I knew that smell from somewhere and I recognized the way it made me feel. Funny enough, it reminded me of that feeling you get when you hold a new born baby.
The analogy was far from perfectthe car couldnt squint up at me with eyes that had just started to see or grasp one of my fingers in a tiny, tiny fist or give me a gummy little smile. But for a moment there it felt like it just might.
'You only live once,' the car salesman said, his heels clicking across the showroom floor.
I smiled politely, indicating that I would have to think that one over.
'Are you in the market for some serious fun?' he said. 'Because if the MGF is about one thing, its about fun.'
While he gave me his standard sales pitch, he was sizing me up, trying to decide if I was worth a test drive.
He was pushy, but not so pushy that it made your flesh crawl. He was just doing his job. And despite my weekend clotheswhich because of the nature of my work were not really so different from my week clotheshe must have seen a man of substance. A fast-track career looking for some matching wheels. Young, free and single. A life as carefree as a lager commercial. How wrong can you be?
'This model has the Variable Valve Control system,' he said with what seemed like genuine enthusiasm. 'The opening period of the inlet valves can be varied by altering the rotational speed of each cam lobe.'
What the fuck was he going on about? Was it something to do with the engine?
'A total babe magnet,' he said, noting my dumbfounded expression. 'Plenty of poke. A young single guy couldnt do any better than the MGF.'
This was my kind of sales pitch. Forget the technical guff, just tell me that you can lose yourself in a car like this. Let me know you can lose yourself. Thats what I wanted to hear.
The salesman was distracted by something on the street, and I followed his gaze out of the showrooms plate glass wall.
He was looking at a tall blond woman holding the hand of a small boy wearing a Star Wars T-shirt. They were surrounded by bags of supermarket shopping. And they were watching us.
Even framed by all those plastic carrier bags and chaperoning a little kid, the woman was the kind that you look at more than once.
What you noticed about her childand he was certainly her childis that he was carrying a long, plastic tube with a dull light glowing faintly inside.
If you had been to the cinema at any time over the last twenty years, you would recognize it as a light saber, traditional weapon of the Jedi Knights. This one needed new batteries.
The beautiful woman was smiling at me and the salesman. The little kid pointed his light saber, as if about to strike us down.
'Daddy,' he mouthed from the other side of the plate glass wall that divided us. You couldnt hear him but thats what he was saying.
'My wife and son,' I said, turning away, but not before I caught the disappointment in the salesmans eyes. 'Got to go.'
Daddy. Thats me. Daddy.
'You dont even like cars,' my wife reminded me, edging our old VW station wagon through the thick early evening traffic.
'And youre too young for a midlife crisis,' she said. 'Thirty is much too young, Harry. The way it works, you wait for fifteen years and then run off with a secretary whos young enough to be your second wife. And I cut off the sleeves of all your suits. Not to mention your bollocks.'
'Im not thirty, Gina', I chuckled, although it wasnt really all that funny. She was always exaggerating. 'Im twenty-nine.'
Copyright Tony Parsons, 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced by the permission of the publisher, Source Books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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