15 June 2007

Only Heroes: A Non-Fiction Short Story

The rain rained down like rain to the power of eight. Rained down with the sound of a Battle Royale between six different high school marching band percussion sections. It was that strong. Really strong.

Chiara dragged her mononucleosis ridden body down three treacherous flights of steps and out the front door. Armed only with an umbrella and rainboots she trudged, quickly yet slowly (she had mononucleosis) around the corner to the spot where her douchebag boyfriend had inconveniently parked the car, mere days before. Gone. Her heart leapt into her throat as the icy fingers of panic latched onto her eyes and savagely began to claw. Breathlessly she pulled her mobile phone from her bag and, once the keypad was unlocked, dialled 'Ryan Work.'

Ryan slammed down the phone with a force that rattled the windows in his office, and the depths of his soul. He leapt to his feet and shook his fist at the bad weather/bad luck gods operating on Mount Frustration. "Dammit," he cursed angrily, "why must you work overtime to thwart me?" It was a rhetorical question, one to which he knew he would receive no reply. He received no reply.

Summoning the final reserves of his formidable wellspring of inner strength he composed himself enough to google "Brussels Police contact Ixelles." The triumph of finding the contact number for the local police office faded quickly once the number were entered into his office telephone. It was replaced by the now familiar feeling of frustration. Only this time the frustration was due to his complete inability to make himself understood in French. "Dammit!" he cursed silently for the second time in only minutes "why do I know neither the verb for 'to park,' nor its past tense? Let alone the verb for tow, or its past tense" The question this time was not rhetorical; he knew the answer, and it chilled him to his very core. However, he had not time to think about the dual culpability of Summerland Secondary School or his current CPAB Language Programme. He could think of only two things: "One, it's in no way my own fault my French is so so terribly shitty, and two I NEED TO GET THAT CAR BACK! NOW!!" Fighting back the terror that threatened to consume him, he bravely switched to English.

Chiara crawled back up the stairs, too weak to even move. Almost. Shedding boots, umbrella, pants and bag she staggered towards the spare bedroom. Her eyes lolled in their sockets as the strength leaked from her fingertips. She paused, supported by the doorframe, and tried to focus. Then she saw it, the one thing that could save her. A plan began to form in her now feverish mind.

The smoky voice on the other end of the phone line uttered assent and the conversation proceeded at a figuratively BREAKNECK pace. In English. Ryan's hunch that it had been towed had now been confirmed, in English, by the police officer on the other end of the phone. Now Ryan knew, knew beyond a shadow of an inkling of a tiny doubt, knew with a certainty he had felt only infrequently before, that the car had indeed been towed. He also knew that he needed to get to that police station... and FAST!

Chiara settled onto the futon upstairs and closed her eyes. Her plan had worked! Though it had only been sketchily drawn in her mind, it had been executed flawlessly. She had lain down on the futon almost perfectly. She allowed herself the briefest sigh of relief before an awful question entered, unbidden, into her mind: 'Why is my boyfriend such a fucktard?' she thought, before passing into a blissfully fitful sleep.

The locations raced by like a musical montage, only there was NO music! Just a blur of ID cards, signatures and bitter, bone-chilling rain as Ryan raced from elevator, to car of colleague who offered him a ride, to home to pick up car keys and an umbrella, to police station, to tram stop, to tram, to tram stop three stops along, to bus stop, to bus, to bus stop on other end of the line with only the most cursory of inspections of the decent looking pizzeria he saw along the way. And then, finally, his pentultimate destination loomed before him casting a dark shadow across his heart: The Tow Truck Place.

He knew his luck haD not deserted him entirely when the stupid bitch behind the counter gestured into the parking lot in the back. She knew she had been outfoxed: the car was going back to its rightful owner. There was nothing she could do to stop that piece of justice. Ryan pushed his way through the open door and walked the length of the counter moving inexorably into the parking lot. But as Ryan walked through the dirty puddled parking lot towards the object of his desire, a realization hit him. Hit him like a 2x4 in the face. And the wallet.

"I just spent 218 euros, euros I can scarcely afford, on a car that we already owned," he thought (and not for the first time that day) very, very, angrily, "It's not as if they did detailing work, or changed the oil, or anything at all: except take it away. They're little better than thieves! 218 euros is a fucking shameful amount of money to charge for towing a car. I fucking hate those fuckers." Then he throw his head back, looked at the purple sky, and puked.

"Hi baby," Chiara shouted down from upstairs. She had decided that Ryan's own anger and frustration would suffice, and the valuable parking lesson had already been learned. No ball-breaking would be necessary.

Ryan trudged upstairs, ball-broken and weary, but comfortable in the knowledge that the white Citroen Saxo they legally owned was legally parked out front. He looked at his girlfriend, and happiness and relief washed over him. Then he thought again about all the fucking money he had just spent and puked. Puked with anger. But no amount of puking would get his money back, and deep down in the very core of his being he knew this. The only thing that would end this ordeal would be acceptance of events as they unfolded, or revenge. Ryan swore revenge.


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