He was a strange customer to say the least. The day was off to a great start. I had finished working on a long term client’s car, which recently has been having engine trouble. It wasn't hard to find the problem, but to fix it was a delicate matter. However, I did my job and relaxed after an arduous task. Working for the officers is never appreciated, not by my fellow man and not even by the officers. I was just happy to have him gone and hopefully my workmanship would keep him away for a long while. That's when the stranger walked into my garage.
At first I didn't know he was there. I was too concerned with the news in the paper. That cursed Hitler was making another move near France and talk of tanks surfaced. It meant that he would be looking for mechanics such as me, which worried me deeply. The last thing I wanted to be in was another war. I was brought back to reality by the grating noise of my garage door. I looked away from my desk to see a man shutting the door, leaving very little light in the room. Before I could say anything he turned to me, displaying battered face and the sweat of fear.
He asked something of me with a note of panic, but it was in English, so I didn't understand. I only recognized 'mechanic'. Mechanic one of the few terms that stood out at the most, anyway.
"Yes, I am the mechanic." I replied in German. He twitched and nodded. "How can I help you?"
"My name is Jonathan." He told me, now in fluent German. "I'm having some...mechanical difficulties."
For me, receiving customer is rare. Not many people had cars, so to receive two jobs in a week is surprising, but a day? Now that is impossible. All the same, he didn't look like an officer, so I was all too willing to have him as a client.
"Uh...what seems to be the problem?" I asked. "Is it the engine...tires...?”
Instead if answering me in words he limped over to a stool, sat down without asking and began to take off his shoe. I would have protested to this rudeness, if it wasn't for my curiosity. Now that he was in the light I could make his features more clearly. He had a short beard, but it was so neat. Almost as if his beard had been ordered hair-by-hair.
Jonathan removed his boot quickly, then his sock. It was an amazing sight. Not just his foot, but his entire leg was a prosthetic. Not the wooden one either. This one was made of dark metal, but it was lighter than iron, much lighter. I didn't need to hold it to realize that. He moved it so effortlessly and when it rested on the ground it touched so softly, like flesh and meat. It was detailed, unlike any other prosthetic limb. He could even move his toes, as if it was no different from the leg he was born with. Where many would stare in horror, I stared in fascination.
Something of a mechanical marvel in my garage, but there was a noticeable problem. I noticed scrapes, not by design, these were jagged and violent. I had seen similar scratches in slight fender-benders, but I felt if he had been hit by a car there would be more damage.
"See this part here? It has a leak that needs to be patched, but I can't do it without removing this part here, which..."
Jonathan spoke quickly. I kept up to the best of my ability, but this was way out of my comfort zone. I usually had time to fix cars, but Jonathan treated me like doctor who had to help him as soon as possible.
"I'll...see what I can do." I told him, already mentally gathering the required tools before physically doing the actions.
With a nod to myself I dashed around the workshop ad collected what I needed. I collected a bit of cloth as well, to clean the surface of oil like a doctor clears a wound of blood.
"Thank you." Jonathan said gratefully, watching me get to work.
He was more polite than the officers too. I found it almost disgraceful.
I began removing pieces of the metal, trying to avoid bending anything; otherwise I might not be able to return it to its original state. Something as unique as this should not be damaged. Eventually I found a source of a leak. It wasn't exactly a massive leak, but I gathered it was a line of piping that should remain whole to keep him on his feet. It wasn't difficult to repair, but the next challenge was putting everything back where it belonged.
Jonathan told me I could take my time now and I did. While I worked I asked him questions, but he answered few. I wouldn't be surprised. If he was an English, or worse, American spy, he would not be willing share much of anything. Still, I found myself talking more to a customer than I ever have.
I learnt he wasn't from Germany, I learnt that his name really wasn't Jonathan; I learnt that if I asked anymore questions I would be in trouble. I kept quiet after this warning, but I was also upset to be silenced while I was helping him. However, he did pay me. Thirty Marks, which is a substantial amount, but I would have given it away if it meant more answers. By the time I finished my work it was dark. He climbed to his feet and tested the foot out as if it were a shoe. Pacing back and forth my work held strong. He eventually hopped a little in place and smiled.
I felt the discomfort from his warning fade as he reached forward to shake my hand. I took it in mine and shook it warmly, truly happy to see such a grateful customer. He thanked me deeply and began to walk out. He paused for a moment, but the man claiming to be 'Jonathan' shook his head in silence and walked out. I watched him disappear into the night. I'm not sure what Jonathan was or where he was from, but despite this lack of knowledge it is a day I will never forget. I hope to see him again, hopefully after the war ends so I can feel secure in the knowledge that he survived the hell on earth that all man had to deal with.
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