Tuesday, July 29

Odometer

ROLLING WATER IS riding and running and being sung pop song on the radio; banging on the steering wheel with that obliviousness that is exclusive to lonesome drivers. As it catches his eye, he is fixed upon the odometer. Looking away. A pause. 9,999.4 (nine-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine point-four). It clicks beneath the bonnet but the clicking is lost in the ruckus of the engine as it fights and whirs. He must not miss this. He focuses his attention on the odometer.
The rain is falling on the windscreen as though each drop has been unsettled from a tree branch overhead; heavy, disturbed, unwilling, creating a big plop that is smithereens on the glass. So the rain falls while the imperfections in the asphalt collect puddles.
The back tyres wobble. Knocked like a marble, the car starts the spin. Its owner is distracted from the odometer – which lazily rolls round to 10,000.0 (ten-thousand point-zero) – and shuts his eyes. Stacks of muscles are contracted and hold him in place within the seat. Most notably the group of muscles around the eyelid cooperate to black out his sight and he succumbs to whatever may happen. Whatever happens, he thinks. It is very clear to him that whatever happens, will happen; it is beyond his control. (A very small section of his brain fizzes out, closed by the disappointment of missing the odometer roll.) He hears in the far distance cars honk and swerve and the falling rain on the windscreen, the stirring of water an inch deep, the buck and pull of the breaks and his right foot fumbles.
After ten minutes, he is motionless. A blinking yellow light from a parked car nearby is keeping him in time, he taps his heartbeat along to the rhythm. Opening his eyes as the group of muscles around his sockets relax toward a rapping hand—‘Are you okay?’ He turns them around for exercise and once more his gaze is tacked to the odometer: 10,000.0 (ten-thousand, as the decimal place is balanced precariously between zero and one).

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