My husband and I will be driving up to western Massachusetts with the kids tomorrow for the holiday. So today I prepared for the trip by taking my car in to have the oil changed. Also, for the past six days, a strange little light has flashed insistently on the dashboard. It looks like a neon drawing of a radiant sun, but the sun has a tiny, fervent exclamation point placed inside it. Hmmm…the sun shining with urgency. Global warming? Can’t be. Indeed, the car’s guidebook informed me that what I had was a brake light problem.

So after my usual school drop-off, I took the car in to see Henry, our local automobile man. When Henry saw me, he gave me a puzzled little grin. At that moment, Chattering Mind, having focused on nothing but breakfast and loading the kids’ backpacks into the trunk, realized that my hat was on lopsided and I was wearing narrow eyeglasses that could be seen as kooky. And even though Henry couldn’t see my lower body from where he was standing, I knew I was also wearing billowy red cotton trousers under my top and long coat, pants I had actually slept in last night that would be appropriate for an audition at the Big Apple Circus.

“Henry!” I say, taking my hat and glasses off, and running one hand through my hair. “Hi, I’m feeling a little disorganized. I came in here for an oil change for tomorrow’s drive, but now I see there’s a light on that indicates a problem with the brake lights.”

“Okay,” Henry says. “We’ll take a look.”

“And also, oh!” I remember an additional, previously unacknowledged problem: “Be careful, because the alarm system beeper is broken where it attaches to the key chain and you could lose the beeper. It just falls off.”

Henry squints at my key chain and picks it up.

“Oh, I can fix that,” he says, staring at the torn hole where the beeper attaches. “Do you want me to?”

“Well, sure,” I say happily. “I thought I was going to have to get a new one from the dealer.”

“No, I can fix that with some wire and a little epoxy.”

“Oh, would you? You’d really do that?”

Such a small favor. But I found myself oddly incredulous, immensely relieved.

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