Running on near-empty Jul 16, 2018 16:38:24 GMT -5 via mobile
Post by Tyler Scott on Jul 16, 2018 16:38:24 GMT -5
Cruising down the highway. Yellow headlights guide the way. The glistening moon is the only other source of light in this baron land. The night is warm and sticky. Even though the sun went down many hours ago - the temperature remains as hot now as mid-afternoon. The air is still and thick like treacle. Tyler winds the windows up and cranks the knob to full. Thank the lord for air conditioning.
Tyler looks down at his dash. The fuel needle is hovering over red. He has been running low for a while now. He has never filled up fully in a long time. Every week is a struggle - putting in just enough gas to see him through another 7 days before assessing his commitments and adding just enough again. He was used to running on near-empty. Some might say he had grown accustomed to it. Tyler knows he has about another 50 miles in the tank - enough to get him to the next town and to find a gas station.
This is when things straight to go wrong.
The air conditioning fan begins to whirl. At first it is barely audible but it becomes steadily louder with each passing mile. Soon Tyler notices as the cooling breeze which was passing over his foreheads and through his hair fades. Beads of sweat appear on his brow whilst he wipes off with his T-shirt sleeve. He begins playing with the knobs and fiddling with vents. He tries to increase the fan speed but it is already on maximum. He tries to turn down the thermostat but it is already at its lowest. He moves the vents to get more direct airflow to his perspiring neckline. Then suddenly, the air stops and the fan halts. The intense whirling noise cuts out to leave nothing but the sound of the engine and hot stale recycled air filling the car.
Never mind, thinks Tyler. It’s nothing to be worried about. He winds down the windows to let the outside air in. The temperature outside was still stifling, but zooming along the highway created a lovely cooling breeze once again.
He drives quite comfortably for another few miles before the temperature gauge, usually perfectly centred at 90oC, begins to rise. It surpasses 100oC and then 110oC edging ever closer to the red danger zone. Tyler looks down at the rising needle. Never before has the temperature risen that high. He debates with himself - is this just a blip? Or should he be worried? Does he carry on and get it looked at later? Or should he stop immediately before it does lasting damage?
Beep! Beep! A yellow hazard light appears on the dashboard followed a loud bing alarm. Tyler looks down to see a warning message flashing on the display. “Stop, check coolant level.”
Smoke begins to appear from the bonnet, drifting up and over the windshield.
“Fuck off!” Tyler exclaims as his visions becomes blurred by darker denser smoke. He pulls over to the side of the road and slams on the brakes, kicking up a red sandy ash cloud behind him.
As the car comes and an abrupt halt, Tyler slams his head down on the steering wheel. “Not now. For fuck sake not now!”
With the engine still running, Tyler jumps out of the car and kicks the tyre as hard as he can. As the red sand clears the air and drops back on to earth, it reveals the full extent of the black ballooning cloud billowing from under the hood.
There is a hiccup of the engine like a slipped heartbeat. Then a judder and a splutter. The car rocks backwards and forwards as the car struggles to breathe and suck what is left of the fuel reserves through the pipework. Tyler knew that sound - it was the familiar chug of an engine starved of diesel. But he had plenty of fuel to last him this journey, contemplated Tyler as he rushed to the engine off. However, before he could turn the key, the engine cackles and bellows to a shuddering stop.
Tyler looks under the car, the beam from his headlights giving just enough glow for him to see the pool of sticky black diesel soaking into the red dust. He had sprung a leak.
Looking around in all directions, Tyler could see that his headlights were the only sign of life for miles. Whilst one option would be to wait for someone to come by and hope they were of a generous disposition to offer help, Tyler instead opts to try and make his own way forward. He decides to push himself and his sorry excuse for a chassis with him.
Tyler takes the handbrake off and heads around to the back of the car. Digging his heels into the fine slippy dust and pushes. At first the car does not budge as Tyler’s feet slide across the sand in different directions. But, as he curls his toes and tightens his calves, his soles sink down and the sand compressed around him. The sand surrounds him and constrains him - rising up to his ankles. Strangely, the constricting sand also firms his stance and strengthens his resolve. He finds extra grip,extra strength and extra willing. Tyler pushes with all his might and the car begins to roll forward. With half a rotation of the wheels, he plants his right foot forward and pushes again. He builds momentum with every step forwards. The car begins to rolls forward under its own weight. Tyler let’s go and darts around to the drivers sides. He leans through the open drivers door as his oscillating feet go from sand back to asphalt. Jogging along with one hand on the steering wheel, he follows the road he has always been on, determined to get to his destination.
A couple of miles pass and Tyler’s pace had slowed. The car is bearing moving forward as the energy is being sapped from him. Without a reference point in the distance to aim for, he thinks about stopping for some rest until he notices a glimmer ahead. The reflection of his headlights glistens back to him from some object. It comes and goes, each reflection bouncing off in a different direction. Whatever it is, it is moving.
As Tyler gets closers, he sees the shadowy outline of a man, stumbling from side to side. It soon becomes apparent that the light is reflecting off a beer bottle clutched in his right hand. Tyler curses his luck that the only person that he has come into contact with happens to be an alcoholic homeless man. But never the less Tyler requires assistance so he calls out.
“Hey excuse me” Tyler calls out.
“Hey there. I’m Tyrone.” The figures retorts with a slur in his speech.
“What the hell are you doing out here alone.”
“Oh, you know, just out for a walk. I’m a bit of drifter. I come and I go places. I mostly go to be honest.”
“Right...” Tyler reluctantly engages but knows that he needs assistance. “Listen, I need help. My car has broken down. Can you help me get to the next town?”
“Yeah sure of course. But we don’t need to go far. There is a garage about a mile up the road.”
“Really, that’s amazing. Let’s go” Tyler says with a renewed sense of urgency.
“If I help you...can I get a ride? Once your car is fixed of course.” Tyrone politely asks in exchange.
“Yeah sure whatever. If you get me to that garage I will take you wherever you want to go.” Tyler says as he begins pushing again.
“Great thanks man.” Tyrone joins Tyler in pushing the car forwards together.
An hour of pushing later and with Tyler increasingly irritated and disillusioned with Tyrone directions, he suddenly sees the neon lights of a garage ahead- lit up like an oasis or a church or the gates of heaven. The two men push the car onto the forecourt and an old grizzled mechanic wanders out of his workshop to meet them.
“Hey my name is Gabriel but you can call me Gabe. What can I do for you today Sir?”
“I broke down a few miles away from here. The car overheated and started smoking.” Tyler explains.
“Oh man that doesn’t sound good. Let’s take a little look. Do you mind if I pop your hood?” Gabe asks, already helping himself.
“Be my guest...”
After a while with his head under the hood, tinkering and fiddling, Gabe emerges. “It’s not good buddy. Your water pump is shot and you’ve got a fuel leak.”
“Can you fix me...I mean it.... can you fix the car?”
“Yeah I’ve got the parts you need. It will take me a couple of hours though.”
“No problem.” Tyler takes a seat next to Tyrone who has already closed his eyes for a nap.
Nearly three hours later, the sun is just appearing over the dawn horizon again. Gabe comes out from his workshop to meet Tyler and wake Tyrone in the process.
“All fixed buddy. She is running again.”
“Thanks Gabe, you have saved me. Thank you so much.” Tyler says as he hands over a wedge of cash and takes the key back.
“No problem sir. My pleasure. Have a nice day now.” Gabe takes the money gleefully.
Tyler returns to his car, turns the ignition and the engine roars back into life.
Tyrone, meanwhile, still with bottle in hands, wanders across to the car. “Hey, about that ride?”
Tyler looks back at the guy who he promised to take anywhere he wanted to go. “Fuck off.” Tyler floors the pedal and leaves Tyrone standing.