Martin Reed

Undo

So there I am, trundling up the M1, grinning with satisfaction at my fast lane crawl, pissing off the guy behind, the arse in the white Vitara who’s been tailgating me since Junction 14. A little too close. Now closer yet. Looking in my rearview, he’s so near I can almost make out the yellow pattern on his tie, Homer or Bart probably, one of the two.

Do it now, I think.

I flash my hazards and squeeze the brakes, suddenly, slowing not enough for a crunch but enough to panic him. The front of his car dips and I accelerate gently, leaving him way behind, stretching an up yours finger out the window, hoping he sees it.

And of course with all my grinning, rearview glancing and finger-upping, I don’t notice.

Notice what?

That’s just it. I don’t know. Something happening. Ahead of me. Unnoticed. The Mini in front slows and I slam the brakes too late, almost, so very almost, coming to a stop in time, kissing bumpers. Gently.

Nudge.

The Mini guy is big. Very big. I see that now as he steps out and uncurls himself. I have an instinct to do something but I’m not sure what. What to do? What to do?

A glance in my wing mirror shows my friend, the Vitara tailgater stepping out and walking towards me as well. My gaze falls to the words of wisdom on the glass of the mirror: objects-may-appear-more-distant-than-they-actually-are.

Bugger.

They both look so cross. Both so tall. Oh for crying out loud.

What to do? What is it I feel so inclined to do? Something with my fingers. Some sort of twitch.

They’re both so cross. Approaching fast.

Then it comes to me. An impulse from a decade of computer overuse. The undo shortcut. The solution to every mistake. Control-Z. Undo. This isn’t Microsoft but, in desperation, I do it anyway. With a pre-programmed flick of my left thumb and forefinger.

CONTROL-Z.

And I’m hurtling along in the fast lane, coming up on Junction 12. The sun blinding, low to my right in the early sky. If only I’d brought my shades.

CONTROL-Z.

Shades in hand, loading the car, really not wanting to go to Leeds today. Why did I agree to drive North?

CONTROL-Z. CONTROL-Z. CONTROL-Z.

The test drive. So tempting. She handles well doesn’t she, urges the sales rep, massaging the gear stick. The whim nearly takes me, but I say, sorry mate – I can’t afford it. Who needs a car in London? Besides, I’m broke. Too much credit. Up to my neck in it. Sinking fast.

CONTROL-Z. CONTROL-Z. CONTROL-Z.

And a few more for good measure.

Lying exhausted and sticky, then reaching for a cig. Stunned. I can’t believe I’ve done it. At last. Not just it but it. Prodded the unknown. I glance at her, lying beside me. I’m not a virgin. I’ve been inside you. Really inside. I’ve done it. But but but. Why oh why with you, Kirsty Taylor? The ruddy college bike. It should so much have been Lu. Why not her?

CONTROL-Z. CONTROL-Z.

School exams. Sod it. Scrub the lot.

CONTROL-A.

Select all.

DELETE.

Blank page.

Congratulations. It’s a boy.

A boy?

Oh.

Oh well.

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