“Are you the gunsmith?” The voice was sharp, demanding, someone used to getting his way. Amos had heard the sound of the door, but had been gently massaging a rear sight into a 1911 slide, so had finished before coming out from the shop.
“I’m Amos,” he said, smiling.
“I’m stuck and need you to fix this damn shotgun before my shoot tomorrow,” said the man. He had a tightly drawn face.
“What’s the problem with your gun?” asked Amos, smiling again to try to put the man at ease.
“The problem is I’ve travelled here from L.A., shooting in matches in several states. At my last stop the gun wouldn’t shoot the second barrel on two occasions, costing me plenty. I don’t know you and I don’t particularly trust you to fix this expensive shotgun, but I have no choice. I’ll need it first thing tomorrow, as I have to drive 200 miles to the next event. I’ll pay a fair wage for the work, and I’ll also offer a 25 percent tip if you’re prompt.” As Amos was about to answer, Brett Greyling, a local high school teacher and the coach of the school small bore rifle team, came in carrying three rifle cases.
“Hey Amos, I have an emergency and I hope you can help me out. The team has a match against Plainfield High tomorrow in the early afternoon, but these three rifles started acting up this week. One has an iffy trigger, the other’s bolt won’t always cock the action and the third has developed a front sight wobble. Think you can get ’em by tomorrow morning? The kids are really excited about this match. If they win, it gets them to the state finals. Of course, I’m not sure we can afford to go if we win, the school budget has really taken a hit and we’re mostly financing ourselves with car washes and stuff, and the bank account is pretty bare!”
“Excuse me, but I was talking to the gunsmith here,” said the man, obviously peeved at the interruption. “You’ll have to wait. Besides, I don’t think it’s right a high school allows a shooting team. It’s unsafe to have guns in the hands of children and I can’t believe you endorse the practice.”
“Whoa now,” said Amos. “Brett, I’d be happy to help out, and I’ll have the rifles ready by tomorrow morning, say, 10:00, just stop by. I’ll also help the club by not charging for the work, of course.
“Now, you never told me your name, just that you had a broken shotgun,” said Amos, looking at the red-faced man holding an engraved Browning shotgun.
“It’s Larson, Cliff Larson, and I don’t like the fact you just took on more work, when I was here first. Will you have the shotgun ready in the morning or not? I demand you put my work first. Besides, if the rifles aren’t done and they can’t attend the match, it sounds like that’s just as well since they have no funds to properly pursue the competition. They shouldn’t be allowed to anyway, it’s a waste of time and and money, and they should be in school studying rather than wasting time shooting .22 rifles.”
Brett looked at Amos dumbfounded, then at the stranger, then back at Amos, then down at Scout, Amos’ Australian Shepard, and the new addition, young Amelie, a young pup Amos had recently adopted. They sat quietly, looking up at Larson, their normally active short tails held very still. “Um … sorry if I came at a bad time, Amos,” said Brett.
“Not a bad time at all, Brett. Mr. Larson was just leaving, and I’ll get right to work. I’ll be able to fix his gun by the morning and have the rifles done too. I had plans on making it a late night in the shop with Scout and Amelie supervising anyway, so it’s no problem at all. Mr. Larson, I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing the mis-fire on your Browning, likely the inertia block. I will repair it for $200 and have it to you in the morning as promised.”
Brett raised his eyebrows when Amos quoted the price.
“I’m in dire straights and need to rely on you so yes, I agree. I’ll see you at 10:00 sharp.” The door chimed, closing a little too hard as Larsen left.
“Who was that jerk?” asked Brett, his thumb motioning toward the door.
“A fellow passing through, carrying his bad attitude with him it seems,” said Amos, laughing as he scratched Scout’s ears.
“Well girls, it looks like you’ve both been your usual good judge of character!” Scout’s short tail wagged as she and Amelie nosed Brett, who gave both a good ear scratch before leaving.
The Browning was just as Amos had thought, and it only took a few minutes to put things right. The inertia block resetting the trigger between shots had become gunked-up and sluggish. As Amos held it down for Scout to examine, she sniffed, then sneezed.
“Good call, Scout,” said Amos. “That smell is old stinky crud and grease, and is why the Browning wouldn’t fire sometimes. You’ve got a good nose for that.”
A simple cleaning and reinstalling put things right. Hardly a $200 job, but this one time, Amos thought, it was just about the right price. The .22 rifles were all easy fixes, mostly needing cleaning and tuning to get the bolt and trigger to run correctly, and the loose front sight was fixed by a bit of thread-locker and some gentle peening.
The next morning brought the chime of the front door promptly at 10:00 and Larsen strode in, pompous as ever. “Well, do you have it fixed? I have little time to waste and need to be on the road promptly.”
“Yup,” said Amos, smiling. “All fixed, just as I promised. Scout helped a bit too.”
Scout looked steadily at Larson, then sneezed — twice. Amos laughed, as the door chimed again. Brett walked in with two coffees and a bag labelled “Marge’s Donuts.”
“Too early, Amos?” said Brett, putting the coffees down on the counter. Opening the bag he tossed a donut hole each to both pooches, who snatched ’em in mid-air, then settled onto the rug to enjoy them. Both kept one eye on Larson.
“As I said, I don’t have time for this,” said Larson. “I take it the charge is $200, correct?”
“Well, you also agreed to tip me 25 percent if I was on time, and it looks like I am.”
“Robbery, I tell you, but my hands are tied. You small town crooks!” Larsen handed over $250 in cash, harrumphing as he picked up his shotgun and paraded out, once again letting the door slam behind him.
Amos smiled as he put the money into an envelope, then took a sip of coffee as he scratched Amelie’s ears idly. “You’re spoiling the girls with those donut holes, you know.”
“They deserve it after putting up with that guy. Amos, it’s none of my business,” said Brett, “but I just saw you do two things I’ve never seen you ever do before. You overcharged someone for work you did, and accepted — demanded, no less — a tip. What’s up?”
“Well,” said Amos, handing the envelope to Brett, “let’s just say it was all done for a good cause. The rifles are fixed, so get those kids to that match, and add this cash to the club fund, courtesy of Mr. Larson.”
Brett laughed out loud. “If I had his address, I’d send him a team photo with a thank you note! That’d stick in his craw! Remind me not to play poker with you, Amos.”
By Roy Huntington
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