And now for our feature presentation…
by Alana Turner
I was itching to get behind the wheel again. I was ready for it. I kept my car in tip top shape in anticipation. She was equipped with brand new suspension, a full tank of nitrous, virgin brakes, and a fresh paint job and wax just because I could. I had spent the past two months, three weeks, and three days fixing her up and I only had to wait one more day. With the way she glowed in the sunlight filtering in from the garage door window, I felt like she was just as ready for me.
I just had to endure one more day in the SAINT Government issued, hunk of junk that was my punishment. The bulbous car, if it could even be called that, had been the only practical solution for me to get to work and back without a license. It was perfectly round, the wheels barely squeezed under it at odd angles, and originally perfectly white. It now had spots of rust and grime highlighting the doors and windows. The guys at my garage gave me hell for it, but it was still better than the bus-the ultimate reputation killer. The government issued it to me as part of their forgiveness for felons’ program. I think they laugh about that irony to themselves at night. The only advantage was the good gas mileage, which let me afford better parts for my pride and joy.
It still crushed my soul getting in. The door creaked loudly as I boarded. The seat was square in the middle of the obnoxiously large sphere that was the chassis. Slamming the door caused it to start up, albeit with some clicking and grinding. It also activated the ‘Driver,’ Karen.
“Good afternoon, Samantha!” A smiling emoji popped onto the dash to go with her voice, “My schedule says we are going to work today. Is that correct?”
“Yep, let’s go.” I flopped my feet up to hide the emoji dash. Normally even the self-driving cars had the option for human drivers and had steering wheels and pedals. Not the government issued SAINTs though. Criminal racers were prohibited from taking control of a vehicle for the length of their sentence. So, no steering wheel, no pedals, no controls available at all. Just a dash board so we knew we were going exactly the speed limit.
“Samantha, my sensors indicate several problems including rust and-“
“Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, proceed anyway. The tire is one PSI low it doesn’t matter just go!” Karen was a worrier, but I wasn’t about to put my money into this thing. They gave it to me rusty they were getting it back that way.
“I must inform you that among the issues is low brake fluid. While acceptable it-“
“You’ll last one more day. Go!” I kicked the dash for good measure and Karen finally took the hint. One minute I’m winning the race of my life, the next I’m getting arrested and sentenced to three months in a bowling ball. The daily rat race continued on, whether I liked it or not. I just had to get through today.
As much as I hated Karen the Bowling Ball, it was nice to just take in my surroundings on my daily commute. I came to learn the regular pedestrians and where they crossed. Sometimes I would bring leftovers and throw them to the Great Dane that wandered on Oak St as I passed. Once out of the suburbs it turned into a long back road with a high-speed limit that almost made me feel alive again. Tomorrow I would tear that road up and really live.
I closed my eyes as Karen turned onto that street. I imagined I was back in my real car and that I was racing again in the dead of night. I conjured up the roar of a real engine and the answering call of my opponent. I thought of smirking at them as I blew past to claim victory. That bump wasn’t part of my fantasy.
I sat up and spun around to see what was hit. I expected a box or maybe a grocery bag that fell out of someone’s trunk. Instead I saw a red stain surrounding a clump of fur; a cat. My heart dropped watching the poor thing lying dead, fading into the distance. Something wasn’t right.
“Karen, why did you run over that cat?” I waited a moment, a quarter of a mile, before she responded.
“The animal moved in an unexpected pattern. I was unable to avoid it.” Her voice stayed ever perky.
“Aren’t you programmed to brake with animals in the road?” The programming was almost always to brake. Caution above all else was the government’s policy.
“My sensors indicate that the brake fluid has now reached critical levels. This makes stopping ability negligible. It also appears that after hitting the animal my accelerator is stuck.” My stomach dropped, her happy demeanor did not.
“What? How did- why didn’t you say anything?” My breathing quickened as the situation fully settled in. I was in a battering ram.
Congratulations to Alana on her contest win and publication of
“Behind the Leather Apron.”