As far as I am aware the burglary and Father Jake’s behaviour were never mentioned again.
Ernesto was clearly nursing two things today, one was a good old fashioned hangover and the other was a version of Claudia who was also fragile but for un-stated, complex reasons. They sat together out side on a weathered oak bench his eyes closed, her eyelids heavy. She was wearing tight green jeans and a loose turquoise peasant top, she was circulating and twisting around him like a jungle snake trying to eat a lamb. There were beads of perspiration forming on his forehead, he hadn’t slept properly or shaved for a few days. I didn’t image for a minute that our journey was going to begin today. So it was no surprise after a few more minutes of reptile and victim manoeuvring the two of them headed west for the ranch and more pre-siesta siesta time.
I walked over to the car, opened the door and turned the key. The Ford’s iron lump coughed like a 40 a day Baptist minister and came back to life. I got out and lifted the hood and twiddled with e few cables and wires. Everything seemed sound, the belts were clear and clean, no odd fumes and the liquids were all sitting at their maximum readings. I slammed the lid back down, jumped in and headed down the track. I needed to get away from the ranch and enjoy my own company and space for a few hours. I headed back onto the main road and put my foot down and crashed up the gears. The rev counter wobbled at 5500 and with the windows down and the wind racing the noise was rich and fantastic, in a few seconds I was doing 85. I was close to feeling like flying and the strangely and conveniently empty road ran under the tyres like a grey conveyor in a factory running at full production. I enjoyed the rush.
The next part of the journey however was a lot less enjoyable, a T junction on my right suddenly gave birth to a sky blue Pegaso Troner truck carrying a cargo of cut timber. Clearly it was moving too slowly and I in total disrespect to it’s superior and heavier presence was headed straight towards it as it executed the final part of it’s turn onto the highway. Instinctively I pulled over to the right hoping to find space to pass on the opposite carriageway, the quick jerk on the wheel met with disapproval from the stiff suspension and the car began wobble and I began to fight the wobble. To add spice to the horrific equation I could see headlights flash facing me as I toiled to control the car whilst on the left-hand side. The oncoming headlights still flashed and now presented a greater danger than the still turning Pegaso drone. There was only one way to go and that, in the spilt second I had to consider ,it was going to mean travelling off the road altogether.
When the Ford left part of the road four things happened:
a) I flashed by the Pegaso on by my far right, a cloud of fresh dust and particles signalling my move, the truck driver simply stared through his sunglasses, mouth drawn wide in shock and sudden surprise.
b) On my near right a black saloon, now with screaming horn accompaniment passed within inches nicking the passenger mirror in a brief and frankly satisfactory encounter.
c) My passage on the rough ground and partly on the metalled road became increasingly violent as the surfaces changed, my car was slowing but not quickly enough. There were a series of thumps from underneath the car and plume of dust that very quickly had me blinded and disorientated.
d) After the final and loudest thump my car stopped and I was pushed into the wheel whereupon an airbag exploded and I was then pushed backwards. Stones, rocks and more dust then seemed to descend upon the car as if burying it alive now that the worst of the manoeuvre was over.
For a few seconds I was unaware of anything, I just sat still as the airbag hissed and more fragments fell from heaven above. I closed my eyes and decided to take my time whatever was happened and regardless of whoever was out there. I counted to 25 for no good reason. I clicked the door and struggled out of the car suddenly realising that it was in fact the right way up but facing in the wrong direction. I’d come to an undignified rest 100 feet from the highway on which despite the recent violent hiatus business as usual has resumed. The Pegaso was headed away from the scene grunting up the valley with its load and the saloon had gone altogether. Neither vehicle’s driver had bothered to stop either to help or to remonstrate, life goes on, mine and theirs by a lucky and stupid thread.
Once I’d shaken of the shock and cursed myself for my own reckless driving I began to be aware of the state of the car. The vital tool in our planned journey. Firstly I noticed that it now sitting in a very rough field, one with rocks and ploughed troughs and lots of loose earth. Then I saw that the two front tyres were completed flat and that the exhaust system had detached and was scattered across the field in the dusty wake of my rapid highway exit. That was all the visible damage I could pick up but it was significant.
It was about two hours before I managed to contact a tow truck and three by time I was towed, sheepishly back to the ranch. My arrival caused a slight stir but thankfully Ernesto and Claudia were still elsewhere so at least I had a little time to recover personally and as far as possible make repairs to the car.
One of the hands was quite an experienced blacksmith and he took it upon himself to fix the exhaust, it was in four clear pieces but he began to repair it with gusto and by early evening he’d put if back together, strengthened it and renewed a couple of badly corroded parts. We managed to fit the assembly back into the car by supper time and it was now sounding remarkably sweet. The tyres were more of a problem, both were badly damaged and new ones were needed, due to their sizes they’d have to be ordered from the city and could take up to week to arrive. Things were not quite balancing up and I carried a heavy weight of foolishness around that I didn’t want Ernesto hear about too soon. I decided to stay quiet about the tyres and wait see what might happen next.