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Well, I woke up Sunday morning...

Andy’s been singing all day.

With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt...

He found this tape under one of the seats and since then he’s been belting it out, full-on volume, shouting away as if he can’t hold it inside a moment longer. It’s enough to waken the dead. I don’t think he’s even listening to the words any more. Not that it matters to me. I don’t care what he does. Just so long as he leaves me in peace...

And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad...

The sound of the engine has been drowned out so I can’t hear how quickly we’re going. It’s as if we’re no longer bound to the road at all but are travelling through the air, loud and fast. I’m sitting inside a tiny bubble of noise which any moment now is going to burst open and we’ll be blasted out through the stratosphere, leaving the car behind like a broken shell. We don’t belong here, in this car, on this road.

So I had one more for dessert....

I’ve been thinking about a watch I used to have, something I lost – I don’t know when... Losing that watch was like cutting off a chunk of the past. I was wearing that watch when... and now I don’t have it. That watch is history. For a long time it was broken, the strap had come off or maybe it was losing time. Anyway, whenever I wanted to know the time, I would be reminded that the watch was broken and that I needed to get it fixed. Then the next second, I would forget all about it. This went on for ages. Afterwards, I couldn’t understand how I managed to put up with something which annoyed me so much for so long. I can’t remember if I ever got it fixed. Maybe I just lost it in the end.

Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt....

It was always impossible to sleep when my parents argued. I would stand at the top of the stairs in the dark, listening to their voices, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never catch their words, only the sound of their voices.

...and stumbled down the stairs to meet the day...

It is impossible for the man and woman to sleep in the city. They lie on the bed, side by side without touching, staring at the ceiling. I can hear the faint whoosh of traffic outside and in the distance, a car alarm that sounds like the call of a tropical bird. The curtain is drawn in the bedroom but the light shines right through it. It is brighter here than anywhere else in the house. Hot too.

Somewhere in the house, I can hear the black cat licking itself. Lick lick. Lick lick. It sounds as if it is eating itself.

Eventually the man gets off the bed and leaves the room. I know where he is going without even following him. He always does the same thing.
The man pads down the stairs and makes his way to the kitchen. He picks up the kettle and jiggles it slightly to see if it needs more water. If it does, he will fill it (but not so full that it takes too long to boil), leaving the water running to rinse the cups. He puts the kettle on the stove and lights the gas ring by turning on the gas first and then lighting the match. He puts the spent match in the ashtray on the shelf next to the stove. If the ashtray is full, he empties it into the pedal bin.

If the pedal bin is full, he lifts out the plastic bag, ties a knot in the top and puts it in the garbage bin at the front of the house.

Before opening the front door, he checks to see if the back door is open. If it is, he wedges open the front door to prevent it from slamming behind him. If the security screen at the front is locked, he walks back to the kitchen, still holding the plastic bag, and finds the keys to open it. Because it is a hot day, the front door is already wedged open which means that the security screen must be locked. The man remembers to take his keys.

While the water is boiling, the man selects two tea bags from the tea caddy. If there are no tea bags left, he takes a new box of tea bags from the next shelf down, opens it (placing the cellophane wrapping in the empty pedal bin) and refills the tea caddy. He folds the empty box and puts it in the recycling bin next to the pedal bin. He places a tea bag in each cup making sure that the purple tags attached to the tea bags are dangling on the outside of the cups.

If the whistle is on the kettle then it may or may not work when the water boils. If it does, the man picks up the kettle, remembering to use a tea towel to avoid scalding his hand, and fills the cups. The tea bags bob about like tiny bloated torsos. The man waits for the tea to brew. He leans against the fridge, half expecting the smooth white surface to be cool but finding instead that it is slightly warm. A woman starts to sing nearby. Her voice rises higher and higher until it is little more than a faint scream. When the man opens the fridge door to get the milk carton, the black cat comes trotting in and makes a noise which sounds like ‘Yes?’
‘Fuck off cat,’ says the man.


Soon it will be time to go to work. The man catches a train out to the highway where he does the night shift at a service station. He sits alone in the train carriage and stares out of the window at the lines of street lamps. At one point, he passes row after row of deserted factories marching off into the distance, padlocks on the gates, all the windows broken. A lone blue flame burns at the top of a tall chimney.

The man is the only passenger to get off at the station. He walks quickly along dimly-lit streets, listening to the steady slap slap of his feet on the pavement. Dogs bark at him from deep inside dark buildings and a train mumbles in the distance.

All night long, the man sits inside a small box of toughened glass. The forecourt is illuminated by an orange glow but beyond that it is hard to see. He is marooned in a pool of neon light, waiting for customers who never arrive. He looks at the empty road. He reads a newspaper. He listens to the late night radio, the low, slow voices of the DJs with time to kill. Tick tick. Tick tick.

The man roams about inside the box, reading the labels on the sweet packets, counting the number of white floor tiles, making sure that all the soft drink cans are facing the same direction. Eventually he turns off all the lights and lies down behind the counter. Just before dawn, he is woken by somebody tapping on the toughened glass.

Hey, mate...

Splat. A bug smears itself across the windscreen like a tiny Kamikaze pilot, yellow body fluids pressed flat like a flower in a book. It never knew what hit it.

The suddenness of the impact makes me jump as if recoiling from the force of it, two moving bodies slamming into each other faster than the eye can follow, swifter than thought. That’s life. Or death. It happens so fast it seems almost inevitable, unavoidable, because there’s no time to react, to take evasive action. One moment you’re sitting there, minding your own business, and the next instant you’re catapulted into a different world that you never saw coming until it was too late. You can’t help thinking that it was meant to be, a pre-ordained accident of fate.

That’s the way it looks anyway; a chance encounter and everything is changed. Of course, nobody believes in that any more. Nothing is left to chance. It reads too much like a bad script.

Sometimes instead of watching the road, I like to look at all the bugs glued to the screen. They’re moving pretty quickly now except none of them are going anywhere and there’s no way they can break free. That’s what happens if you get too close. You’ve got to keep your distance even if you can’t see what’s coming at you from over the horizon.

Things have quietened down in the car now. Andy’s lost interest in the tape for the moment and has gone back to his map reading. It’s getting near that time of day when we have to decide how far we’re going and where we’re going to stop. Andy’s got the route all worked out in his head but as usual, he’s way off course. He’s got no sense of scale. We’re likely to end up miles away from where he thinks we are. We can spend half the night looking for a place he swears is just around the corner.

I guess it’s partly my fault. I’m already losing track of time. I can’t remember how long we’ve been on the road or how far we’ve travelled. It feels like we’ve been going for weeks but it could be just a matter of days. That’s the difference between going on holiday and travelling. On holiday, you always know how much time you’ve got and there’s always some reason to go back. I wish I was on holiday.

The road ahead is flat and empty so I put my foot down and pick up a bit of speed. Maybe we’ll get there a bit faster today. The tape of Solid Gold Country & Western is still on auto-play but I can barely hear it now above the roar of the engine. Silently, obediently, the tape changes over at the end of each side and, as the miles slip beneath us, the anthems to broken hearts, lonesome nights and cheating eyes mingle and drift away on the hot desert air.