Short Story — Cars
Becky and Wendy had been driving around the outskirts of the city, bored. They had seemingly used up all their excitement at the weekend, and now a take away, a dance or a boy couldn’t seem to give them what they wanted. What they liked doing sometimes, but didn’t admit it, was just touring about, waiting for serendipity to decide what would happen, rather than some list of things that need to be achieved.
“Why don’t we go to one of those spooky deserted car showrooms, there’s one there.” Said Becky.
“Are you serious?” Replied Wendy.
“Yes, look at the lighting, it’s kind of cute, and they open late these days I think.”
“Well ok, but if anyone speaks you are doing the talking.” Said Wendy, who was less game.
“Ok, I just want to see what unfolds. Chances are we’ll scare away anyone who approaches us anyway. You know, I’m beginning to think we get on too well sometimes. It’s not doing my love life any good.”
“I was thinking the same thing as it happens.”
Wendy eventually found a parking space amongst all the shiny new and used cars.
“Haha,” said Becky, “look, an old Ford Fiesta, what’s this doing here? Look at the rust. I think I could afford this one with the spare change in my pocket.”
“That’s my car,” said the woman who appeared. She was wearing a smart suit, and shoes that were very sensible, bordering on being men’s walking boots.
“Oh hello,” said Becky, blushing and making too much eye contact apologetically, “I didn’t mean to be rude. So you are looking to buy a car?”
“No. And don’t be embarrassed, it is a bit of an old banger, that’s why I’ve kept it so long. I live not too far away, towards those misty hills.”
“Oh I see, said Becky, do you work here in the showroom?”
“Yes and No. I am both security and if anyone has a question or shows an interest in a car I log it for the staff who start the next morning. But just now that seems a long time away. Would you have the time? I’m not sure what decade we are in, let alone what hour and minute.”
“It’s nearly 9 O’Clock,” offered Wendy helpfully.
“Oh, 9 O’Clock, we shut around then.”
“Well, if you have an inquiry I could chat longer.”
Becky was up for fun, so feigned an interest in a Citroen Dolly that was looking pristine under the crescent moon which seemed to just appear above their heads, sailing through the sky with the moving clouds.
“What’s this one called?”
“This is one of my favourites as it happens, all the way imported from France. It’s not brand new, but a man ordered it and then disappeared somewhere. It happens a lot, you know. They take an interest, I take down their details, and when I come in at 7 O’Clock for my wee shift, there’s a note saying that I must try harder to spot the time wasters.”
“What was it called?”
“A Citroen, Dolly.”
“Haha, what a cute name. I’ve heard of Citroen, it reminds me of citrus.”
“Yes,” smiled the lady. “I see what you mean.”
A bell tower chimed 9.
“Where’s that sound coming from?” enquired Wendy.
“Oh, that’s the church clock. Although I don’t like calling them that, there’s too much baggage so I just call it the spiritual building.”
“Spiritual?” Said Becky.
“Well I think all that religious stuff has a lot of baggage.”
“Fair enough,” replied Becky. Who didn’t get into these discussions. Wendy was more likely to, but she sensed that her friend wasn’t comfortable.
“So are you interested in buying this car. It has virtually zero miles on the clock.”
“Well, that would be an improvement on mine,” said Wendy. Who was proud of her little roadster and her ability to drive. She had an uncle who got the bus everywhere, and wrote poetry, which sounded like the saddest thing imaginable.
The bell started chiming, just a few times. For no apparent reason.
“Is that clock tower a bit wonky,” said Becky.
“No, in the sense that it always does that. It’s like time is out of sync or something around here. My grandfather was a blacksmith and worked in the iron business, whenever I hear its chime I think of the ghosts who installed the thing, banging away at their metal, shaping and soldering.”
“Right,” said Becky, who was a bit spooked by this comment. “I think I won’t be buying this car today, maybe I’ll come back tomorrow.”
“They all say that,” said the lady. With the trace of a smile around her full rosebud lips.
“No, I mean it, I love this. I’ve been watching a lot of French films lately.”
“Of course you have,” said the lady.
Wendy, who was more protective, stepped into the odd silences. “Right, I’m taking us home, I’ve got work tomorrow and so has my friend.”
“Before you go,” offered the security woman, “have you ever really looked around this town. Maybe most towns?”
“In what way?” Said Wendy haughtily, she was confident that she rarely missed a trick, and was very observant.
“Well, look. These lights, there’s lights but is anybody home? Sometimes I’ve gone for a walk around this area. People appear now and again, a taxi goes past, someone is at their window, but it looks like it’s just for show. I work in a showroom. And the customers seem sometimes like they are show customers. Like it’s some kind of dream, not a bad dream as such all the time, but like the world is keeping up appearances. One day, I opened the door of my portacabin, which is behind the main office, I stepped in there, and ended back here where I am standing, more or less, beside this Citroen that can’t be shifted. Look at all the cars and their positioning. How the fuck did they get them here, and move them about if someone wants to take a test drive, which they never do, in my experience. Yes, this city, this town, this world. I don’t want to say it, but…it gets to you.”
“I think you’ve spent too long on your own.” said Wendy.
“It’s only a 2 hour shift, but sometimes it feels longer like someone has shifted the times, back a bit. I stopped wearing a watch, I stopped listening to the bell tower. I wish the world would stop.”
“Ok, I think what you need is this number,” said Becky.
“Is it Samaritans?”
“Yes, as it happens.”
“OK, although I dread to see their call centre, and there is nobody really there. Ok girls, I’ll let you get away this time, but don’t let me see you tomorrow, or I’ll be even more upset.”
And with that the two friends got back into their motorcar, and started doing maths. The amount of cars, the amount of homes, the amount of schools and the amount of people. Something didn’t add up, but they sure as hell weren’t going to think about it too much. They knew if they waited, just waited a few weeks this experience could be something to forget, or something to laugh about…