I started the engine and drove the Celica out onto the street. It was still early, not many cars about. I was cruising along when an old orange Volvo approached from a side road, taking a quick look around, he swung out ninety metres in front of me. That annoyed the shit out of me. He had no right to pull in front of me. I accelerated heavily and came up close behind to show him he should have waited for me; his carelessness could have caused a collision. When he saw me he moved over to let me pass, but there wasn't room, so I just sat on his hammer.

   Turning into Ballot Street, as I was coming up towards the bus stop, I saw a woman with gorgeous legs. I was staring at her, but as I drew closer--slowing down for a better look--I saw that she reminded me of someone I knew. Yes! It was Tess Jackson.
   I recognised her face; her hair was still the same, yet she was older and heavier than the last time I saw her. I pulled up about ten metres in front of her, then backed up to the bus stop. I leaned over, pressed the window switch, and called out: 'Tess!'
   She came a step closer peering in the window. 'Remember me? Rodney Sharpe.'
   'Oh, yes. Hi!'
   'You've missed your bus. It went five minutes ago, and there won't be another one for twenty-five minutes. Can I give you a lift?'
   'Well ... if it's not out of your way.' She came over to the door; I opened it and she sat down alongside of me. She carried a whiff of sensuous perfume into the car. Her face, smooth and beautiful, had a model's look of perfection. She was dressed in a tailored mauve suit. Her skirt, finishing at her knees, revealed long brown stockinged legs.
   'Where are you going to Tess?'
   'The city.'
   'Fine, that's where I work.'

   In front of me I could see that the orange Volvo had stopped, the driver had posted a letter and then got back in and drove off. I caught up to him again as we hit the 80 kph zone. He accelerated up to 85, but I just sat behind him almost riding his bumper to show him how annoyed I was, because he was still blocking my way. When a gap came, I pulled out around him hitting 115 as I passed four cars at once. Four at once! They were all just crawling along. Jesus, I don't know how some people get their license.
   I was cruising now, just over 100, until I got caught up behind an old Falcon with a woman driving. I sat on her tail, watching for a chance to pass, there was a small break--I took the opportunity and changed back to third and took off, pulling back onto the left side with three seconds to spare. The on-coming driver flashed his headlights at me, as if to say "that was too close". I gave him the forks.

   'It's been a few years,' I said.
   'Sure. Since our university days. That must be seven years.'
   'But you don't live around here any more do you?'
   She turned to look at me. 'No I moved out just after uni. I came back last night to see my mother. She hasn't been well. I though I could catch a bus ... but it seems they've changed the timetable. Usually I drive everywhere, but my old bomb has broken down for good. I'll have to look for another one next week.' She stretched her sexy legs out in front of her, and I perved at them. 'What about yourself,' she asked, 'you still live with your father?'
   'No, he died about five years back. I just stayed on in the house. I work for Homecoming Magazine. I'm a journalist. I do a bit of this and that; interviews, articles, make up love-sick letters for the agony column, and in my spare time find advertisers. It's not a very good job. Probably the best thing about it is this car they lease for me. Nice, isn't it?'

   Now the damn bus was in front of me. They shouldn't be allowed on the road; it was only doing 75 in the 80 zone. I usually cruise at 110 along that section. I sat close up to his bumper, peeking out now and again, waiting for an opportunity to pass.

   A black Commodore came right up behind me, watching for a chance as if I was the one who was too slow. The bus pulled over a little. But I couldn't see if it was safe to pass. I started to edge the car around the bus for a peek, when suddenly the fucking Commodore shot past, the engine revving its guts out! I immediately changed back to second gear, slammed my foot to the floor and pulled out after the Commodore. He must have been mad! He almost got me killed, because there was a semi-trailer heading right towards me. I had figured that if he could pass then it must have been safe. I cruised up behind him, the speedo on 110 kph. I sat about three metres away, and seeing a gap in the oncoming traffic, I dropped back a cog. But he immediately increased his speed up to 120, even though we were in the 80 zone. The bastard knew I'd have to do 130 before getting past. I decided to sit with him, sooner or later he'd make a mistake, and then I'd take him. When he saw I wasn't about to pass he backed off to 110. I kept close behind him. As we turned into the straight section he got caught up behind a stupid old fart puttering along at 80. We slowed right back. God knows these fools shit me!

   'Where do you work, Tess?'
   'A place called Community Aid. We work mostly in third world countries to assist the people to become self-sufficient. We've recently started working in rural Australia in a similar fashion. I do a bit of everything: publicity, organising fundraising, mailing lists, investigating projects, and I seem to give quite a few interviews. In fact I have to give one today to The Australian.'
   'Sounds like we're in a similar line of work. I interview people, you give interviews.'
   'Only I don't get a car,' she laughed.
   'That's my pleasure, Tess. If you had a car I wouldn't have been able to talk with you. Remember all those great times we had at uni? I used to see you at the jazz concerts. You still like jazz?'
   'Sure. Remember my boyfriend, Benny Sampson? He married a violinist from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.'
   'Is that right? I was always jealous of Benny.'
   'Oh you had your share of girlfriends.'
   'It's quality that counts.' I paused a moment then asked, 'Would you like to have dinner with me Saturday night?'
   'I often work at home on Saturday nights. I expect I'll be working next Saturday.'
   'Oh that's bad, Tess! No wonder a beautiful thing like you isn't married! The men don't get a look in. Please, you can't work every night. You should have some time off.'

   The number of idiots on the road who cause accidents because they drive so slowly! I sat with the Commodore, knowing the dual lane 100 kph zone was coming up. The old car in front pulled into the left lane when the road widened; the Commodore overtook, and I intended to pass him. He had no right to be in front of me--he had jumped the queue when I was stuck behind the bus. I followed him, yet he refused to pull out of the right-hand lane, travelling now at about 150. I moved into the left lane watching him, then I floored it, passing him and reaching 180 before I backed off. He didn't try to follow, which was good for him. My heart was pumping, but I felt great, finally getting clear of him. Slowly he fell further and further behind; when he was half a kilometre back I slowed down to 120.

   Up ahead I could see a lumbering truck crawling up the hill in the left lane, in the right lane a Toyota van was catching up with the truck, blocking me from getting past. In the rear view mirror I could see the Commodore, gaining on me. If I went behind the Toyota, then I'd be stuck, because once we got over the hill it was a single lane and double lines. I decided to go for it. I pulled into the left hand lane and came up behind the truck at 110. The truck was crawling along at about 30 and the Toyota was about to overtake the truck. Once I drew level with the Toyota van, I swung the wheel, cutting in front and passing between him and the truck. There was just enough room to slip through, a metre or so to spare on each side. That was skilful driving considering I was doing about 100 kph at the time. I glanced in the rear vision mirror, the driver of the Toyota van had a look of sheer panic on his face, and a little puff of smoke came from his tyres. Further back I could see that the Commodore looked like getting stuck behind the truck. Serve the bastard right.

   'Rodney, I don't think I can afford the time with the new publicity concert coming up.'
   'Oh look, my last offer. I'll take you to dinner, then to the new jazz club that's just opened, and over dinner I'll do an interview with you about your concert! That way you'll still be working.'
   'Hmm. Well, I shouldn't have to feel guilty for enjoying myself then. Alright then, Rodney.'
   'You're committed to your work aren't you?'
   'Yes, I can't help it. I've always had this notion that I should leave this world in a better state than when I arrived. And that it is up to me to help things along.'
   'Where would you like to get out? I usually park at the Time Zone Car Park. Would that be close enough for you?'
   'Sure. That'd be great.'

   We entered into the 60 zone and there was not much I could do but crawl along most of the time. Then up ahead I saw a car dithering at the amber traffic lights, so I cut across to the other lane and passed three cars, then swapped back to the right-hand lane to get away from a woman in a car turning left. Then we crawled along for ten minutes. When we came into the city I cut down a few side streets. By doing that you can get up to 80 and then pull out of a laneway, saving two sets of traffic lights. The only problem is if the bastards won't let you in. This day I was lucky and pulled into a narrow gap--it's a matter of bluff to push your way in.
   We were creeping along in the city, when up ahead in the left lane I noticed the same orange Volvo that had crawled along in front of me when I left home. I recognised the stickers on the back bumper. He must have passed me in the slow traffic.
   I decided to take the short cut through the lane. If I got through quickly enough I had a good chance of coming out on an amber light, cutting in front of the other cars.
   I spun into the laneway, raced down it at 75, but another car was coming up the lane! I was travelling fast, and I knew that would force him over. As we passed each other there was only a six centimetre gap between the cars. I swung into the corner a little too fast, because the other car had made me lose concentration. When I came to the narrow bend, still doing about 40, my car brushed the brick corner on the passenger side, scraping the door of the Celica.
   Fuck it!
   I was angry because it was really the other car's fault. By forcing me over, and making me lose concentration, I went into the corner too fast. Still there was no point in stopping. It obviously had put a slight dent in the side and scratched the paintwork.

   The car park was getting full. A line of cars worked their way through each floor. I was following a blue Falcon. I saw an empty space up ahead; the Falcon slowed and went past. I swung nose-in to the space, and switched off. The Falcon had stopped, his reversing lights on, and was bipping his horn at me. I guess he had intended to back in. Well, he was too bloody slow! He was sitting in his car, glaring at me, blocking the traffic. He blasted his horn a couple more times and drove off looking furious. I just gave him the forks. I wasn't going to move. It was his own fault for dithering.
   I got out and examined my car where it had scrapped down the bricks. Oh shit! There were deep scratches from the front door to the boot. I guessed that'd be a couple of thousand dollars worth.

   'Here we are! Jeez, it was stupid the way that car forced me into scraping along the brick wall. I ought to have got his number.'
   'I suppose it's covered by insurance?'
   'Of course. No worries. It'll give someone a job to do.'
   'Rodney, I've decided against the dinner and the interview.'
   'What do you mean?'
   'I don't want to go out with you.' We were standing alongside the Celica, facing each other.
   'But why?'
   'I've been thinking about it. Your driving bothers me.'
   'Oh don't worry about that! A little scrape. It was nothing. A coat of paint and it'll be right.'
   'No, it's not that.'
   'Are you afraid I'll drink and drive?'
   'I'll tell you what. I won't drive at all. I'll pick you up in a taxi. We'll take taxis wherever we go. That way you'll have no worries about my driving. I'll leave the Celica at home. That okay then?'
   'No, Rodney.'
   'But why?'
   'It's your character.'
   'My character? First you said it was my driving. What are you talking about?'
   'I've been watching you drive.'
   'What do you mean?'
   'Rodney, all of us have flaws. No one is perfect, but there are irreconcilable differences in our personalities.'
   'What are you on about?' She closed the door of the Celica, and I noticed three teenage boys, all dressed like M.C. Hammer, gawking at her. She looked so sexy. 'Besides, what about our interview?'
   'Rodney, I'll put it in your own language.'

   With that she turned towards me, and without a hint of a smile, she gave me the forks and walked off.
   I'll never understand women! She changed her mind just out of the blue.


© Copyright Marcus Clark 2002

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