Dead as doornail.
I wrote this and then I wondered, what is a doornail? Why is it always dead when we use it as a simile? So I looked it up and found more interesting information than I had bargained for at The Phrase Finder, http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/as-dead-as-a-doornail.html. It means completely dead, or in the case of nonliving things, unusable. The phrase has been in use since at least 1350, and was used by both Shakespeare and Dickens:
"Look on me well: I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all dead as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more"
King Henry VI, Shakespeare
A Christmas Carol (of course!), Charles Dickens
My six-word story above was inspired by the most recent six word contest at Six Words, which is to write about your summer road trip in six words. The backstory is my husband, son, and I drove from Chicago to Minneapolis for a family reunion and my mother's birthday. Everything was smooth sailing until we crossed the Minnesota border. The car began to lurch and then the engine shut off. Fortunately we were near an exit, and my husband maneuvered the car up the off ramp and onto the shoulder of the ramp. Then smoke began to billow from under the hood. My husband said, "Everybody out of the car!" And we exited rapidly. Afterwards he claimed this was the first time nobody argued with him.
It was after six o'clock and we were on the east side of St. Paul, while my mother lives on the west side of Minneapolis. We started searching the Internet and calling repair places, tow companies, and rental car companies. We were very lucky to find one repair shop that was not only still open, but was fairly close. They called a tow truck for us and came to fetch us. The only rental car places open after six were at the airport, so we called my brother-in-law, who cheerfully came to get us. The next day we got the news that the car needed a new engine. Since the car was 13 years old, that wasn't a good option. We ended up donating it to a school for budding car mechanics and driving back to Illinois in a rental.
The rest of our trip was great -- catching up with relatives, relaxing, eating good food.
And now this: