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Andy’s been reading all day. He sits dead still facing the front with his head bowed slightly and the book in his lap as if praying for something. He’s got his wraparounds on so, most of the time, I can’t tell if he’s awake or asleep. Occasionally though he turns a page or lifts his head to look out at the road, as if reassuring himself that it’s still there.

I’m measuring the distance between bends in the road, watching the numbers on the odometer crawl upwards like eyeballs rolling back in a skull. There’s not much traffic about so I try driving on the wrong side of the road just to see what it feels like to be in a foreign country. Most of the time though I’m not thinking about where I’m going. It’s frightening to think that I can go so far without realising what I’m doing.

Andy’s reading Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. I can tell that he hates what Peter Carey does but sort of respects him for it anyway. Men can be so loyal that way. Right now he’s got to the part where Lucinda is filled with wonder by a small blob of solid glass that explodes into a fine spray of powder when nipped with pliers. It’s a particularly poignant moment and it’s about as far as Andy ever gets. He tries hard. He makes a concerted effort to sit and read from start to finish but each time he gets this far, something interrupts him – he falls asleep, he loses the book, we get sidetracked – and then he has to start all over again. It’s becoming a real problem.

Anyway, this time it looks as though he’s going to make it. There’s no reason for us to stop and all I have to do is sit here quietly and hope that he doesn’t drop off. I concentrate on driving as smoothly as possible. I pretend to be carrying a load of nitro-glycerine over a dirt track.

I remember a story my father once told me about a boy who refused to get out of bed because he was so lazy. Then, one day, he tried to get up and found he couldn’t move because his body was paralysed. Thinking about it now makes me want to laugh but I have to stifle it and try to keep my mind on the road. It makes me wonder though what it was all about; whether it was the boy’s fault because he was lazy or was it just an accident, just one of those things...

shattered screen


I must have drifted off because the next moment there’s this big truck right in front of me bearing down on us with its horn blaring and lights flashing. I swerve sharply to one side and the truck slams by with a violent shake of air and dust. There’s a sharp CRACK and, before you know it, the windscreen shatters into millions of minute pieces. Only it doesn’t fall out. It’s like somebody’s changed channels. A moment ago there was a clear view of the road ahead and now it’s all frosted over. I let go of the wheel for a second and we’re off the road, tyres crunching on gravel. I’m braking firmly but in a controlled manner.

Eventually we stop with a slight bump and I wind down the side window to see if we’ve hit anything. There’s dust swirling all around us and I can feel the dryness of it in my nostrils. It’s a warm, earthy dryness, nothing like the keen, cold dryness you get with air conditioning. Already I’m reliving the moment of impact, trying to find that split second when the mind doesn’t know what’s happening and it’s lagging behind, desperate to catch up. Maybe I laugh a bit too.

Then I realise that everything’s gone very quiet. The engine has stalled and nobody has said anything. I look across at Andy. He’s sitting in the same position he’s been in all day, head down, as if still reading his book, except there’s something odd about him, something not quite right. I hate it when he does this, just sitting there, hardly breathing, as if waiting for something to happen. He’s so close to pushing me over the edge.

Then I see it.

A tiny fragment of glass, a thin, shiny splinter has embedded itself in the middle of Andy’s forehead. It seems to be stuck there, twinkling at me like cheap jewellery, almost as if he deliberately jammed it in for decorative purposes. Already a bead of dark blood is trickling down between his eyebrows, under the bridge of his sunglasses and along the ridge of his nose. It crawls along very slowly, cautiously, as if it can’t quite believe that it’s free.

When it reaches the end of Andy’s nose, the blood pauses. A small blob gathers there, growing fatter and redder in the late afternoon light. It’s thick and bloated, oily and sleek. I can see my reflection in it. For a while, it simply hangs there and I hold my breath, wondering who’s going to make the first move. Suddenly the blob starts to tremble, its entire surface quivering intensely. Then, as if deciding to jump, it drops lightly onto the open page and sinks slowly down into the paper.