Category Archives: Review

After I Ran Into The Ditch And Before I Crashed

Note: This is a blatant rip-off or ‘sample’ of a much better piece called ‘After I Fell In The River And Before I Drowned’. You can find it here (with typos) or here if you desire to read more of Eggers’ genius. For now consider this an experiment in the spirit of David Shields’ Reality Hunger.

 

OH I’M A FAST CAR. I’m fast- fast. It’s true and I love being fast I admit It I love it. You know fast Cars. Cars that just run by and you say, Damn! That’s a fast car! Well that’s me. A fast car. I’m a fast- fast car. Whaaooomm! Whaaoooooooom!

You should watch me sometime. Just watch how fast I go when I’m going my fastest, when I’ve really got to move for something, when I’m really on my way-man do I get going sometimes, weaving like a missile, weaving like a missile between lines and around corners and then pop! I can go past a tractor or a bicycle or a bus or anything because I’m a fast- fast car and I can rev like a fucking pulsar. Whaaooom! Man, oh man.

 

I love it I love it. I run to feel the cool air over and under my body. I run to feel the hot breath come from my exhaust. I run to feel my turbo whistle and my radiator get hot and simmer from the front of my grille and I go and go and go my name is Fiesta ST.

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I can eat ferrocene. I can eat triptane. I can eat butanol and methanol and ethanol with iron pentacarbonyl. It really doesn’t matter. I eat it with gusto, I eat the fuel and I feel good and I live on and run and run.

When I run I can turn like I’m magic or something. I can turn like there wasn’t even a turn. I turn and I’m going so fast it’s like I was still going straight. Through the lines like a missile, through the lines I love to run with my tyres reaching and grabbing so quickly like I’m taking everything. Damn, I’m so in love with all of this.

I was once in a ditch. I was thrown in a ditch when I was small. You just cannot know. I was steaming, trying to know why I had been thrown in the ditch. I was six months old, and my lights were smashed, the mud was bad. I steamed and it was like fainting. The ground on one side was a black stripe, indifferent. I saw the gray-blue sky and then the darker mud below and then my wheels wouldn’t work, were stuck in some kind of mire or tree branch and then I was in the air.

I saw him in yellow. The mechanic. I was lifted from the ditch, the ditch was below me. Then sitting on his white metal truck top and he looked at me with his mustache.

I dried in the sun. They brought me to the place with the ramps and I was silent for days. Others were silent too. Everyone was silent. Then people and a drive and I was new at home. Ate and slept and it was dry, walls of concrete.

When I go outside I run. I run from the walls past the places and then to where the places end and then to the castlecombe. In the castlecombe there are the other cars.

I am the fastest. Since Lancer left I am the fastest. I rev the hardest too. I don’t have to stay silent anymore. I can go past the buildings where the people complain and then to the castlecombe where I can’t hear them and just run with these cars. Whhhaaaaoooooooooooom!

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I feel good here, feel strong. Sometimes I am an animal, moving so fast, an animal with everything working perfectly, my tyres grabbing at the earth like I’m the one making it turn. Damn, yeah.

In the castlecombe we have races and we rev. We run from the start to the finish, where the track starts, through the black-dark pits and out to folly and through quarry corner and down the farm straight and into the next corner, over the old paddock and then along the hammerdown and the westway until the camp.

Tonight is cool, almost cold. There are no stars or clouds. We’re all impotent but there is running. I canter down the road and see the others. Six of them tonight – Corsa, Punto, Clio, Dayess, Fabia, and Mini. When I see them I want to be in love with all of them at once. I want us all to be together; I feel so good to be near them. Some sort of marriage. We talk about it getting cooler. We talk about it being warm at the castlecombe when we’re close together. I know all these cars but a few.

Tonight I race Corsa. Corsa is a Vauxhall and he is fast and strong but his eyes want to win too much; he scares us. We don’t know him well and he is too loud and only in it for himself. He doesn’t listen; he waits.

The avon rise is the hard part. We run along the track and then it rises so we’re ten, fifteen feet above the rest and then almost twenty. Then the rise is ended by a corner, with walls, so the rise at eighteen feet has a two-corner turn and we have to brake and turn and slide to clear it. We have to feel strong to make it.

On the sides of the track, near the rumble bumps, on the dirt and in the weeds and in the centre, on the rough green grass are the rabbits. The rabbits have things to say; they talk before and after we turn. Sometimes while we’re turning they talk.

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“He is running funny.”

“She will not make it around.”

When we make it through they say things.

“He did not turn as well as I wanted him to.”

“She made a bad turning. Because her turning was bad I am angry.”

When we do not make it through the turn, and instead fall into the grassy trap, the rabbits say other things, their eyes full of glee.

“It makes me laugh that she did not make it through the turn.

“I am very happy that he crashed and seems to be in pain.”

I don’t know why the rabbits watch us, or why they talk to us. They do not try to turn the corner. The running and turning feels so good even when we don’t win or crash into the trap it feels so good when we run and turn-and when we are done the rabbits are talking to us, to each other in their small jittery voices.

We look at the rabbits and we wonder why they are there. We want them to run and turn with us but they do not. They sit and talk about the things we do. Sometimes one of the cars, annoyed past tolerance, catches a rabbit under its tyres and crushes him. But then the next night they are back, all the rabbits, more of them. Always more. Tonight I am to race Corsa and I feel good. My lights feel good, like I will see everything before I have to. I see contours like you hear jet planes.

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When we run on the track-side of the pits I feel strong and feel fast. There is room for both of us to run and I want to run along the track, want to run alongside Corsa and then turn. That’s all I can see, the corner, the distance between us, the momentum taking me through the corner. Goddamn sometimes I only want this feeling to stay and last.

Tonight I run and Corsa runs, and I see him pushing hard, and his tyres grabbing, and it seems like we’re both grabbing at the same thing, that we’re both grabbing for the same thing. But we keep grabbing and grabbing and there is enough for both of us to grab, and after us there will be others who grab from this tarmac on the track bed and it will always be here.

Corsa is nudging me as I run. Corsa is pushing me, bumping into me. All I want is to run but he is yowling and bumping me, trying to dent me. All I want is to run and then turn. I am telling him that if we both just run and turn without bumping or denting we will run faster and turn quicker. We will be stronger and do more beautiful things. He dents me and bumps me and yowls at me as we run. When we come to the bend he tries to bump me into the barrier. I skid and then find my wheels and keep running. I catch up to him quickly and because I am faster I catch him and overtake him and we are on the straightaway and I gain my speed, I muster it from everywhere, I attract the energy of everything living around me, it conducts through the tarmac through my tyres while I grab and grab and I gain all the speed and then I see the corner. Two more seconds and I brake.

You should do this sometime. I am an anchor. I let go of my wheels and I am a train. My time over my grip is a life. I am a cloud, so slow, for an instant I am a slow-moving cloud whose movement is elegant, cavalier, like sleep.

Then it speeds up and the leaves and black dirt look at me and I grip and bite, my tyres filling with heat and grip. I clear the corner by two feet and turn to see Corsa turning, and Corsa’s face looking across the gap, looking at my side of the corner, and his eyes still on the exit, exploding for it, and then he is sliding, and only his front wheels, tyres, make it to the edge of the track. He scream something as he spins, his front wheels trying to pull the rest of him back, but he spins over the grass and glances the barrier.

He is fine but in the past others have been hurt. One car, Lupo, died here, years ago. The other cars and I come down to help Corsa up. He is rough but he is happy that we were running together and that he turned.

The rabbits say things. “That wasn’t such a good turn.

“That was a terrible turn.”

“He wasn’t trying hard enough when he turned.”

“Bad exit.”

“Awful exit.”

“His bad turning makes me very angry.”

I run the rest of the race alone. I finish and come back and watch the other races. I watch and like to watch them run and turn. We are lucky to have these wheels and this ground, and that our joints work with speed and the oil surges and that we can see everything. After we all run we go home.

I rest in the garage and in the morning I swallow the RON and the day goes by with the people and the birds and ants and the sun and the clouds, then the sun goes and it is tonight.

Tonight I race Clio. Clio is a Renault, a small one, fast and pretty with black eyes. We take off, through the entrance through the black-dark pits and out to the meadow. In the meadow we suck the air and feel the light of the partial moon. We have sharp black shadows that leap through the long grey-green grass. We run and swerve at each other because we both know how good this is. Maybe Clio is my sister.

Then the second corner approaches and we plunge like sex into the apex and take the turns, past the bend where Corsa pushed me, and then along and up and over the rise. We are running together and are not really racing. We are wanting the other to run faster, better. We are watching each other in love with our movements and strength. Clio is maybe my mother.

Then the hard braking before the big corners, Siamese twins, hard to see. Now we have to think about our own wheels and joints and timing before the turn. Clio’s paint flashes in the moonlight, the flash is a smile across her body but she looks tired. Two more seconds and I turn and then am the slow cloud seeing the faces of my friends, the other strong cars, then the hard edge rushes toward me and I make to the other side and hear her crunch. I turn to see her lights pirouetting towards the barrier and run back to the corner. Fabia and Mini are there with her already. Her nose is crushed and her heart, her engine is bleeding badly. She steams then honks and horns, knowing everything already.

The rabbits are around and talking. “Well, looks like she got what she deserved.”

“That’s what you get when you turn.”

“If she were a better turner this would not have happened.”

Some of them laugh. Punto is angry. He idles slowly to where they’re sitting; they do not move. He runs one under his tyres and crushes all its bones. Their voices are always talking but we forget they are so small, their head and bones so tiny. The rest run away. He tosses the rabbit’s broken form from under his spinning wheels onto the wet grass.

We go home. The next night I don’t want to go to the castlecombe. I can’t see someone crash, and can’t hear the rabbits, and don’t want Punto to crush them in his jaws. I stay at home and I play with the owners in their day-clothes. They drive me to work and to the supermarket and drive me through the stony, bumpy streets. I like the speed and they giggle. We make turns where I run into speed bumps and they laugh. I spin my tyres and dart across lanes. They shriek, they love it. I want deeply for these owners and want them to leave and run with me. I stay with them tonight and then stay home for days. I stay away from the castlecombe. It’s warm in the garage and I eat more and wait for them as they watch television. It rains for a week.

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When I come to the castlecombe again, after ten days away, Clio is not there. The cars are all there. Clio is not there; our night is a new and more fragile thing. It’s colder out and the wind is mean and searching. Dayess says that the rain has made the corners swell and the surface too fast. The corner after the rise is slippier now so we decide that we will not corner.

I race. Punto is still angry about Clio’s death; neither of us can believe that things like that happen, that she has lost a life and now when we think of her she looks like she’s asking to die.

When we get to the straightaway I feel so strong that I know I will go. I’m not sure I can make it but I know I can go fast, faster than I’ve cornered before, and I know how long it will be that I will be floating cloudlike. I want this. I want this so much, the floating.

I run and see the rabbits and their mouths are already forming the words they will say if I don’t make it through. On the straightaway Punto stops and honks and flashes to me that I should stop but it’s just a few more seconds and I’ve never felt so strong so I corner, yes corner. I float for a long time and see it all. I see my garage and the faces of my friends and it seems like they already they know.

When I hit the barrier it was obvious. I hit the barrier and had a moment when I could still see – I saw Clio’s face, her eyes open huge, I saw some criss-crossing branches above me and then the wet grass took me out and then I fell under.

After I crashed and was out of view the rabbits spoke. “He should not have cornered that corner.”

“He sure did look silly when he hit the barrier and slid over the grass and into the ditch.”

“He was a fool.”

“Everything he ever did was worthless.”

Punto was angry and took five or six of them under his wheels, crushing them, tossing them one after the other. The other cars watched; none of them knew if rabbit killing made them happy or not. After I died, so many things happened that I did not expect.

The first was that I was there, inside my body, for a long time. I was at the side of the track, stuck in a thicket of sticks and logs, for six days. I was dead, but was still there, and I could see out of my body. I could move around inside my body like it was a cold hard shell. I would sleep in the cold hard shell, turn around in it like it was a small home of metal and plastic. Every so often I could look through the shell’s eyes to see what was outside, on the track. Through the dirty air I never saw much.

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I had been thrown into the ditch, a different ditch, when I was young by a man because I would not bully. I was supposed to bully and he kicked me and punched my insides with his fists and tried to make me mean. I didn’t know why he was kicking me, punching. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted the rabbits to jump and be happy as we dogs were. But they were different than we were, and the man who threw me to the ditch was also different. I thought we were all the same but as I was inside my dead body and looking into the murky air I knew that some are wanting to run and some are afraid to run and maybe they are broken and are angry for it.

I slept in my broken shell of a body at the bottom of the ditch, and wondered what would happen. It was dark inside, and musty, and the air was hard to draw. I sang to myself.

After the sixth day I woke up and it was bright. I knew I was back. I was no longer inside a hard shell but was now inhabiting a body like my own, from before; I was the same. I stood and was on a wide road on a moor. I could smell its smell and idled down the ways passed the lines, my eyes at the level of the white, a wide blur of a line of white. I was heavy-headed from the gorgeousness of the white all blurry. I loved breathing this way again, and seeing everything.

I should say that it’s very much the same here as there. There are more hills, and more waterfalls, and things are cleaner. I like it. Each day I drive for a long time, and I don’t have to drive back. I can drive and drive, and when I am tired I can sleep. When I wake up, I can keep driving and I never miss where I started and have no home.

I haven’t seen anyone yet. I don’t miss the cement like sandpaper on my feet, or the buildings with the sleeping men reaching. I sometimes miss the other cars and the running.

The one big surprise is that as it turns out God is the sun. It makes sense, if you think about it. Why we didn’t see it sooner I cannot say. Every day the sun was right there burning, our and other planets hovering around it, always apologizing, and we didn’t think it was God. Why would there be a God and also a sun? Of course God is the sun. Everyone in the life before was cranky, I think, because they just wanted to know.

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Non-Avensis

‘Stephen!’
‘James.’


‘Hullo Margaret, mmwa.’
‘Susan… How was the trip?’
‘Oh, was fi’..
‘T’was okay, bit of traffic ‘round Birmingham.’
‘Yes, I had heard that there were a few problem areas on the radio this morning.’


‘I dunno, local bloody council is always digging up the road for something. No wonder the economy is suffering so much, nobody can get anywhere’…(Chortles to himself then thrusts his hands into his pockets and begins jangling some loose change around)
(The wives’ sing-song chatter fades as they walk inside)
‘Did you need to stop?’
‘Oh yes. We stopped at Shaftscombe services. Bloody expensive place. Captive audience. No choice. All there was, was over-priced sandwiches, a bloody Costa coffee and a McDonalds, ‘course, when I got to the front of the queue I couldn’t understand a word the girl was sayin’. Even saw some woman on a prayer mat or whatever the bloody things are. I’m not racist, but well, you know the rest. Can’t say anything these days, bloody thought police.’
(Grumbles agreement, thrusts hands into pockets and starts jangling loose change around)


‘I dunno, I suppose at least they’re working, but you come over here and you respect the local culture. We respect their laws when we go over there. I’d see the whole map painted pink again if I could.’
‘Do you know, I was just yesterday saying the same thing to Ian at the Golf club. You know, when Margaret and myself go to France, we take a phrase book with us.’
‘Heh, course when me and Susan went to Abu-Dhabi, they all spoke English anyway.’ (Laughs)
(Laughs)… ‘So how’s the new car?’


‘Yeah, yeah, well it’s all you need, isn’t it. Got air-con and sat-nav, it’s comfortable and quicker than you’ll ever need. Do you know the readout told me I was getting forty-eight miles-per-gallon on the way here?’
‘Wow, that’s quite impressive, especially with today’s fuel prices.’
‘Well, yes’…


‘Look’s like it might rain again. Shall we go inside?’
‘Good idea. I hope someone’s put the kettle on.’ (Winks)
‘No doubt Margaret has taken care, oh, I almost forgot. I bought a new washing machine the other day. Come in and have a look. It has a digital read-out that shows you how much power it’s saving.’
‘Goodness’…

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