Coward of the county

by James

When did he become a coward? Sat on that plane to Ibiza? Eighteen years old and panicking there wasn’t a sick bag in the seat pocket. Or was it at thirteen, when Dad paid close to a hundred pounds for him to fly a Cessna? For thirty minutes the joy of flight was in his soul and then, as the ground was rushing up to meet them he wondered what would happen if the old guy at the controls had a heart attack, right then.

Job interviews, been through countless, climbing the ladder to Technical Lead, taking home six figures and a company car. He got married. He stood up in front of a hundred people and said I do and then he gave a speech and he first danced.

None of that a problem, so what happened?

He lived life through periscope, peeking at the world through the filter of emails and social media – sorry I missed it, sounds like you guys had fun! Next time, I’ll be there. Work, you know how it is.

Now when he needed to drive into the city he booked the afternoon off work, and he triple checked the route on Google streetview, obsessively settling each roundabout firmly in his mind. Number two was easy: left hand land, straight over. Number four. Right hand lane approach, move into the middle, indicate at the first sight of McDonalds, then into the left lane, and then next exit.

In his head he was perfect.

He was waiting at roundabout six. To his right a car had stopped too far forward. It was beach towel red, the young lady at the wheel forced to stretch to watch the lights. In the left lane was a black car, inching forward impatiently.

At least the roads were quiet. Just sit back, let them go.

They both went for the middle lane – went for his lane. Black car was uber-aggressive, but it was the red car that won it, black twitching then rocking as the driver stamped the brakes and tugged hard on the wheel.

He drew up behind them at the next set of lights. It wasn’t finished. From the car on the left jumped a black leather jacket spewing guttural sounds. He slapped his palms on the roof of the red car, and then brought his face down low to stare into the passenger side window.

Somebody shouted, “Oy!”

That was it. Just oy.

The beet red animal face turned, showing flared nostrils and lips pulled back from teeth. In a moment it became the face of a man who has just realised he’s stood in the middle of a road with his spittle running down a stranger’s car window.

And just like that, it was over. Both red and black pulled away chastely and he found himself standing alone outside his own car.

What was wrong with people these days? Why the aggro?

He got back in his own car. He checked his mirrors – twice – and then pulled away. Roundabout number seven. Middle lane, and then get over to the right, and try, try, try – try not to think about the pregnant wife waiting in the ultrasound room.