by Ioana Jucan
The car .. was being driven safely on the asphalt highway.
It was a newly purchased 280-hp, 3.6 liter V6 VW Passat as white as the thick head of foam of freshly boiled milk. It was a dragon-car neither too big nor too small – exactly the perfect size for its four over-excited passengers. It was the one and only car designed to make everyone proud of it – especially the two passengers sitting in the front seats – the owner and his wife, and the two passengers in the back seats – the co-owner and his wife. It was a co-owned car driven by the senior owner: out of respect for his wisdom and driving skills.
The four ps were taking delight in the ride, praising the car with all the powers of their imagination. Indeed, it was a beautiful, most comfortable car. The four passengers were sitting as if on pillows. Gently did they hit their heads against the crystal clear lateral windows of the car or against the persons sitting next to them – depending on whether the centrifugal or the centripetal force was at work – whenever Sir Gory the Driver spotted a majestically carved wooden cross in the proximity of the highway. At the moment of the revelation, he piously bowed his perfectly regular head, bringing it as close as possible to the right hand he used for driving. Then, without by any means removing his right hand from the steering wheel, he piously made the sign of a minuscule cross on his forehead: and he felt safe and at peace with himself. Vum! He would never notice – or admit (this is debatable) – that during these intervals of empty time in which he made the symbolic gesture, he was virtually losing control of the car, which often skidded towards the ditch accompanying the highway on the right. Out of respect, the other ps would only take a deep breath and express gratitude when the act of symbolic cross-making on the forehead was over.
Sir Gory was nearly seventy but he wore no glasses and his hair was not white. He was a wise man: he had a basic understanding of life and a knowledge about cars that allowed him to never waste money on car service if his car ever broke down. This ability was rare those days. His wife Mina, for instance, had no knowledge whatsoever about cars, wore glasses out of principle, and regularly dyed her hair blonde. She had no philosophy of life and lived as if she did not need one.
Alec – sitting right behind Gory – was co-owner of the car and rather jealous: he was as eager to drive the newly purchased car as Roman colonists must have been before leaving on their mission. He was said to be middle-aged, but still attractive. Sandra – his wifie – certainly found him thus. She could hardly take her eyes off him, proud as she was of being the lawful wifie of the co-owner of the car.
And the car was cozy like a rabbit hole. The symphony of looks out of the window and inside the car was as pleasant as it was discrete, harmonizing itself with the wind that touched the windshield with the reddish leaves of the bohemian fall like a hungry lover; with the slender sensuous white line dividing the highway into two lanes – right and left – and producing a thrilling sound every time the tires of the car came into contact with it. Enchanted by the symphony, Gory was seriously exceeding the speed limit on a generally busy highway, on which the VW Passat he co-owned was now the only car: a lonely car.
A lonely car that slowed down from one hundred m/s to fifty m/s within a distance of one hundred meters. It was a decision that Gory made as soon as he noticed that the asphalt highway had turned into a dusty country road – narrow, picturesque, and with bumps – making the four ps feel as if in a traditional gipsy wagon starting off on an uncertainly long caravan. Outside the windows of the car, it was growing darker and colder: the autumnal perfumed cold that engenders the same shivers that only falling in and out of love can produce. With a shiver, Alec stretched his arm and conveniently adjusted the temperature. Sir Gory, Alec, Mina, and Sandra smiled at one another in acknowledgement of the car’s small wonders.
Seized with a sudden sense of freedom due to the warmth inside, Sir Gory tooted as five-year olds used to toot when they got hold of the car keys and their parents made the mistake of not being home. He tooted, and tooted – unaware of the fact that the longitudinal harmonic sound waves produced might have disturbed the birds flying at medium altitude or harmed the trees whose autumnal leaflessness was noticeable to the naked eye in the proximity of the dusty road. Toot, toot, toot…
As stains of grease vanish from blouses, shirts, and trousers if the appropriate washing powder is used at the appropriate temperature, the dusty road suddenly disappeared from what appeared to be a field: as if it had never been. The car suddenly stopped in the midst of delicious barley that Sandra mistook for winter wheat. This was nature at its best – wild and free, multiplying itself continuously.
Sir Gory breathed faster and let go of the steering wheel for the first time since he set foot in the car. In the same rhythm, four of the car’s doors opened: with some reluctance, with some emotion, Sir Gory, Alec, Mina, and Sandra stepped out of the car in the field of barley – creating oases in the form of overweight zeros (.) in the surrounding nature.
They are moving away from the car – step by step – aware that looking from a distance is good quality looking: the snow-white car is a blessed delight for their eyes. They seem to be preparing themselves for something – heart and mind – each allowing their personal thoughts to wander back and forth: back to the car, forth to the barley fields in extreme long shot; back to the car, forth to themselves in close-up. Waiting. A smell of yellowish old paper – presumably emanated by the barley – is filling their hairy nostrils: right now, they believe that they are growing younger as they inhale it and older as they exhale it.
“Here he comes”, cries Sir Gory when the silence around becomes so pregnant that it is about to give birth. And, indeed, at a distance, a roundish bald man – purportedly Father P. – is making big and resolute strides towards … the car. He is followed closely by a short and thin man holding a curious-looking kind of noisy censer and a small makeshift copper bowl with water and sweet basil – both in his left hand. With the right hand, he is pressing a big black book against his chest – on which he is also resting his chin. When Father P. and the man are one elbow away from the car, they stop. Sir Gory kisses Father P’s hand and the big black book in the short man’s hand, passionately pressing his lips against both.
“If you are ready, gentlemen, let’s begin”, says Father P. as he takes the black book from the short man’s hand and piously opens it. Sir Gory, Alec, Mina, and Sandra line up behind Father P. like a train behind its locomotive. Then Father P. clears his throat and reads the first prayer – for the owner of the car (“and the co-owner”, Alec adds): “Let the (co-)owners of this car live a long life of prosperity. Let this car bring them as many accomplishments as there are stars in the rainless sky. Let this car bring them happiness and joy. ” And they are rhythmically pacing around the car as they utter this. “So be it!”, they repeat in rapture, and the short man sprinkles water from the makeshift bowl , gently touching their heads with sweet basil.
“Let this car be a dragon-car, as fast as the arrow of Cupid, as fast as the wind. Let it carry you backwards and forwards on this earth, in urban areas as well as in rural areas as well as in nature.”, says Father P. reading from the book. “So be it!”, respond the four ps and they tilt their heads just a little. The short man turns his right palm into a fairly cute cavity and introduces it in the makeshift bowl. Then, he solemnly sprinkles water on the hood of the car, chanting.
“Let this car be a satellite lost and found, let it travel the universe but also find its way back home safely and in due time.”, says Father P. in his soft voice, which suddenly becomes harsher as he realizes that the short man is staring at him in confusion: the hood of the car has not been raised up to reveal the engine! In no time, Sir Gory gets into the car and unlocks the hood. Then – as quick as a rabbit – he raises the hood, revealing the car’s engine in its entire splendor. “So be it!”, they all cry as the short man is sprinkling water on the engine with the sweet basil. In no time, Sir Gory, Alec, Mina, and Sandra are glancing around – lost and possibly never found.
The car .. had broken down in the middle of nowhere.