We had black smoke coming from under the bonnet, so I pulled over into a lay-by and called the AA.
‘No problem, we’ll have someone out in no time,’ they said.
Jenna and I stood on the grass embankment and five minutes later a breakdown van pulled in behind our car. The guy had swallow tattoos on his neck, LOVE on his left knuckles and HATE on his right knuckles.
The name MARTIN was stitched above one breast pocket. I wondered whether he had been sent to frighten the car into working again.
‘I’m glad I found you.’ Martin said.
I pointed to our smoking car. He looked puzzled and handed me the keys to his van. ‘There’s a hell of a rattle coming from the engine when I go over fifty miles an hour, could you take a look?’ he said.
I didn’t feel comfortable telling him no, so I shrugged my shoulders at Jenna and walked with him to his van and lifted the bonnet.
‘The thing is mate, my tuxedo will get all greasy.’ I said.
‘Here, put these on.’
Martin climbed out of his overalls and held them out to me.
‘But, what about you?’ I asked.
‘We’re about the same size, lend me your tuxed.’ Martin said.
We switched clothes and I rolled up the sleeves of my overalls and looked at the engine. I didn’t know what to look for.
‘Looks pretty bad.’ I said.
‘If anyone can fix it, you can.’ Martin said.
Jenna came down to us from the embankment.
‘I’ve some tuna sandwiches from the party we’ve just come from, if you’re hungry?’
‘That’d be great.’ Martin said.
They walked back to our car and got in. I began pulling and shaking different wires of the engine to make it seem like I knew what I was doing.
‘She’s a keeper, this one.’ Martin called from our car.
Jenna laughed and playfully slapped his arm. I smiled back and waved, but was cursing Martin under my breath. A second breakdown van stopped behind Martin’s van and this other guy walked by me and spoke to Jenna and Martin. I watched as he checked under our bonnet and he shook his head and made hand gestures as he spoke. Then all three walked by me and Jenna and Martin climbed into his van.
‘I thought we’d decommissioned those vans.’ He said to me.
‘I thought so too.’ I said.
‘I’ll get these folks home and radio for another van to come out to you.’ He said.
‘I suppose that’ll be all right.’ I said.
As the breakdown van began to merge back into traffic, Jenna put her window down and waved to me.
‘Kiss the children goodnight for me, would you?’ I said.
She nodded and then they were gone.
Lee Wright's fiction and poetry has previously been published with Fairlight Books, Lunate Press, The Black Country Arts Foundry, Headstuff.com, Burning House Press, Peeking Cat Poetry, NewMag and The New Luciad. He graduated from the University of Leicester with an MA in Creative Writing in 2019 and is currently writing his first novel.
Of the motivation behind the writing, Lee says…
‘I like the idea that you can have an affinity with someone, yet they can still drive you a little crazy. I think comedy and tragedy go hand in hand when there is a spiritual attraction between two people. I also think that there is something surreal about affinity. I wanted to find that comedy and tragedy, to measure the strength of a man and a woman's affinity for one another, with a touch of surrealism, and by starting with comedy, and ending in tragedy.’