The Bent Electrode - By Brian Law

His car sputtered to a stop just as he cleared the city limits sign. Luckily the car’s momentum was enough to allow him to steer it onto the shoulder. And after trying to get it started for several minutes, he sat back and realized he was going to have to walk back into town and find somebody to fix it. He remembered seeing a gas station somewhere in the middle of the dusty little town. 

“Hi, do you have a mechanic on duty?” he asked the young attendant. He had his suit jacket over his shoulder and his briefcase in his left hand as he asked the question. 

“Yeah, Ben’s out workin’ on a big rig north of town, but he’ll be back around four this afternoon. What’s your problem, mister?” the young man wondered as he looked him up and down. 

“My Land Rover stopped running just outside of town and I’m going to need your mechanic to look at it. Can he work on Land Rovers?” he asked. 

“Sure, but parts might be a problem. How about I drive back to your car and I’ll see if I can get it running. And if not, I’ll tow it back here. How does that sound?” 

“Sounds good. Look, here’s my car keys. Go ahead and try to get it running but tow it if you have to. Whatever happens, I’ll be waiting at that little bar across the street, okay, the ‘Bent Electrode’. Can you handle that?” he suggested. 

“No problem, mister. What’s your name, by the way?” 

“Jones.” 

“Okay, Mister Jones, I’ll probably get back to you in an hour or so. Just tell Jake the bartender that you’re waiting for service from me. I’m Billy.” 

He nodded, turned, and headed across the street. The heat in this remote part of New Mexico was intense as he opened the door to the bar and saw that it was empty, except for the bartender. “Hi, Jake, Billy over at the gas station said I could wait here until Ben can take a look at my car. It broke down just outside of town.” 

“Have a seat mister. We don’t get many visitors here, just locals. What’s your poison?” Jake asked. 

“Smirnoff vodka rocks, Jake,” he said, laying a twenty down on the bar. 

As Jake turned to prepare his drink, he asked, “How’d you come by the name for the bar, anyway, Jake?” 

Jake placed his drink on a napkin on the bar, stuck a plastic stirrer in it, and replied, “Well, now, that’s quite a story, Mr. . . , uh, I didn’t get your name.” 

“Jones, the name is Jones.” 

“Well, Mr. Jones, about forty years ago, me and Ben were in our early twenties. Ben had just started working at the gas station and I had just started here as a bartender. The place was known as “Pecos Lounge” back then. Anyway, this funny looking guy comes in and says his car is broken-down and could Ben take a look at it.” 

“Funny looking, huh? How so?” he pondered. 

“Kinda pointy ears and weird colored skin. But we cater to all kinds way out here, so Ben tows this funny looking guy’s car into the garage and starts working on it. Works on it for seven hours, then comes over and tells the guy he’s fixed it,” Jake recounts. 

“So you were in here with this guy for seven hours? What did you both have to talk about?” he asked. 

“Not much. Said his name was Jones. He drank Smirnoff vodka rocks, too. Just like you. We didn’t really talk much,” Jake continued. 

“So, maybe I’m missing something, but this doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal. Am I missing something, Jake?” 

“Well, Ben comes in and tells the guy he fixed his car and they settle up and the guy leaves. Then Ben sits down and orders a double bourbon. Now Ben never drinks bourbon! So I ask him just what’s going on,” Jake said. 

“And?” 

“Well, Ben says he’d never seen a car like this one before. Real strange. Kind of advanced, you know. Anyway, Ben said all that was wrong was a ‘bent electrode’ in the main power source. And that’s how we came up with the name for the bar.” 

“Ah, I see now. So you two figured that maybe this funny looking fellow and his advanced vehicle might be . . . .” 

“Yep, an alien, Mr. Jones. That’s what we figured. The funny looking fellow was an alien driving around in an alien vehicle out here in no-wheres-ville New Mexico where he figured nobody would think anything about it.” 

“Wow, what a story, Jake! Anybody ever follow-up on this guy? Anybody from the government, for instance?” 

“Nah, we’re not hardly even on the map. But there’s more, Mr. Jones. You want another?” 

“Sure,” he said, looking at his watch. 

As Jake went about mixing another vodka rocks, he recounted, “So, every once in a while, we get more funny looking fellas in here with cars that need work. And they all ask for Ben and stop over here at the bar to wait for him to fix their vehicles. Happens maybe once every two, three years. No shit!” 

Just then Billy stuck his head into the bar and yelled, “Mr. Jones, I couldn’t get your car started, so I towed it across the street. Ben will be here soon. I’m sure he can fix it. We saw one just like it two, maybe three years ago. No problem. Have another drink and I’ll let you know when it’ll be ready.” 

As Billy closed the door, he sighed and toyed with his drink, took a sip, and then looked up at Jake. “So, you knew all along. What gave me away, Jake? We thought we were getting pretty good at this since we first started coming to your little town.” 

Jake put his arms on the bar in front of Mr. Jones, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up revealing a large tattoo on each forearm. He leaned in close so that his face was real close to Mr. Jones' face and said, "Mister, ever since you walked in that door there's been only one song playing on the juke box. And it's been playing over and over again for almost an hour since you came in. It's kind of a test we do whenever a stranger comes in." 

"A test?" 

"Yeah, Mr. Jones. Nobody from around here could ever sit and listen to 'Louie, Louie' played over and over again without saying something. But all you guys, not a peep." 

End

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