Authors: Mark Lamprell
Copyright © 2013 by Mark Lamprell
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First published in 2013 by The Text Publishing Company
This edition published in 2014 by
House of Anansi Press Inc.
110 Spadina Avenue, Suite 801
Toronto, ON, M5V 2K4
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Lamprell, Mark, author
The full ridiculous / Mark Lamprell.
Originally published: Melbourne, Victoria : The Text
Publishing Company, 2013.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN: 978-1-77089-454-9 (pbk.). ISBN: 978-1-77089-455-6 (html).
PR9619.4.L34F84 2014 823’.92 C2013-907012-5
Cover design by WH Chong
We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.
a love song of sorts, my darling girl.
Halfway through a ten-kilometre run, you have yet another premonition that you’re hit by a car while jogging so you decide to outwit the fates by changing course, heading
Hastings Road instead of
it. Rather than risk the usual dash across the intersection, you wait at the pedestrian crossing for a sleek green four-wheel drive to pass on your right. Summer is toppling into autumn but it’s still hot and you wipe the sweat from your forehead with the back of your hand. Looking left, you see an old blue sedan approaching and make eye contact with the driver who is lit by a flash of early-morning sun. You stride confidently onto the crossing and almost reach the other side of the road when, out of the corner of your left eye, you see something blue.
The blue sedan.
It’s less than a body length away, and it’s not stopping.
Time slows, just like in the movies, which is ironic because you work in the movies. Well, not
the movies; you write
movies, ‘clever’ features poking fun at filmmakers who may not be creative geniuses but at least they’ve had a go which is more than you can say for some joggers
which is why you have this self-loathing thing going
which is why you overeat
which makes you overweight
which gives you borderline high blood pressure
which is why you’re jogging.
The blue car moves closer.
You recall a conversation with a stuntman during the making of the latest Mad Max movie. He’s talking about a sequence where he gets run down by one of those reptilian-looking, post-apocalyptic vehicles but you’re not really listening because you can hear an actor in the wardrobe tent complaining about his costume. He’s not exactly complaining, just fussing about how heavy it is, but in your piece for
you say he’s complaining because it adds tension.
This stuntie says the important thing is to go
the car when it hits. You go
, most likely you get stuck on some sticky-outy bit of the engine, dragged along and de-skinned, then kidney-squishingly, eye-poppingly, brain-squeezingly run over by one or more wheels. You go over, at least you’ve got a chance if you land right.
You don’t know how you remember all this in a millisecond but you do. You even remember the stuntie sensing he doesn’t have your full attention so he gives a demonstration, lifting himself off the ground. A little jump just before the vehicle hits.
On the crossing, you are not afraid. You feel not one moment of fear. There is no time for metamorphosis so you perform an act of instantaneous transcendence. You are no longer a person. You have become a living thing with a singular objective: to remain what you are: alive.
You start to turn to face the blue car but you can’t turn far in a millisecond. You can
a lot but you can’t
a lot. You do, however, manage to raise yourself off the road a little before the car drives into your left thigh, still in slow motion.
You feel no pain.
And that’s all you remember.
Inside the blue sedan, Frannie Prager is running late for work. A traffic jam on the highway has prompted her to take a shortcut and it’s the first time she’s driven this way by herself although she’s done it before with her husband behind the wheel. She’s enjoying the leafy road lined with old-money mansions and is mid-fantasy, playing the mistress of one particular Spanish Mission pile, when a break in the trees slashes a stripe of early morning sunlight across her face, blinding her.
Frannie dips her head, fumbles for the sun visor and lowers it.
She feels a thump, like she’s hit something.
Her windscreen cracks and shatters.
She screams and hits the brakes as glass showers into her lap.
Through the cobweb hole in the windscreen, she sees a big blond man in a dark T-shirt and joggers flying through the air, away from her. He lands with a thud face down, half in the gutter, half on the small strip of unmown grass at the side of the road.
There is no blood.
He’s not moving.
The first thing you feel is a lack of symmetry: one hand on the cold concrete gutter, one hand in the dewy grass. You’ve landed well—pretty much in a push-up position—and it flashes through your head that your stuntie would be proud of you.
You turn your head out of the grass to take a breath. A man with a mobile phone in his hand is running towards you, shouting. He’s telling you to lie still, lie still, I’ve called an ambulance, an ambulance is coming.
You realise you can’t move. You can’t move anything except your head. And then you feel this thing you haven’t felt as clearly or simply since you were a child. You feel really sorry for you.
You start to cry. You cry like a little boy who’s been beaten for something he didn’t do. And you’re sad. Deeply, purely sad. No adult inner voice insists that you contextualise what you are feeling. Children are starving in Africa. People are exploding in Iraq. Millions are far worse off than you at this moment but none of this enters the orbit of your consciousness. You are utterly occupied with yourself. You are a mewling, puking newborn who has not yet learned that anyone or anything other than itself exists.
Shoes gather around you. That’s all you can see because you can’t move, you can’t fucking move, and you can’t turn your fucking fuck fuck fuck head. Black-stockinged calves lower into your view. There is a small ladder, just below the right knee. A woman’s hand grasps your right wrist. She tells you she’s a doctor and she’s taking your pulse. You ask her name. She tells you she is Elizabeth Marks. Doctor Elizabeth Marks. Her voice is kind and smart. You do not ask her whether you will be okay because you are afraid of the answer. She asks your name. ‘Michael,’ you say. ‘Michael O’Dell.’
You continue to cry. You haven’t cried for a long time and it’s like all the times you should have cried and didn’t have been saved up for this single purge. You hear Doctor Elizabeth Marks tell someone there is a child in her car and could they please move the car and keep an eye on the child. Another woman is patting your back. She’s saying, ‘Poor fella, poor fella,’ and you think, ‘
.’ Doctor Elizabeth Marks says, ‘Gently,’ to the woman so she stops patting and starts rubbing.
A pair of men’s business shoes asks if they can call anyone. You say, ‘My wife,’ but then you think how frightened she will be so you say, ‘Can I call her?’ and try to turn to take the phone. Doctor Elizabeth Marks tells you to stay still. You call out your wife’s work number in a weepy voice that you have never heard before and someone puts the ringing phone to your ear.
Lovely Lucy the receptionist answers and you know you must wipe all the panic and tears from your voice when you speak. You can do this because you are a good actor. At university, your best friend wrote a one-man play about an aborted foetus who lives out his whole potential life in the moment of his abortion. You played the foetus and it was a big hit. You might have made a living as an actor if not for the fact that you vomit before you go on stage which is no way to make a living.
Lucy is in a perky mood and raring for a banter. She tells you your wife isn’t in yet, it’s probably the traffic. Or maybe she’s having an affair. You make a reasonable approximation of a laugh and add in your best oh-by-the-way voice that you’re okay and not to worry but you’ve just been run over by a car and you’re waiting for the ambulance and could she let your wife know when she sees her. Something in your voice tells Lucy that you’re not joking because she is suddenly very serious and tells you she’ll track Wendy down immediately.
Wendy Weinstein. That’s her name. She hates it, or rather she hates the combination of Wendy with Weinstein. She doesn’t mind them separately and she doesn’t mind the alliteration. It’s the desperation, she says, of the white-bread, Anglo-Protestant Wendy working so hard to apologise for the unequivocally Jewish Weinstein. She could have changed her surname to O’Dell when you got married but she’s a feminist and refused to sell either the sisterhood or Judaism short. You weren’t going to argue because she’s cleverer than you and whenever you argue you lose.
Something pops into your head. The driver. Is the driver of the blue car okay?
‘Where’s the driver?’ you ask Doctor Elizabeth Marks.
‘I’m here,’ answers a small female voice as a pair of tired brown pumps enters the peripheral vision of your right eye.