ďAfter EightĒ  (3) 

By Paul Larkin     

 

Heartbeat

 

            To say it changed his life. Well what do you think? But there it was outside the offices at his work. He had won the works draw for Godís sake! He never won anything. As the shining keys were held aloft he could have cried and he actually got palpitations and that nice girl from sales had to lead him to a seat and then he did cry.  He hadnít been so close to the softness and sympathy of a woman for some considerable time.

            When he had regained his composure, his picture was taken for the works mag. He had never been in the works mag. People stopped him. People at work he had seen everyday for years without a breath of a word between him and them. In the long corridors down the years they would approach him and look anywhere but where he was as they passed. But it now it was - Well done! Great! Deserve it! He was one of them now that he had a car.      

            Driving the car through the big park on the way home, he was sure she had hit a bump, a pothole, and he resolved to ring the corporation about it the next day. He was going to be careful with this car. Rosie. He would call the car Rosie after his wife. It meant so much. Rosie had suggested that he call the Corpo. He talked to Rosie all the time. Lately he had got quite upset thinking about her and he took this car as a sign. A sign that she was fine and still looking after him.

            He didnít make it into work the next day because. Well. When you ring the Corporation you get this voice talking about extensions and then options 1 2 or 3 or even 4 or 5. So he had to put the phone down and think. He wasnít going to give up. He went outside again and looked and it seemed definitely that there was a dent there. He made some tea and realised that he was quite happy just pottering at home and the car sitting out front. If he sat in the sofa by the bay window he could glance occasionally at Rosie, dip his biscuit into his tea and watch telly. He tried the Corpo again but it was no good. It was still that voice. Then at midday the phone rang but he didnít answer it because that was his work. He was sure of it. He would have to go and see the doctor as there was no way he could just leave Rosie. Just like that.

            In the afternoon, he got a bucket of nice hot soapy water  and lovingly washed Rosie and he waved at the neighbours who waved back and the sun shone and he smiled even though he found another scratch.  When he was sure that  nobody was looking, he stretched his arms across the bonnet of the car to feel the heat reflecting from the sun. Yes she was nice and clean and dry now. In the evening he put a blanket over her, even though it was the height of summer. You see, the thing was, that the warmer it was in the day, the more you noticed the cool in the evening. She could get a chill.

            About a month later (after his sick note ran out and the doctor refused another one) he was driving through the park in the morning when he hit that damn bump again and this time it really gave him a jolt. He slammed on the breaks and a car smashed into the back of Rosie. He was so upset. He just gripped her steering wheel and held on. Horns blared into a cacophony and he got another jolt which he didnít understand because Rosie wasnít moving and then a big man in a suit was standing outside screaming at him to move the fucking car but he just held on and then the man tried to pull him punch him prize him away from the steering wheel but he just hung on for grim death. And when it came, the last he heard was the horn on his breastplate. It kind of tickled him. Rosie always used to tickle him.