Published 'Onyx' 1994
The wheels jammed. The car seemed to possess a volition of its own or, rather, positively lacked such a volition – since no amount of throttle, pumping the clutch, squeezing-unsqueezing the foot-brake, tussling with the hand-lever, twirling the steering-wheel and, finally, thumping my head gently on the windscreen could budge the damn machine. I cursed the traffic lights which had stopped us in the first place: the red-eyed God of our stopped civilisation. You see, I was quite maddened with rage, and would have blamed, given half the chance.
I suddenly realised that the car was growing smaller. Otherwise, I was enlarging, which did not seem at all likely. I felt each hand with the other and the bone shapes were just as I recalled them. How could bones grow? A child suddenly skipped in front of the car, because, after all, the halt was intended to cater for the need of pedestrians. Not walking since beeing a child myself, I retained very little sympathy for this particular breed of humanity. On top of that, the child made a face at me as it reached the opposite pavement. And this face was not its own!
The light has been green for so long it readily resumes its red state, via the amber mode. The car growled. I turned off at the ignition, in the hope that restarting would cure the gremlins. But the engine still turned over, with an even gruffer undertone. I switched on the radio in order to outblast it, but I could only find cheap chat on some phone-in, where the participants whispered together, in view of the nature of the subject-matter. I opened the car door, but couldn’t unclunk the safety-belt. Safety belt! I managed to run the toes of my boot along the gutter, in some desperate attempt to join up with the earth in some life-giving short-cut circuit, whereby the car...
What did I believe? In any event, the child had returned.
"What you doing, mate? The light's gone green ten times since you been here." The diminutive figure indicated the line of traffic that had grown behind me. They had been remarkably patient. I had peeeds quizzically several times into my rearview mirror to discern the next in line - with large staring eyes and the closest possible resemblance to a woman I knew without really knowing her.
"I can't move the blighter - please fetch someone to help push."
"I'll push if you like."
By this time, the car had taken to rehearsing tiny jolts backwards. My neck was gradually suffering a pain that felt remarkably as if I had undergone whiplash injuries, from a sudden jolting motorway shunt. I could turn my head neither way - nor drag my leg back from its feeble clawing at the tarmac outside the car. By now, the child was heaving itself against the front of the car.
"No! The other way!"
"I'm not blinking well going to get all that muck in my face."
Yes, I had not been able to turn her head left or right, but I now found I could pivot it upwards as if my neck was hinged. With my chin pointing towards the backseat (where I could see I now had passengers with ugly-looking scars) I established the child's meaning. Black smoke belched into view at each articulated judder of the faltering engine. However, what shocked me more than anything as the evident absence of my original passenger - my daughter in her safety harness whom in the process I was taking to school: the whole purpose of the current journey from A to B, in fact. I always hated wasted journeys.
Several ingredients of humanity should have fitted into the slowly evolving jigsaw of this particular experience. It all could be explained, everything, that was, except my inability actually to solve the very puzzle which I knew was so very easily solvable.
"Hey, mate, I'm getting my dress filthy doing this malarkey."
I scowled at the child, then growled. The lights changed to a combination of red, green and amber I had never seen before. And the onset of an incessant nagging hooter from behind sent me quite mad with irritation. I put my hand down my throat as far as it would go without it ceasing to be consistent as a hand - and began to trawl around with webbed fingers. At last – phew! – I got it started, having unapplied the liver-pads from the heart-stop and unclogged the lung filters for the red octanes to flow through some back-double arteries and rat-run intestines, pushing unwanted silt towards the exhaust, via the bilge sump and the ovaries. I unsteamed my two-faced windscreen and swept off, through the blood-fest of the child, who has done so little to assist. On second thoughts, I hope it avoided me. Cars’ hearts, you see, are in the right place – they don’t really like leaving human droppings jammed on the tarmac, nor can they even abide cruelty to squashed hedgehogs.