Saturday, January 25, 2014

"A Stitch in Time," A #YA Short Story


Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Rick, I smell gasoline,” his sister, Tess, told him as they drove home from her basketball practice.

“I just filled the tank. Maybe that’s it. Nothing to worry about.”

“It smells awfully strong.”

They pulled into the Williams family driveway. Rick thought he would check it out. He looked under the old car and did not see anything on the ground. Must be okay, he thought.

An hour later, Rick took the car to get Tim from a friend’s house.

“Smells bad,” Tim said.

“You’re right.” Rick drove to the side of the road and stopped the car. He turned off the engine, opened the hood, and smelled gasoline even more strongly. The top of the engine looked wet in one area. I hope that isn’t gasoline. Rick re-started the car and took Tim home.

“Dad, I smell a lot of gas when I drive the Ford.”

“Let’s take a look.”

They opened the hood and both saw what Rick had seen before.

“This could be dangerous. That wet spot looks like gasoline. Better bring the car to the garage.”

“You think it needs that?” Rick asked.

“I wouldn’t wait. Let’s keep the hood open and start it again.” They were in the driveway. They started it up again and saw a small sprinkle of gas coming from a line going into the engine. “Rick, that could be dangerous. I’ll go with you. We’ve got to take it right in.”

The garage was less than a mile from their home, but they did not make it. Within a couple of hundred yards, smoke started coming out of the hood and also entering the car through the heating system.

“Turn off the heater. Pull over. Stop the car. Turn it off. This could be serious.”

Within a few seconds of their getting out of the car, flames started coming out from around the hood.

“Let’s get way back, Rick. This looks dangerous.” I hope we don’t have an explosion, Mr. Williams thought, but did not say. “I’m calling 911 and the fire house.”

Quickly both police and fire units arrived. The police kept traffic and spectators away from the burning vehicle. The firemen sprayed foam on the car, then used axes to break open the hood and sprayed foam directly on the engine block area.

Rick was surprised to see the front of the car nearly demolished. “Why was it burning so strongly?” he asked his dad.

“Besides the gasoline, there is a lot of plastic and rubber in the connections to the engine, and they give off hot, smoky flames.”

“Do you think the car can be repaired?”

“I doubt it, son. The most important thing is that none of you kids got hurt.”

At dinner that night, Mr. Williams said that Rick should have been quicker to look into the situation, as gasoline is both flammable and explosive. He might have caught the problem before it got dangerous and costly. “’An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ as Benjamin Franklin noted a couple of hundred years ago.”

Mrs. Williams agreed. “If you have a small rip in your clothing, sewing just a few stitches to close it can keep it from becoming a major tear. I don’t know where it comes from, but another old saying is, ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’”


One of our series of fifty instructive short stories for young people.

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