A Paradoxical Snubbing
20 Dec 2018
This is a surreal story about a complicated relationship between two inanimate objects. An earlier version (named the Ill-suited Pair) placed 3rd in the Michael Terence Publication short story competition in July 2018 and was published on their website (my first ever publication!)
A Paradoxical Snubbing
“Excuse me! I say,” said the car. “Can you please just go away? I don’t want you touching me.”
“I said get off me. Shoo!”
“Shoo! That’s very rude. I’m not a dog, Sir. I have every right to be here.”
“Sir! Are you blind? I am quite evidently a female. Can’t you see my curves? Anyway, what are you, a flyer or something?”
“Flyer? The insolence! I am a parking ticket, Ma’am. I’m here as a representative of the law. And this is an official loading bay. It’s not for any old car.”
“Any old car?! How very dare you! I am a vintage Rolls Royce. A Phantom III, don’t you know.”
The ticket cleared his throat. “Do you drive, Ma’am?”
“Then you’re a car, car.”
“Now listen here, you ruffian! I’ve tried being polite, but-”
“Must have missed that bit.”
“-But I must insist that you disperse this instance. If it is money you are after, we can pay but-“
The ticket sighed and crumpled, marginally. “You keep saying ‘we’. Who do you mean by ‘we’?”
“Whom do I mean? Myself and my owner, the exquisite Mr Smallcox. Obviously.”
“But your owner isn’t here. If he hadn’t abandoned you. Doesn’t sound that exquisite to me.”
“You… wretched, despicable… scrap of paper! You don’t deserve to even be in my proximity.”
“Listen Ma’am, I do not appreciate abuse. I’m just trying to do my job.”
“Well, I wish to converse with you no longer, you… grandiose waste of tree pulp!”
“Jolly good, then.”
Surly winds rush through the High Street. Chased by discarded newspapers and trampled boxes. The ticket flapped a little, though kept his composure. Traffic crawled by in a cacophony of beeps and hums. Drivers craned their heads around, scouring for elusive parking spaces. Stealing opportunities at traffic lights, passengers leapt out of cars. Rows of people flitted in and out of shops, carrying items. Marching back and forth, like ants. A regulated chaos.
A cyclist swerved away from a van and skidded to a halt, next to the car. He slapped on the side of the van, hollering protestations about indicating, and the lack thereof. The window wound down jerkily and the head of a rotund, middle-aged woman shot out, with a garish neck tattoo, and dyed red hair. She conveyed her indifference to driving etiquette in a colourful tirade of expletives, occasionally peppered with other words. “How vulgar,” mumbled the car. The cyclist shrunk into his light red lycra, and dropped his gaze.
The parking ticket and the car tried to ignore each other. Challenging, given their forced proximity. After some time, the ticket finally broke the silence. “I’m not ‘after money’, like some fraudster. Your owner broke the law.”
“My owner is a lawyer,” said the car, as if this offered an explanation.
“Well then, he should know better.”
The car scoffed. “And what of your owner? I bet he’s quite the upstanding citizen.”
“Owner? I’m not an object that is owned. I’m a legal document that is served.”
“You are precursor to rubbish that is discarded! And your owner is patently nothing but a pariah, like all parking attendants. A leech. A ruddy parasite!”
“Oh yeah? And this Smallcox lawyer. I bet he’s quite the upstanding citizen.” The ticket was not adept at relaying sarcasm, but the car comprehended him nonetheless.
“At least he’s educated,” she said. “He has a degree from a university in Oxford, I’ll have you know.”
“Didn’t help him read the parking regulations sign.”
“Can yours even speak English?
The parking ticket shuddered. “You Ma’am, are a racist.”
“Poppycock! How can I be racist? I know lots of… ethnics.”
“You mean who. The fellow that washes me is Polish. And he’s-”
The car froze as some teenagers walked past, kicking a football, eating fried chicken from greasy cardboard boxes, and speaking in slang. The ticket could sense the car’s fear. He could feel her cower, willing the crowd to move on.
“You’re awfully yellow,” she said after some time.
“Luminous, in fact.”
“My yellowness is a requirement,” said the ticket. “I need to garner people’s attention. Not for vanity, but to uphold the law.”
“Uphold the law? Steady on, dear boy! You’re not John Wayne. You’re at best, a minor inconvenience for people who accidentally made an honest mistake.”
“And what’s your purpose, Ma’am? To feed your owner’s ego?”
“I simply can’t help it if I turn heads.”
“He must be compensating for something.”
“Deary me! Are you insinuating that Mr Smallcox’s genitalia is inadequate? I’ll have you for libel, you scoundrel.”
“Don’t you mean slander?”
“Libel is printed. Slander is verbal. For a lawyer’s slave, you really are uninformed.”
“Now, listen here, you cretin! I will not be insulted by a godforsaken piece of paper, in a godforsaken piece of plastic. I shan’t stand for it! I am a valuable asset to great, noble man, with probably at least average… particulars. Youshall end up rotting in a rubbish tip. Or recycled at best,” the car said, her voice as haughty, though less assured than before. “If you’re fortunate, you might be recycled into toilet paper and my owner might graceyou with his use.”
“Are you an only car, Ma’am?” said the ticket, his voice icy.
The car did not respond.
He repeated the question.
“It’s no concern of yours,” she eventually mumbled.
“I assume, since you’re such a majesticspecimen, that you must satisfy all of Smallcox’s needs.” The ticket’s was impressed that his aptitude for sarcasm had developed, so swiftly.
“Well, obviouslyhe needs an alternative, for more boot space for trips away. The kids have buggies and all kinds of equipment. It’s not easy, you know.”
The ticket said nothing. He didn’t have to. He felt a smugness. But that was not all. He felt something else. Something… unnerving. He initially wondered if it might be indigestion, though figured this was unlikely. With him not having a digestive tract.
Traffic, human and vehicular, subsided as the evening sauntered by. Shops closed and the cars lined up along the street were driven away, one by one. But not her. The ill-suited duo ignored each other. This snubbing, paradoxically, had become easier, the more they had gotten accustomed to each other’s company. They lay together, but separate. Lost in their own thoughts. Despite himself, the ticket found himself wondered what was going through her mind.
Darkness eventually arrived and camouflaged itself within all the silhouettes of the street. Stars winked. The ticket lost himself in a bizarre fantasy of being served on a plane. In another life, if things were different. He dismissed the scene. He knew it was silly.
A drunk man waddled past them both, singing his pain. He stumbled, placing a grubby hand on the car. She winced and the ticket felt himself become fretful, by proxy. Hours later, a dog urinated a few feet away and a stream eagerly marched down the road, avoiding contact with the car’s tyres by mere centimetres. The ticket felt the car shrivel with repulsion. He heard her try to silence a long whimper. He wanted to reassure her, but every phrase his mind could muster seemed to sound sarcastic. By the time suitable words came to him, the moment had passed.
An alacrity of rain burst from the heavens, and disappeared just as abruptly. The ticket found himself concerned that the car’s windshield might not be impenetrable. He wanted to spread his plastic cover over her, but alas, was prohibited by the laws of physics.
The morning reincarnated the bustle of the High Street. Birds’ ballads were replaced by a new cacophony of beeps and hums. New vehicles began their crawl. New drivers arrived. They craned their heads around, scouring for parking spaces, which remained elusive. The car scoured the area, desperate for her owner. But Smallcox remained elusive. The car’s whimper returned, this time with only token efforts of concealment.
A trickle of fluid flopped on to the bottom of the windscreen. A couple of drops caressed the edge of the original ticket.
“Oh gosh, I do apologise,” sobbed the car. “It’s a faulty wiper fluid valve. It does tend to do that once in-”
They both noted a sudden rustling under one of the wind-screen wipers.
“Wayhey! What’s going on ‘ere?” The second ticket’s voice was far more impish than the first, to the car’s dismay.
“Allo mate,” he nodded a corner, imperceptibly, to the original ticket. “We’ve stuck ourselves on to a gorgeous bit of kit here, ‘aven’t we?.”
“We’re in the presence of a vintage Rolls Royce,” said the original ticket.
“I say, can you stop talking about me like I’m not here? It’s awfully uncouth,” the car’s voice was trying to be haughty, but a despondency hid between the words.
“Oooh, lah-de-dah! ‘Ark at the princess,” scoffed the second ticket.
The original ticket sniggered, uncomfortably. “Ok mate. She gets the message. Go easy on her.”
“Easy on ‘er? She’s the enemy.”
“No. We need to remain professional and neutral at all times. We have a duty to-”
“Chill out, Granddad. I’m just ‘avin a larf. Besides, if she don’t want to be taunted, then ‘er moronic owner should have read the sign,” the second ticket cackled. “What does he do then, Sweetheart? Your owner?”
The car said nothing.
“Well, I bet e’s busy, cos there’s twoof us now. He don’t love you. You’re just ‘is hussy. His trophy. Let’s ‘ope he gets a total of five unpaid fines, so they tow you away. Maybe they’re coming tomorrow. They’d love to crush up, a delicate posh little…”
“THAT’S ENOUGH! LEAVE HER ALONE!” bellowed the original ticket, consumed with an urge that he could not quite fathom. He stretched out infinitesimally, trying to knock the cocky young ticket off the car’s windshield, impaired by his own sticky back and the grip of the windscreen wiper. And physics.
“Blimey! Sorry for existing,” muttered the second ticket, getting in the last word.
In the morning, the car was stoically silent. The second ticket was petulantly silent. The original ticket was pensively silent. When the removal truck crawled to a stop nearby, the car let out a long, flat sigh. It was the first noise that any of them had made that day. The removal trucked hissed and screeched. It lined up with the car.
“I wanted to thank you for sticking up for me yesterday, ticket. You’re awfully valiant.” The car’s voice was haughty, but delicate.
“That’s ok, Ma’am. I’m sorry this is happening to you. He shouldn’t have just abandoned you like this. If I had known…”
“Oh Please! Get a room!” grumbled the second ticket.
They both ignored him.
“It was Oxford Brookes, you know.”
“I purported that my owner got a degree at a university in Oxford. Well, it was Oxford Brookes. Not the Oxford University.”
“Well, I hear Oxford Brookes is a fine institute, too,” the original ticket said, even though he had never heard of it. “And you were, right. My owner does struggle with basic English.”
“Well, my owner is a sham. Just like me.”
“Hey, c’mon. Don’t say that. I was fibbing yesterday. I actually think you’re beautiful. You’re so… vivacious.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I do,” said the ticket.
The beeps got louder, emphasising the drama. A couple of workmen in dirty overalls leaned over the car. One stocky, one older. They wore luminous yellow gloves and hats, and spoke loudly about Arsenal’s midfield, above the commotion. The older one placed a large metal bar underneath the front chassis of the car. The stocky one signalled to the driver, with one hand, as he relieved an itch in a deep crevice with the other. The older one glanced at the windshield. He reached out towards the tickets.
“You know, we probably don’t have long left together,” the original ticket flapped visibly. “I just wanted to say… I know it sounds silly, but in another life, if things were different…”
A gloved hand loomed.
“Well, you and I, I think we were meant to be-”