“Oh my God! My brakes are gone!” Harry shouted into his cell phone.
“What? Harry, what’re you gonna do? Can you pull over or something? Where are you?”
“I’m on Number 8, on that long hill approaching Greensville! And, no, I’m going too fast already to pull over. There’s nowhere to go. I’m gonna have to stop this thing somehow. Mandi, I haveta put the phone down.”
“Good luck, Harry!” Her voice was tinny and far away on the seat beside him. That there was no, “I love you”, registered vaguely at the back of his mind.
Harry flew into the corner at the Brock Road delta. He was already going fast enough that his balding tires squeaked their protest as he cranked the steering wheel to the right. He bounced jarringly over the curb and into the path of a motorcyclist who swerved out of the way.
“Made that one,” he breathed.
But the bigger problem lay some 600 or 700 metres ahead. Dundas Hill was a steep decline down the side of a 200 metre escarpment. Number 8 led straight down toward the edge of the precipice until it made a sharp left turn into that decline.
Either he was going to rocket over that precipice, or slam into the low rock wall the separated the road from the edge. Or, if he somehow made the turn, he would scream down the hill at 180 kph and take out half of King Street at the bottom.
He had a little bit of time, but not much. The road levelled out for 150 metres before it began its descent toward the abyss.
“Damn! Why didn’t I think of this before?” He pulled up frantically on the emergency brake, but it, like the brake pedal, had no effect. It had been poorly maintained, at least until yesterday when Mandi had said, “Harry, you need a little work done on this old heap.” And since his wife was a kind of modern-day
Rosie the Riveter, he had brought it to the garage she co-owned with her old friend, John Duke, where she had given the ’93 Honda a spring tune up. “How could she have missed…? No, she wouldn’t have… Would she? We’ve had our problems lately, but surely….Of course, there was that studly partner of hers at the garage… Oh, Jesus Christ! I’m screwed!”
The Honda had slowed a bit on the flat stretch, but it was still a missile as it hurtled toward the abyss.
“I’ll gear down. I’ll probably burn out the clutch, but…” But suddenly he had no clutch to worry about: the cable snapped with a clearly audible thunk.” Are you kidding me!? Bastards thought of everything!”
Harry Martin’s options were now severely limited. He could, he supposed, pull off to the right or even the left, but as panic seized him, he couldn’t quite bring himself to slam purposely into a ditch or a tree.
Then he saw ahead of him a transport truck slowing to make the turn down the hill. If he could catch up to it in time, before it made the turn, he could use the truck to slow him down, to stop him, even. It would be messy: the trailer would take out the entire upper half of his car, not to mention his own upper half, as he slammed underneath. He’d have to duck, wouldn’t he? It would be better than going over that cliff. Harry wasn’t good with heights.
But that option, too, evaporated. The truck was just a little too far ahead and had already begun its descent down Dundas Hill. Harry now had a clear, unobstructed path to oblivion. Dundas, the Valley Town, welcomed him. The Honda slammed into that low stone wall and stopped dead in an explosion of metal and glass. Harry Martin did not stop. There were no functioning airbags to slow his egress through the windshield. Out he flew over the precipice into a breathtaking view of the valley. Rapidly rising to meet him was the thirteenth hole of the Golf and Country Club. He was about to join a threesome just putting out on the green.
Gord Dupuis is an English teacher who had always promised himself he’d write, but had never quite got around to it. Now, in his retirement, he is finally fulfilling that promise.
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