The Family Car
(Ep 19 - "Birthday Boy")
(Jack's on the phone to the mechanic.)
Five-hundred dollars? Since when does an alternator cost five-hundred dollars?...Well, what the hell does a transmission got to do with this?...
Look - just don't touch my car, alright?! Leave it just like you found it! I'll be right down. (To Norma): Honey, grab your coat - I need a ride down to the garage.
(Jack is looking at car ads.)
Two-thousand bucks for a '66 Impala? That's a joke - huh.
Where' Grampa Arnold from?
Look at that - highway robbery...what'd ya say?
I said, um, where did Grampa Arnold come from?
Newark. Ya know, one of these days I'm just gonna get rid of the damn cars, and we'll all take the damn bus!
(Kevin is watching Jack work on the car.)
(Kevin gets a wrench from the toolbox.)
No, not the crescent...the three-quarter.
Kevin, honey? Paul's on the phone...again.
Tell him I'm busy!
It's the third time he called...
Well, I don't want to talk to him - I'm helping Dad!
(Jack wrenches, and looks at Kevin.)
I guess the old guy must have sensed something was wrong. Go ahead, Dad, ask. "I haven't seen Paul around lately - you two having a fight, or something?"
OK, so he didn't sense it. I mean, what did I expect? The man wasn't a mind-reader. I'd just tell him what was bothering me.
We aren't really talking to each other these days.
Paul and me...we aren't really talking to each other.
So, ya know, I'm not going to be going to his stupid bar mitzvah.
Ya don't say...
It's on the same day as my birthday. My thirteenth birthday - can you believe it? I mean, the whole point of a bar mitvah is so dumb, anyways. I mean, he's only thirteen years old, and everyone's telling him he's a man. Now that's really stupid. I mean, he's just a little kid, don't you think?
(Jack is straining to unloosen a bolt.)
Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah - that's pretty stupid.
When did you first learn to work on cars?
I don't know - it's just something I picked up along the way, I guess.
Well, is Grampa good at working on cars?
Oh, sure. I guess I learned most of it from him.
The...fanbelt looks sorta loose.
Huh? Ya know, you're right. It's half rotten. I don't know why I didn't think to check that. Hey, look, there's a...extra fanbelt in the toolbox - why don't you help me try to put it on.
As I worked on the car with my father, I began to realize what I'd been looking for all along. I just needed...recognition - something to tell me that I was growing up.
Hey, Wayne! Get out here and start the car!
I-I can do it!
Nah, I don't think so, Kev - you're not tall enough. (Hands keys to Wayne) Here, start it nice and easy.
Yes I am!
Step aside, little sprout!
Don't give it too much gas until I tell ya - I don't want to flood the engine.
The story of my twelve-and-three-quarter-year-old life. As much a man as the next guy, until the cards were on the table. Then it's a fine "how do you do", a pat-him-on-the-head, and -
Dammit, Kevin! Get the hell away from that engine - that thing'll take your hand off!
(The motor pops and dies.)
(Jack frowns and throws a rag at the motor. Kevin frowns and goes into the house.)
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(Ep 30 - "The Family Car")
Where's my wrench?! Dammit, where's my wrench?
At the Arnold household, ownership meant - repairs.
Somebody hand me my wrench, will ya?
Course you have to understand, my dad believed your average car should last, oh...thirty years, or 300,000 miles - which ever came first.
OK. Start 'er up.
(Wayne cranks it over. It sputters and backfires.)
You think you can fix it?
Of course I can fix it! Just...needs a little adjustment.
I guess there was more of Jack Arnold under that hood than all the papers he ever shuffled at NORCOM Enterprises.
(The boys see a nice car across the street.)
Boy, it'd sure be cool to have one of those, hah?
But if we were seeing visions, Dad was seeing -
Tin. That thing's 90 percent tin - won't last two years. Trust me. They don't make them like this baby anymore.
They sure didn't. Bald tires, half a muffler, the sleek lines of a rhinoceros. Nothing to be embarrassed about - much.
(Cafeteria with Hobson and Paul.)
Say, Arnold, wasn't that your car I saw stallin' out in front of school this mornin'?
Nothing. It's just it sounded like a Sherman tank.
Hey, his dad keeps it running!
His dad keeps it runnin', right into the ground. Say, when's your old man gonna pop for somethin' made in this century?
(Norma comes home late.)
It made sort of a spluttering noise, and then it just quit on me.
Did you pat the gas and count to five before you turned the key?
Yeah, just like you showed me.
What about the coil wire?
It was getting dark, Jack. I couldn't see very well.
Now when mom used that tone of voice, this was serious business.
Anyway, the man at the service station said it was the fuel pump.
Fuel pump...You didn't let him touch the fuel pump, did ya?
He also said the carburetor needs adjustment.
I just rebuilt the damn carburetor.
Seemed like Dad was missing the point, here.
You've been putting so much time and effort into that car...
I'll take a look at it.
It's just that it's becoming so unreliable now, Jack. Especially now that Wayne and Karen are driving, it's getting so much use. Maybe it's time we started looking for a new car.
We drove home in silence. So much for the wind in our hair - this was the rain on our parade.
What happened back there, Jack?
I don't want to talk about it. The guy was a moron - do you know what he offered me for this car?!
Honey? what were you expecting?
I can tell you this car is worth a lot more than he offered, Norma! A lot more...
This was it? This was the reason Dad had blown the deal? I couldn't believe it! So close - yet so far! We'd been robbed of our dream car - all because of what?! All because of some stupid junkheap!
You know Jack, I've been thinking. Maybe that saleman's offer really wasn't that unreasonable.
Well, Frank and Betty just got less for their trade-in, and it was a 'sixty-one.
Frank doesn't know how to deal with these guys, Norma. The man paid sticker price.
I just don't think it was such a bad offer.
Are you kidding? You know how much I put into that car?!
Well, let's see...the fuel pump was fourteen dollars, the fanbelt was two dollars, and the points and plugs were only...
What - are you gonna itemize here? What about my time? My labor?
I have an idea. How about if we all get in the car and go for some ice-cream? Come, on. We'll all pile in and take a drive - how long's it been since we've done that?
Dad, are you gonna sell the car or not?
Of course I am. It just takes a little time. Matter of fact, I've been thinking - maybe should change the ad in the paper. Maybe that'll help, huh?
Did he really expect us to buy this?! I mean we'd given Dad every benefit of the doubt. But now this awful feeling was growing in me. Maybe Craig Hobson had been right - maybe the problem really was -
I swear, Dad. Why are you so cheap?
Well, huh, Mom, I really think it's about time!
Don't you ever talk like that in this house again!
This was it. It was pretty obvious from Dad's expression what was gonna happen - someone... would have to die.
(Jack stands and walks toward the door.)
Where are you going, Jack?
For a drive.
I'm not really sure where Dad was planning to drive to. Maybe just around the block. Maybe for ice-cream. Or maybe...he didn't know himself.
(Sound of the car spluttering and dying.)
In any event - he didn't get far.
(Jack has the hood up as Norma approaches.)
Probably just a gasket.
They have 'em down at the service station. I'll pick one up in the morning.
Jack. I know how much you put into this car. We all know. All the hard work - it's worth ten times what you're asking. But Jack...we don't need this car anymore.
The boys can help me push it into the garage so I'll have a little more light.
You've held it together longer than anyone could have expected, honey - no one could have done more. Now it's time to move on.
Just let it go.
(Jack pulls into the driveway with the new car.)
And so we finally got our new car. It wasn't red, it wasn't a convertible - heck, it wasn't even a Mustang. But it was brand-new. And it was pretty cool. 'Course Dad got his shot at king-for-a-day, and we were happy for him.
(A tow-truck is lifting the old car.)
Where'll they take it, Dad?
I don't know. Probably sell it for scrap.
But that afternoon, I began to understand what Dad had being going through. There was more to that old car than fuel pumps and crankshafts. There was part of all of us in that car - the places we'd gone, the things we'd done, the family we had been - the family that was moving on. And for the first time, I understood the value of what my Dad had put into it - and why it was so hard to let it go.
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