Sunday, October 25, 2009

My car, ma

I was taking a sunday stroll down a suburban street, nice day, trees rustling their leaves in a summer breeze, when I looked up and saw two cars falling silently out of the blue sky. No-one was about and I watched rapt as the cars fell, one ahead of the other, both rightways up, wobbling as they fell. I looked up in the sky for a plane or somewhere the cars could have come from, but there was nothing to see, just a thin cloud far up in the distance. Only then did it occur to me that if I didn't pay attention I might get crushed by one so I started ducking around trying to judge the trajectory as they closed in.

Where I was standing a small road forked off from the main one, a scratch of grass separating them, and a wooden shelter sat in front of me on the grass. The first car hit the ground on the small road some way away. There was a ferocious noise, heavy and deep and gut-wrenching, but which it seems slightly pointless to use a metaphor to describe - the best I could think of might be the sound of two cars hitting the ground from a great height - followed by a succession of smaller, higher-pitched noises, like cymbals accompanying an orchestral epic. It was metal versus tarmac - a well-matched battle, both left in a bad way - and then bolts ripped from their fixings, glass shattered and sent spinning into the road, a searing smoke and the burning of things that shouldn't be burnt, and then the quiet.

Dust settled, glass stopped tinkling, bits of car came clattering and then to rest, smoke sailed on and up on the breeze. Perhaps, the thought occurred to me, I should check whether there was anybody in either of the cars, and see if they were alright. I looked up the main road and a small car was driving towards me. There was something strange about the way it moved, jerking through the gears and yet never getting up much speed. As I looked inside I saw a huge, fat guy, eyes drenched with medication, hunched over the steering wheel, looking worried. He drove past without acknowledging me.

Now people appeared, out of their houses and who knows where and starting gathering around, ringing other people, and probably the police, on their phones. There was talk but I was suddenly worried that no-one knew about the cars, that it had all been my imagination, and that they had all gathered here for some other reason, so I didn't say anything. Then I asked one woman: "Did you see the cars?" and the pause before she answered was long enough to make my heart flutter. Then she said: "Yes," and put me out of my misery. "We should ring the police and tell them about the plane," I said to the crowd, imagining a plane with its doors hanging open, cargo dropping away like gifts being showered by a benevolent god. Then I said: "Mind you they're probably going to Heathrow anyway."

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