh perspective. Not cold or starving. Seventy dollars versus $2,700, come on…

This should tell you something. Alternator pulley above, bypassed AC compressor bottom right.

Editor’s note: see the photo above? The belt is ribbed on one side and smooth on the other. The pulleys where the ribbed side goes have vertical lips (edges) and grooves that match the ribs. The pulleys that take the smooth side have much lower lips and no grooves. Pay attention!

The day dawned clear and sunny with no wind. It was even warmer than it should have been. Juan allowed himself a bowl of oatmeal, the usual hour’s worth of doom-scrolling, and even washed his hair. Procrastination equaled power, he told himself. Only warriors know how to take their time. When he was ready, he walked out into the light, up the hill, and opened the hood. Calmly taking breaker bar in hand, he placed the 19mm socket over the nut cast into the tensioner bracket and pulled until he felt the clunk of full compression on the spring. Keeping the bar pulled tight with his right hand, he grasped the final loop of belt with his heavily gloved left hand and pulled it toward the alternator pulley as far as it would go. The missing quarter inch of slack had not been granted in the night, however, and it simply couldn’t be done. He spent almost an hour trying and walked back to the house for coffee and more research. What he found by using different keywords gave him hope for all humanity.

Everything he’d read about the job, every YouTube video as well, instructed him to place the belt over the alternator pulley last. Everything, that is, except the final post he found. Somewhere in America a real mechanic had entered a discussion and laughed at that advice: “Loop the belt around the grooved alternator pulley and then over the smooth water pump pulley. It’s so much easier!” By now Juan knew every piece of hardware like he’d invented it himself. He walked back up the hill, located the water pump pulley, looped the belt over the alternator pulley, hauled back on the breaker bar, and gently pushed the belt onto the water pump pulley with his bare fingers: good God, it popped right on! Imagine the triumph, the silent hosannas. His hands were beat to hell. There were ugly bruises on his forearms. The sun was streaming down. He felt like singing and wanted to tell the world. Better test it first, though.

Land of geniuses and God

He started the engine. It ran. Very well, in fact. There were no funny noises. He revved it a few times, turned it off, and looked at what he’d done. The belt was still on! He started the engine again and watched it for some minutes. With the shorter belt and one less pulley to turn, the happy four-cylinder ran more smoothly than ever before. Juan was flabbergasted. He took the Vibe on a half-hour run to the top of U.S. Hill in the mountains south of town. There were miles of switchbacks, long grades, and high-rpm climbs in lower gears. If anything, he had more power. At the summit he checked again and all was normal. Really? Oh, yes. The engine ticked like a clock. The Vibe was saved and tons of money, too.

His bruises were like medals. He drove home in a daze and had a nap, doing nothing else all day.



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