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The rain is really spewing down now, hitting the car hard, banging on the roof and running off the windows. It’s like sitting in a car wash when you know you can’t get out and you just have to sit there and wait for it to finish. The wipers are going mad, shoving at the water like a couple of crazy fuckers trying to knock the shit out of something. The radio is on and I can hear a faint voice say:

Police have issued a description of a man they wish to interview in connection with....

Kate’s really out of it on the back seat so I’m all alone in the darkness with the rain and the endless noise. I drive dead slow, trying to follow the white line and keep out of the soft stuff on the side. The needle on the petrol gauge is lying flat and motionless so I know we can’t go much further. I’m just waiting for the engine to die.

We reach the top of a slope so I throttle back, de-clutch and try to freewheel as far as possible. This takes me back. My old man used to do this. He’d say that the car was flying, gliding two feet off the ground, and we’d believe him because we couldn’t hear the engine. Then he’d let the clutch back in with a bump and tell us that we’d landed. We used to fly all over the place.



Then I see a light up ahead and I know we’re going to be OK. The light is green and blue and gold. I’d know those colours anywhere. I roll onto the service station forecourt, splashing through the puddles, and come to a halt under the canopy. The rain stops instantly. I’m holding the steering wheel so tightly, my arms feel like they’re ready to drop off. Kate stirs in the back and says, Wuraaarruh.

I get out of the car and there’s a smell of petrol fumes and rain and dust. I stand there for a moment and let it all soak in. All we need now is a flash of lightning to create a bit of atmosphere. I can’t remember how long I’ve been driving but most of my muscles have gone to sleep. I do a few slow stretches to get some feeling back. My head feels cool and clear, like there’s an icy breeze blowing behind my eyeballs. It’s been a long time since I felt this good. I stand and listen to the rain in the trees and watch the insects attacking the neon.

I do all the petrol stuff, stretching the hose to jam the nozzle in and feeling the liquid come surging through the pipe. Numbers flick over faster than I can count.

I go over to the office, feeling kind of funny walking there because I know the person inside must be watching me. I try to act normal. The doors open for me and, inside, the office is all bright and shiny with clean white floor tiles that make my head hurt. There’s a man behind the counter wearing a red V-neck sweater with a tiny green and blue and gold logo over his heart.

Nasty night for it, says the man and I say it is, giving him a smile to show that I’m friendly. He’s too busy tapping away at some buttons to see me though. He doesn’t look at me at all while he’s working the till.

Is that the lot, he asks and I say it is and his machine starts chattering away. I put the money on the counter and we do the end bit. Then, just when I’m about to leave, I feel the lighter in my pocket and remember that I need cigarettes. I don’t know how I could have forgotten them because I’m really gasping. I turn back to the counter again and this time the man is looking at me like he knows me or something.

Hey mate, I say, and he does a little jump like somebody just gave him a poke with a stick. I can tell he’s not used to having regular company so I lean on the counter, ultra-relaxed, and give him another smile. My eye is twitching a bit but I manage to get it under control.

The man licks his lips and flicks a glance at a tiny camera fastened above the counter pointing down at me. I look at the camera too and then look at the man and we both look at the camera together and I’m wondering how we’ll look on the replay, all time-lapsed and fuzzy monochrome.

When I’m finished with the man, I go outside and see straightaway that the car is gone. The road is clear and the only sound is the drumming of the rain and the electric buzz of the green and blue and gold sign. I have a lighter in my hand and the smell of petrol in my nostrils.