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Turning a Penny

January 12, 2017

The Transit is dawn-chilled, the engine coughs into life and reverberates through the van as the Stealerant pulls away with a gearbox whine. The scraping steel ashtray squeaks when dragged out, sending a cold shiver down his spine. His cigarette lighter resembles a lipstick holder; a resin heart on the top and bright bands of greens and gold. If life had the qualities of a fragrance, the Stealerant would have aspired to a top note of bitter orange peel. The reality is Tabac aftershave with the fusty legacy of provincial auction rooms.

In the back of the van a Paul Masson wine bottle provides a urine receptacle for long distances. A Victorian inlaid writing box, its compartments removed, rests on a heavy gold velvet curtain obtained from the clearance of a gentleman’s residence. Wedged against the wheel arch is a fruit box with a collection of curios wrapped in newspaper.

All the choice gear went yesterday.

Booster Paul had given the Stealerant two pieces of advice, the first: never tell people anything as they usually tell other people to make themselves more interesting. The second: never drive off your head on the A303, it is far better to stick to the M4 slow lane, so if you nod out at least you have a chance of rolling into the hard shoulder.

Eventually the chassis on the Transit starts to rot, as does the lip of the bonnet and around the headlight pods. On the wing, the cursive chrome word Custom cracks on the second syllable and drops. Slow, struggling windscreen wipers flick over the drivers side section of glass pitted with spat steel, the legacy of a bad welding job. The rain kicks up through rusting wheel arches, floor panels flake and the lock on the quarter light breaks. The front is compromised incrementally by the elements, while the passengers are driven to the end of the road on worn steel belt radials. At night, every time the brakes are applied the interior lights up red. Bail sheets for court appearances correspond with looming MOT tests, road tax and receding affection, in a troubled relationship built on codependency, chemicals and theft.

elephant

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