At an intersection, Walt slumped over the steering wheel. The van shot forward. Luckily, the light was green. His wife, Zelda struggled not to panic. ‘Wake up, Darling. Walt…’ He made no response.
A mini stroke, Zelda thought, he’s had too many of them recently.
Fear grew wings. Her husband was a solid man. There was no way she could move him by herself. Or turn off the ignition, blocked by his inert body. The brake was also out of reach.
Within seconds, the out-of-control van had sped along the highway. Zelda trembled. It mounted the footpath, missing half a dozen posts on the grass verge.
In a scene reminiscent of a madcap Mack Sennett movie, the vehicle zoomed around a corner, and sliced its way between trucks, cars and a motor-bike.
Disbelief. Fear. She thought, we’ll die at any minute. And there’s not a darned thing I can do. I hope we don’t take out some innocent bystander.
Walt snored on.
The vehicle tore round in circles. Zelda clung on to the hand grab. At any moment it’ll all be over… The van turned right, crossing the highway a second time. Dodging another pack of traffic. It shot forward, bumped up onto the footpath, headed back in the direction it had come.
Zelda held her breath. Not again…This time, our luck is bound to run out.
But, by some miracle, they escaped a third sortie into the river of sorrows. Back on the footpath, the van bumped into, and mowed down, a line of small trees. Each one slowed the vehicle further. At last it came to rest against the last but one, engine still running.
Walt sat up, looking around. He turned off the ignition. ‘W…What happened?’
Zelda shook with hysterical laughter. ‘D…Don’t ask. We’re alive, darling. T…That’s the main thing.’
An ashen face appeared at the driver’s side window. By a million to one chance, their son, Rory, happened to be off work that afternoon. And had stopped for a flat white at a small café across the street. ‘How can you laugh, Mum? I thought you’d bought it.’
Zelda wiped her eyes. ‘I…I can’t believe we’re not…’
Rory shook his head. ‘Who was it said that truth is stranger…?’
Walt slumped again. Zelda groaned. ‘Poor man! Another one.’
Rory opened the car door. ‘Sit in the back, Mum. I’ll take charge of Dad.’ He hefted Walt into the passenger seat. ‘I’m driving you both to the doctor.’
Just before reaching the surgery, Walt stirred. Rory parked, and came to the passenger-door. ‘I’ll help you, Dad.’
Walt waved him away, struggling to his feet. He made a crab-like entry. An operation for a non-malignant brain tumour, decades earlier, had left him hemiplegic.
Given only months to live, he had survived, frail but determined. With one hand he did things some people couldn’t manage with two. Manipulating cameras, loading film…
He greeted the doctor with an exaggerated grin, paralysed arm at his side. Chatting in his habitual imitation of good cheer. ‘I’m fine, doc,’ he said, ‘Fine. Never been better. Don’t worry about me.’
The doctor listened to Zelda’s tale in amazement, checked Walt’s heart. Took blood pressure and pulse. Examined Zelda in turn. He shot Rory a glance ‘Amazingly, your parents are unhurt…Apart from shock.’
Rory gulped. ‘Should I take Dad to hospital?’
‘No, no. There’s nothing to be done. As you know, Walt’s been having these Transient Ischaemic attacks – mini strokes – for quite a while. All that poking and prodding would just make your father feel worse. Walt, I want you to rest in bed.’
‘In bed? Why, doc? I’m fine.’
Zelda frowned. ‘Shh, Walt, be good. Doctor, there’s one question I must ask…’
‘About Walt’s driving?’
The doctor slowly shook his head. ‘I’m sorry, Walt. You’ll have to let your wife take over the wheel from now on. Too risky with you in control.’
Walt said, ‘Give me a day or two, Doc. I’ll be fine.’
‘Afraid not. Mini strokes can happen at any time.’
‘Dad, the doctor’s right. Let Mum take the wheel. I lost about ten lives today, watching that Death Drive. Couldn’t bear the worry of another one.’