Doors of Time
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.4) Gunter drives Letitia in his old (even for 1967) Austin …]
By the time they had reached the part of the street where the human traffic had thinned, Gunter had pulled out a key for his car and was muttering. A few steps behind him, Letitia could not catch a word, let alone the thread of his monologue. By the time she caught up to Gunter, he had stopped by an ancient, even for 1967, mottled green, Austin sedan. The talk had ended, and Gunter having opened the car and seated in the driver’s seat, was reaching over to unlock the passenger’s door.
As Letitia waited to climb in this almost classic car, he tossed a few books, junk food wrappers and greasy spare tee-shirts from the front passenger’s seat. He then jerked the door open and urged, ‘Come, I’ve got just the place for you.’
She crept into the Austin with a cursory, “thank you” and adjusted her seated body around the vinyl cracks in the worn bench seat. Before she had a chance to survey the damage of years of neglect, Gunter apologised, ‘Sorry about the mess. I must clean out the car sometime.’ He inserted the key in the ignition slot and muttered, ‘I hope I don’t have to crank it. She can be cranky when she wants to be.’ He laughed at his own joke, and repeated, ‘Cranky.’
‘You’ve obviously never been in Trigger after a Flinder’s trip.’ Letitia jested in an attempt to ease Gunter’s embarrassment. ‘Actually, neither have I, but my friends on Mirror World told me all about that machine.’
‘Come on baby,’ Gunter coaxed the old girl as he turned the ignition. The Austin squeaked and then roared to life. ‘That’s the girl!’
‘Are you old enough to drive?’ Letitia asked.
‘I’m seventeen!’ Gunter replied. ‘I pilot spacecraft, what is the difference?’
‘How did you get the car?’
‘Don’t ask.’ Gunter paused as he brought the old car to a literally grinding halt at the lights. Four lanes of cars, headlights blazing attacked the highway intersection in a seemingly seamless stampede of rubber tyres grunting over bitumen. As the traffic light suddenly turned green, Gunter lurched the Austin over the wide highway, and continued the conversation. ‘I suppose I should clean up the car and take it to a car wash. You can get it free with a service. They even polish the hub caps. Cool hey? Don’t worry about the car, Lettie, this one has got a new engine and the body is solid. Although there are few rust spots, and the paint is peeling. But it is not a bad car really.’
‘Pff! Don’t worry, Gunter, Jemima’s been in worse. I mean, her father never had a car. Caught the tram everywhere in Sydney.’
‘Oh, Ja, Jemima’s father; was that Nathan?’ Gunter slammed on the brakes and the car jerked to another stop, catapulting Letitia forward into the dusty dashboard. ‘You need to put your seat belt on. If we had one. They say they save lives. I know that is true for spaceships, but a car? I hate to think it is taking away people’s freedoms.’
‘Seatbelt,’ Letitia murmured while feeling for that life-saving device, ‘that’s what’s missing.’
‘What is it like in future? In this Mirror World? Do they have seatbelts? And must everyone wear one in a car?’
‘But of course. And it does save lives. Actually, in my time, fifty years from this time, cars have airbags, and computers that sense objects and stop before you hit them. Oh, and we have driverless cars as well.’
‘Driverless? Take all the fun out of driving? I would not like that.’
The Austin roared and grumbled along the dark empty main road. Letitia caught the black letters on a white sign that read, “North Road”. In this part of town, the recently built cream brick houses were falling asleep, while episodes of sparsely lit shop strips remained singularly uninspiring. As she was swept along the quiet roads of suburbia, her thoughts became numbed with exhaustion. She watched dumbly as the houses changed from brick to weather board, and as the dark expanse of some high rise or factory rose and then sank on the roadside.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Car Wrecks on display, Hermannsburg Historic Precinct © L.M. Kling 2021
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