Thursday, 20 December 2007

skidding around

It's F12 time, my book in the background as usual, thirty things to do in front of it, and only a few moments to do them all, thank heavens I can multitask, so there I was ....
Deep breath. Start again. So there I was, late late two nights ago, driving Sam home for the holidays down a deserted stretch of super-highway. Forest and field, snow falling gently, and my son sitting next to me. Sounds lovely, huh? It wasn't. What are your least favorite driving moments? For me they are the times when the car is not quite under control. The road is snow-greasy and the tires are balding and the traction is ... let's call it intermittent. You are one piece of ice or one sharp wheel turn away from the ditch.
That's what we had -- about two hours of it. I was concentrating hard, keeping the tires in the darkened ruts, speed steady, turns very gradual, foot off the gas when the car started to skid, correcting slowly so as not to spin out, then drifting back under control, adrenaline coursing through me like smallpox through a native village (that's a nasty image, isn't it) ...
Anyway, I was stressed, feeling like Philip Marlowe, old and tired and full of no coffee, when Sam observed that we were all alone on our side of the highway. I mean, all alone. No red lights up ahead in the distance, no white ones in the rearview. Just endless black. Coming towards us, on the other hand, was a solid line of trucks, crawling forward, their progress slowed by a scarily jackknifed trailer we'd passed a few miles back. Weird, eh? said Sam. All these guys going away from town, and we're alone, heading in. Know what it reminds me of?
A moment of no traction, here, and we skidded slightly. I gripped the wheel harder (not like that was going to help) and breathed a sigh of relief when the tire treads bit again, and the car straightened back out. What does it remind you of? I asked.
Z-day! I could feel him grinning. The zombies have taken over, and the citizens are fleeing in their thousands. We are the only ones heading back into Raccoon City. Isn't it cool, dad!
I didn't dare take my hands off the wheel, but for a second I saw the world from his perspective. I forgot about the real chance of us spending the night waiting for a tow, cold and wet and maybe injured. I forgot about being a grownup.
I cant remember the name of the movie, but it was a story of the London blitz told from the POV of a twelve year old boy, and what stays with me is the fun our hero had, running around in the midst of ruin, climbing and smashing and hiding and seeking. A boy's perspective on the horrors of war. I completely bought it. Anyway, I was reminded of the movie in the car with Sam. He's got a lot of twelve year old inside him, and I was able to find some myself. We were alone on our side of the highway (and you have to know the 401 to realize how utterly unlikely this is) with a million headlights stalled on the other side. A postcard from the apocalypse.
Yes, I said. It is cool.
Then the car lurched, and I went back to worrying.

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