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In what was once a field, a car was running near a log:  that is, that the car’s engine was still running, but the car itself was not moving forwards, backwards or sideways.  The station wagon contained three people in it, each in varying stages of disbelief as they realized that their lives were not yet over and that life still had surprises left for each of them.
“Are we dead?”  Rold peeled a single eyelid open.  His hands were clasped together, as if he had been praying.  Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he opened the other eye.
Harold also opened his eyes, his hands had remained on the dashboard during and after the impact.  The damage did not seem so bad as he gazed around.  The car hood had not bent, nor was there smoke coming from underneath it and rising into the sky.  Rold, though shocked, had remained in his seat with no signs of damage:  no visible blood or bruises.  
Hare’s foot remained firmly on the brake pedal, he seemed insensible to Harold and Rold.  A small bead of sweat dusted his neck along his shirt collar, falling slowly from a reddened face. His breathing had not quickened or slowed, but it had deepened,  an audible rush of inhalation and exhalation which resounded throughout the vehicle.  Knuckles white from exertion, Hare’s fingers engulfed the wheel, rendering it dainty against his large, trembling hands.
Slowly, Harold reached for the parking brake and engaged it.  “You can let go of the steering wheel now, Hare.”  Contemplating the dashboard and the nearby horizon, he rested against the back of the passenger seat.
Taking yet another deep breath, Hare slowly released his hands, finger by finger, from the wheel. Stretching and contracting, his hands became a more pink color.  He rubbed his hands together to stimulate circulation.
Rold shook out his own arms and marvelled at his hands.  “Nearly died twice today.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Of nervousness.  Obviously not dead right now.”  Pinching himself, he patted the belt as if it was an old friend, he made no move to unbuckle it.
Neither of the three moved from their postures for a time, simply marvelling at their common state of rest.  
Harold broke the silence first.  “Do you want to try again, Hare?”
“No, no.”  Shaking his head emphatically, he undid his seatbelt.  “I didn’t expect . . .”
“Of course not, it was your first time.”
Rold chimed in.  “Yeah, it’ll probably go better now.”  Exhaling, he helpfully said, “You know how to brake now, at least.  I do, too.”  Rold gestured with his hands.  “Dude, not cool.  Sorry about the wrong advice.  Clutch first, then brake.”  He tapped the seatbelt buckle idly, taking care not to disengage it.
“Yup, get down to first and then brake.”  Harold spread his arms, then pulled them into clasp his hands.  “Simple.  We could start again with teaching you how to reverse.”
“I think I’ve had enough excitement for one day.”  Hare pushed open the driver’s side door and exited the car, walking around the back.  The park, a ravaged meadow, was brightened by late morning sunshine.  His feet gently padded along the grass, alongside the car as he reached the passenger’s side.  Quickly, Hare re-entered the car, buckling his seatbelt as he sat in one fluid motion.  Willing his mind into order, he placed his blushing face in his hands.
Meanwhile, Harold had left the car to inspect the log and the car bumper.  Luckily, the bumper had actual rubber in it and was not one of the latest plastic or molded steel models which crumpled easily.  He looked closely at the log: not a scratch or dent on it, but it had moved backwards from the site of impact an inch or so.  The bumper had served its function.  Harold slipped back into the station wagon, taking pains to assume a neutral expression.
“That wasn’t so bad, Hare.”  Harold smiled reassuringly.  “It will be better next time, promise.  You’ve already learned a lot, and quickly.”
“I’m very sorry.”
“We’re all sorry.”  Rold snarked.  “But no one got hurt.  No other cars around, you know, I bet even the log is fine.”
“We moved it a little bit.”  Harold remarked.  “I don’t think you hurt its feelings.  Much.”
Sighing, Hare apologized.  “I’m very sorry, next time I’ll try to keep my ‘cool.’  At least I was able to slow us down.”  He made eye contact with Harold.
“No one was hurt,”  Harold shrugged.  “No harm, no foul.  It could have been much worse.”
“I bet we could have done some real damage if you were in third gear.”  Rold demonstrated using his hands, holding one stationary to represent the log and moving the other hand towards it.  “Boom!”  The moving hand flipped over the stationary hand, then Rold formed a fist and spread it.  “Ka-boom!”
“Yes, you could have, but you didn’t.”  Harold pulled his own seatbelt on.  “At that speed, the worse you could have done was dent our bumper.”
Rold halted his fake explosions.  “I probably couldn’t have done much better,”  He begrudgingly admitted.  “Good thing Harry isn’t here, he might have wanted a try.  Getting scared half to death twice in one day is enough for me.”
“Twice?”  Harold turned to Rold in the backseat.
“I, uh, screamed.”  Rold fidgeted uneasily.  “Then we hit the log.  Tapped the log, really.”
Hare groaned, covering his face with his hands.
“The important thing is that we’re fine,”  Harold cheerfully stated.  “The other important thing is we’ve all learned something today.”
“Harold should drive.”  Rold nodded.  “Lesson over.”
“No.  I mean, yes, for now,”  Harold conceded.  “Eventually, you and Hare and even Harry will do this.  Ride buses and, you know, generally contribute to society.  No reason not to believe it now.”  He shifted the car into reverse, then began the slow process of guiding them back to the main road.  “Does anyone want the radio on?”
“I can switch it on.”  Hare flipped the radio on and began fiddling with the dials.  “Classical?”
“Classical rock!”  Rold made a devil’s horn with his hand.
“Pop music is fine with me.”  Harold turned the wagon onto the main road.
In ancient times, Viking war parties on their way home filled to the brim with bounty for their families, their tribe, floated and rowed home on the waves of a vast ocean.  The shores of home beckoned and this was what urged them on when nights were cold and vicious:  to be alive in the future in the place where they each had grown and built lives for themselves, to provide for those whom they owed and owned. Someday again the same warriors would leave in search of precious resources only to leave and return once more if they were able and so on and so forth throughout the generations.
Those newer to the ritual of hunting and gathering were often nervous and scared, not just of the elements, fickle fate and their futures, but also of each other.  Only through the bonding that comes from months and years of depending upon each other did camaraderie grow.  Not ever fully comfortable as they wandered far afield, the mates found a sort of closer feeling, wolves amongst wolves, that was as equally treasured as any other type of relationship.
The suburb, the Harolds’ suburb, when they returned was more ordinary than before.  No longer an uncertain prison, now it was a base of operations soon to be lost, soon to be a memory, much like their difficult day.  The radio played a song with forgettable lyrics, it was heard in the station wagon as if it was a simple melody in the wind.  Easy smiles returned to each face at regular intervals and the car rolled on through the development to easily come to their house.
At the front picture window inside the house, Harry watched them arrive.  He had arranged lunch all by himself, simple sandwiches mostly and what they have left for garnishes.  Harry is being frugal, for they are all forced to be frugal now.  The dollars they each save now could be the salvation they need tomorrow: the bribe, bride or other illegal purchase that could keep them together.  Today, especially if the others had failed, the money they had would need to be saved; even if it were a small amount, would be important to all of them.
He clutched at his heart, Harry did, for he has felt ill ever since Harold, Hare and Rold had left earlier.  In fact, he has felt poorly all his life.  Today though, the pace of his heart decelerated and accelerated at its own pleasure.  At first, he believed it to be nerves, but now, after several hours of this push and pull, he conceded that there was a problem.  Pulling back the curtain, he felt the ache in his bones, the beating of his heart pulsing to its own irregular rhythm.  Harry sat in the living room on the sofa, and if he could have caught his heart and held it to a schedule he would have.
He concentrated on the sounds outside the house to keep himself calm.  The car drove up the driveway and into the garage; its door closed shortly after.  Harry heard the unfamiliar tramp of a set of footfalls and the murmur of friendly voices:  one higher in pitch than the other two, that would be Rold.  Breathing as evenly as possible, he could make out the sound of the key scraping into the lock.
“Harry, we’re home!”
Rold’s fearful face made Harry jump.  “Rold?  Oh, you scared me.”
“You scared me.”  Rold looked Harry up and down.  “Are you okay?  You look, I dunno, not so good.”
“I’m not feeling so good,”  He shakily got to his feet.  “Happy that you’re all back.  A great success then, with the papers?”
“Yeah, it was awesome!”  Rold launched into a long rambling discussion of all that had happened while Harry had been stuck waiting for them.  
“I guess I missed out,”  Harry grinned.
“No, not really,”  Rold frowned.  “You could have gone in my place, it would have gone exactly the same.”


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November 2010

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