Essay by Megan Taylor
My grandmother is giddy. She is eighty-nine years old and so
excited at the dinner table that she can hardly sit still. It’s the three of
us: my grandma, my mother, and me—all tire saleswomen—sitting
around eating spaghetti and talking shop.
And my grandmother says, “The lottery’s the highest it’s ever
been. I asked my hairdresser to pick up an extra ticket for me. And I
know just what I’ll do if we win.”
Grandma visits the beauty parlor once a week and always asks
her hairdresser to walk to the gas station next door for a lottery ticket or
two. She moved in with my mother after my father died, wanting to be
helpful and keep my mother company. She tries to hide the fact that she
buys lottery tickets all the time because my mother believes she’s
spending too much. Grandma has wanted to win the lottery for as long
as I can remember.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“I’ll give you the money to run an ad with tire prices so low that
the competition won’t know what to do! They’ll be scratching their
heads, saying, ‘Where did she get tires at those prices? How can she
sell them so low?’ And customers will be coming in left and right!
You’ll have to beat them off with a stick. It’ll be such fun.”
I’m excited then, too, thinking of pissing off the competition.
Getting even. It’s not the high road, but it makes me smile just the
My first year running the tire store, I wanted to be friends with
all the shops in a fifteen-mile radius; there had to be twenty of them.
I thought it was the right thing to do; I tried to be friendly, to start a
working relationship. I was pretty successful.
The place just up the road asked to balance their tires on our
machine since theirs was on the fritz. I said “sure.” They asked to
borrow a box of studs. I said “of course.” And then, when we
needed a favor, they returned in kind. My mother was so proud of
me for being civilized. I told her, “There’s room for everybody to
play in this sandbox,” and I felt healthy for saying it.
But, that was then. That was before I started hearing what the
other tire stores sometimes say about us: that we won’t honor a
warranty and that our tires fall apart. I’m tempted to say the same.
And I have on occasion, when I got mad enough. I say, “You don’t
want to buy Goodyear. You know what they say: Good for One
Year.” And I know full well that there’s only one place in town
selling Goodyear tires.
There are customers who pit stores one against the other. They
say, “So-and-so can sell it for five dollars less. Can’t you do any
better?” and “Just so you know, you’re my seventh quote today. And
it’s too high.” This tire business is a ruthless game, and I don’t always
want to play anymore. Sometimes I get fed up with the competition
and the customers and the whole thing, but mostly with the chain stores
that have come to town.
Once, I said to my mother of the big box store that opened about
five minutes down the road from ours, “I just want to burn their place
to the ground.”
And she replied, “Yeah, but with our luck, there’d be an innocent
homeless person and his dog inside just trying to keep warm. And then
you’d have that blood on your hands.”
I remember my father telling me that one of his competitors
called him after work. It was ten years ago or more, maybe 5:15 p.m.
The man was drunk. He cried to my father, “How do you sell tires so
low? You’ll put us all out of business.”
My father replied, “Don’t call me like this again. There’s room
for us all in this town.”
But I digress. I have not yet set fire to any shops. Nor have I
received any drunken phone calls. I’m twirling my spaghetti, listening
to Grandma’s giddy plan.
My mom’s voice breaks my train of thought, “What’s wrong
with the two of you? If we win the lottery, we can close the store.
We wouldn’t have to take out ads or cut prices or worry anymore. We
could just be done with it. I wouldn’t wish this business on my worst
But my grandmother and I don’t hear her. We are too busy
planning, caught up in the excitement of it all.
Essay by Megan Taylor
We sat across from each other in the booth closest to the door.
The jukebox played in the corner. It was a quiet night, and only a few
regulars sat at the counter. Mom ordered a hamburger and French fries,
and I ordered the chicken and biscuits. She asked the waitress to save
a sugar-free chocolate pudding for her for later because she didn’t want
them to run out while we ate.
Mom asked how the day was at the tire store, questions like
how many tires we sold and if people were nice. She told me I was
doing a good job and how much she liked the new ad. She always said
that; it felt good. I thought about friends of mine whose mothers
picked out all the things they did wrong, and I felt grateful that my
mother was so generous with her praise.
I remembered the conversations she and my father used to have
over dinner. They never said how much money the store made in front
of my brother and me. They spoke in a kind of code we didn’t quite
After a few minutes, I said, “Mom, whatever happened with that
It was a story I knew only pieces of. I’d gotten a thank you
letter in the mail from a long-time customer during the last snow tire
season and had come across it on my desk that day. I didn’t get many
thank you letters, so I kept that one. It was special to me, from a
woman named Ero whose husband had passed away. They used to
come to the store together, and I remembered them both.
In the letter, she said how much her husband had liked me, and
how proud she was of the job I was doing at the store. It got me to
thinking about letters from customers, and I remembered that this story
about the priest involved a letter too.
My mother said, “Well, there was the priest who married your
grandparents. Grandma didn’t want to be married by a Catholic priest
because she wasn’t Catholic, but Grandpa tricked her. He told her to
meet him on the Navy Pier in Chicago. It was 1942. She went alone
because her parents didn’t approve of their getting married. Grandpa
promised her they could be married by a pastor, but when she got there,
the Catholic priest was waiting.”
“No, not that priest,” I said. I’d heard that story before, and
always wondered why she married him then. Maybe there was nothing
else to do; she’d traveled that whole way all by herself. But still, he
tricked her from the start and disregarded her wishes.
“Do you mean the one who came to visit Grandma and Grandpa
when I was a kid? That priest told Grandpa your Aunt Danielle was
born with a harelip and cleft palate because God was punishing him.
And Grandpa threw the priest out of the house.”
“No, not that priest,” I said. I’d heard these stories before.
These were not the stories I wanted to hear that night.
“Which one do you mean?” she asked, puzzled, picking up a fry.
“Wasn’t there a priest who yelled at you at the tire store in
Johnstown?” I pressed.
“Oh,” she said. “That’s a sad story. That was an Episcopal
priest. He bought tires from us and was upset with me about
something. He kept yelling at me. Then, I don’t know, a few days later,
I got a letter. I didn’t know what it was going to say; I didn’t expect it.
It was from the priest and it was just all about what a bad person I was.
And your father and I had just had a fight. And you’d just had a dance
recital, maybe the day before, and I’d lost you in the crowd. I was
upset about that. So, I stood at the kitchen sink and took so many pills,
maybe seventy-five pills. I was really upset. And, I don’t know, I
guess I wanted to see if your father loved me enough to stop me.”
I didn’t want to ask if he stopped her. I didn’t want to know.
What if he didn’t?
I don’t know what happened after that, and I didn’t want to ask.
I just let her keep talking, telling me whatever she wanted to say.
She took another bite and kept speaking, softly, “Then I saw in
the paper not too long after that the very same priest had been arrested
for something or other. And your father said to me, ‘You see? You see
what kind of a person he was? And you took his letter so personally;
you let it affect you.’”
I sat quietly for a minute. And then I said, “That’s a shame.”
But what I should’ve said was:
I wish somebody told you “good job” as often as you tell me.
Until her recent spine surgery, Megan Taylor managed her family’s tire
store. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.
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Apple Valley Review:
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Volume 10, Number 2
Copyright © 2015
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