By ROBERT FERN.
SHE BARRELLED THROUGH the intersection. He slammed his breaks. There was a sickening crunch, whiplash, airbag, explosion of plastic shards and the sad slow roll to a dead stop. Literally nothing he could do. He exhaled, struggled from the lardaceous white balloon gradually deflating in his lap and stepped onto the road.
Cars were already weaving into neighbouring lanes, rubber-necking. He examined the damage. The crumple zones had crumpled, the engine mounts had sheared. Coolant puddled around the front wheels which pointed inward, pigeon toed. His true love, his Ferrari, wrecked.
He approached the driver’s door as the occupant struggled out. She was an obese blonde twenty-something in a fluorescent yellow t-shirt and black leggings. She got to her feet with a huff and went past him, prattling, “Oh my God. Oh my God. I just didn’t see that coming!”
“I guess it was me you didn’t see coming,” he said.
Her old Dodge estate was in bad shape, the rear glass shattered, the frame twisted.
“I’m so sorry. I can’t believe it. My God, I hope you’re not hurt?” she asked as she waddled back and forth aimlessly between the two cars.
“I’m fine,” he muttered, trying to remain calm.
Her voice just kept going as she walked, repeating the same sentiments. He found it annoying.
“Can you stop for a minute? Just stop walking and stop talking for a minute.” He heard his own voice angry and aggressive. He took some deep breaths. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just need to know if you’re going to do the right thing and admit you didn’t see me coming, that you pulled right out in front of me?”
She looked at him and her tongue wetted her lips but before she could answer a siren announced a police car pulling up. “Anyone hurt?” asked the officer through his window.
“Well, my neck is kinda stiff,” she said rubbing the nap under her frizzy bleached hair. She looked him in the eye. “It really was my fault, you’re right.”
The policeman scanned the scene. “Can’t be at fault when rear ended, unless you accept fault in your statement.” The officer started to talk into his radio, calling in the number plates.
“Is that right…but I like to do the right thing,” she continued uncertainly. She seemed confused, possibly in shock. Looking though the shattered rear window of her Dodge he saw fast food wrappers, soda bottles, thrown everywhere by the impact.
He smiled at her sympathetically and his face softened in compassion; he gave her a look that said, “It’s not the end of the world.”
“Listen, it’s only a shunt. Happens all the time. We just need to exchange insurance details and maybe I can get your cell number, if you don’t mind. My name’s Mike.”
“Sure. I’m Sarah. I’m so sorry for your lovely car.” There were small tears of relief on her chubby cheeks and her tentative smile gave him hope.
“MAYBE YOU COULD help me fill out the form, I’m useless at paperwork.”
He refilled her glass. “I don’t want to influence you.” He tried to sound both principled and persuadable.
“You’d be doing me a favour, I’m not so good with forms and stuff like that.” She skewered a hunk of rib-eye and slipped it between her full lips, jaw muscles rippling through subcutaneous fat. “This is a great place, I love a good steak.”
“Most girls I date would hate it,” he replied truthfully. “They would stick to the salad.”
“Well, this girl never could resist a big piece of well-hung meat.” She took a heavy slug of the Valpolicella. She seemed to be enjoying herself and Mike began to relax, sipped his wine.
He had not known where to take her and eventually settled on a steak-house chain, the kind of mass market he and his friends would avoid. It seemed to suit her, she had been drinking steadily and chattering away. She talked about her online makeup blog, her sister’s fiancé, hedonistic Balearic summers. He had not had to say much.
“So, what do you do Mike? You must be some kind of playboy with your red Ferrari and your Rolex. Do you sell drugs or something?”
“I’m in advertising. Photography.”
She was impressed, smiling and batting her eyes like he might like to take her pictures.
“So,” he said once they had finished eating, “did you want me to have a look at your insurance form?”
“Yes please! Shall we go back to your place?”
HE MADE COFFEE and she flattened the form out on the coffee table. He sat close on his white leather couch. She leaned over the table as her chubby fingers worked to fill in the text boxes. Her legs were warm against his. “So, is this OK? I’ve just said that I pulled out too quickly in front of you and got rear-ended. I’ve drawn a little diagram like it says.”
He looked over the form and smiled. “You need to sign it. Oh, and give your licence number and number plate.” He watched her fill in the boxes with relief.
TONY HAD LAUGHED his head off. “Wrecked! You totalled it! Into a fat blonde’s ugly Dodge!” He laughed so hard his face went red and Mike could make out the hair-line scars running down the skin folds where his nose met his cheek, and the ones under his jaw. Eventually Tony eased up laughing and pulled at the shoulders of his white, tight t-shirt so that it sat more perfectly on his pectoral muscles.
“Well, you’re screwed. Fifteen hundred grand flushed down the pan, and you still have what, three years to pay? You’ll be driving a Hyundai for the rest of your life.”
“Thanks for your sympathy, but what if she accepts responsibility? She pulled out in front of me, she said she would put that down on her insurance form.”
“That’s your only hope, but what kind of idiot would admit that? She might say that in the heat of the moment, but when it comes to filling in that form, she ain’t going to accept squat.”
Tony’s face lit up, “You know what you gotta do? You’ve gotta nail that truffle snouter! You got to do that pickle-fingered beast,” and he started to scream with laughter again. “When she feels the love, a woman like that will do anything you desire!”
TO MIKE’S BEWILDERMENT, the sex was amazing. He was used to beach-ready, gym-toned models and night-club, bed-notch bunnies with skin like cling-film and suspiciously firm breasts. He was unprepared for the soft yielding skin that felt so much better than it looked, the honest genuine arousal, unselfconscious release and abandon. Nothing was performed for show or for moral advantage. The driving primordial thrust was all, the gluing and annealing of flesh to flesh, the final dilation into perfect tingling exhaustion. It was sweaty and vigorous, dark and primal and could not have been more different from the rubbing together of hard muscle and bone of his previous encounters. Then they did it again, this time with the lights on. Then they did it again, while he filmed it on his phone.
“Give me that,” she breathed and took the shiny red i-phone into her sweaty hand. She looked down as his athletics body with trust and adoration in her eyes. “It’s locked up, what’s the password?” she asked as she sat heavy on his hip and rocked over him.
“Testarossa”, he said with a smile. She aimed the lens with one hand as she slid over his greasy torso bringing him in one final, almost painful, .mov.
IT WAS A new experience for him to be the one waking up to an empty bed. The morning light streaming through the windows of his loft apartment filtering pink through his eye-lids and gradually rousing him from a deep sleep. He reached a hand under the vacant sheets beside him, feeling still the slightest warmth. He smiled and listened to hear her movements in the kitchen. He could hear nothing and rubbed his eyes open and stretched his chest under the covers. He reached for his Rolex Oyster as he looked gap-mouthed around the bright space, blinking.
His fingers hopped over the bed-side table disappointed and he looked but the watch was not there. “Sarah,” he called out and swung his feet onto the pine floor. There was no answer. He wrapped the bed sheet around his waist and padded across the room to the kitchen area but there was no sign of her. He jumped a little as the land line rang.
“Hi babe, I had to love you and leave you. I just wanted to say it sure was fun!”
Mike felt unexpected relief. “Yes, it was. It was something else Sarah. Where are you?”
“Well sugar, turns out that I changed my mind about that form. My neck’s been bugging me and I decided to be more honest. I might need months of rehabilitation after all…Also, I took your phone and watch. Now don’t complain honey, I have these movies from last night right here and I’m sure you wouldn’t want them splashed all over the internet and sent to the friends in your address book. It’s been a pleasure, see you ‘round hon.”
The line went dead. The sheet unravelled from his waist and fell in stages to the floor. He looked around the empty apartment and out of the windows, sunlight streamed in and illuminated his nakedness.
Bob Fern is a professor of translational neurobiology at the University of Plymouth. Look for his work in Between The Lines press, Isacoustic magazine and the Chiron Review.