“I sometimes get weird thoughts.” Shannon forced the gear box into fourth making it scream in pain. She glanced at her passenger, who fixed his gaze straight ahead without moving a muscle.
“I can’t hide it and I’m not going to lie to you. I sometimes get weird thoughts when I’m driving . . . It doesn’t happen all the time, but when I get them they are really strong. I have to fight hard not to give in to them.”
Colin stared straight ahead. He opened the glove box and rummaged around for his bag of humbugs.
“I get weird thoughts too. It doesn’t mean anything, they are just thoughts. Should we keep going?”
Shannon accelerated and rammed the car into fifth. The car jerked as she let the clutch go too quickly. Colin breathed out heavily through his nose.
“Mind out for that car up ahead.”
“Sorry. I’m trying my best. These thoughts I get . . . well, they make me want to do something crazy. When I’m driving.” She squeezed the steering wheel. Colin glanced across and noted her knuckles were turning white.
“Just relax. You drive better if you relax.”
“I need to tell you what I’m thinking of when I get these thoughts.”
“You really don—”
“YES! I do. I have to tell you this. I get this urge. It’s really strong. Powerful. I get the urge to sort of tweak the steering wheel.”
Colin looked at Shannon’s face, screwed up with concentration.
“Yes, Tweak. Not yank or pull, just tweak.”
“Ok. That’s ok . . . a tweak is ok. Nothing to worry about. A yank or a pull is a different conversation. A tweak we can live with.”
Shannon released her sweaty grip and pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose.
“It’s not just that. It’s what happens after I tweak the steering wheel that’s the problem. You see in my thoughts I’m travelling really fast when I do it. I only tweak it a little just to see what would happen.”
Shannon squealed with delight as she recalled a memory. “You know, like when you stick your tongue on the top of a battery cos’ your dad says it will be fun. And even though you know it probably won’t be fun, cos’ your dad’s already laughing before you’ve done it.”
Shannon’s face drops. “And then he tells you he’s leaving your mum to move in with the Lollipop lady from the primary school. You do it anyway. You know what I mean? And it wasn’t fun by the way. Hurt like hell. The battery that is, not my dad, he’s dead to me now him and that husband-snatching Lollipop bitch.”
“And what happens? After you tweak the steering wheel?”
“Well. First, the whole scene goes into slow motion. There aren’t normally any other cars on the road but there’s always a steep drop to the edge of the tarmac. I tweak the wheel but then I—” Shannon’s voice trails off.
“Then you what?”
“I . . . I let go of the wheel completely. I know it sounds crazy. Here’s the really strange part. It feels great. I mean It feels really, really great.”
She looked at Colin with a huge grin. “When I was a kid—I was about eleven I guess—I would cut through the cemetery on my way home from school. There was this massive oak tree. I mean it was legendary.”
Colin discreetly checked his seatbelt was safely clipped in. Shannon continued.
“No one at school could ever climb high up into the top branches. It was just too hard.”
Shannon glanced at the speedo. “Whoops! sorry got a bit carried away there.”
She pulled her foot from the accelerator and hit the brake. They both lunged forward. “So, where was I? Oh yes. I got the urge to climb it. There was no one around to see me do it but I got to the top. I’d never had a feeling like it. I could see for miles, it was amazing. Unfortunately, as I was climbing down, I fell. Broke both my legs.”
“Oh.” Said Colin, fumbling to unwrap another humbug. “Sorry to hear that.”
“Its fine, its fine. My point is, the feeling I got as I fell was even better than the feeling I got when I climbed to the top of the tree. Well, until I hit the floor that is.”
Shannon let out an uncontrollable burst of laughter. “Don’t you see? This is what my urges are about. I think I need to find out what it feels like to pull the car off the edge of the road.”
She looked at Colin—eyes wide. “What if crashing the car gives me that feeling? I need to get that feeling!”
Colin nipped his buttocks together and straightened himself in his seat.
“Well . . . Ok.” He spoke calmly. “I think you should take me back.”
“Oh. But we’ve only been driving for a little while!”
“Yes. But I think you should take me back right away. If you don’t mind.”
Shannon shrugged her shoulders.
“Ok, but I was hoping we could go back along the old road today. It’s really pretty along there. Lovely views over the valley.”
Colin turned away and mumbled at his reflection in the passenger window.
“Yes, and a steep drop to the left.”
“Sorry? Did you want me to take a left?” Shannon flicked the indicator on and started to brake.
“No, no, if you could just turn us round and take me back please. Slowly.”
“Ok. You don’t need to worry you know. I won’t do anything stupid. It’s just an urge. Honest. Nothing more than that.”
Shannon shunted the car backward and forward in the road turning it round. The couple sat in silence all the way back. Colin’s head bounced forward as Shannon pulled the car over, mounting the curb. She pulled the hand brake with both hands and turned off the engine. He said nothing. Just straightened his tie before crunching down hard on his humbug.
“Well? How did I do?” Said Shannon handing Colin the keys. He put an X in the final box and slammed his clipboard shut.