THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

49   Crash

WHAM! Since the outskirts he had been bracing himself, legs rigid, feet firmly planted, seat belt as tight as he could get it. Even if it was after midnight a hundred and twenty struck him as being an excessive speed at which to be travelling in the centre of a town. Despite never having been inside a Catholic church other than to take refuge from driving rain he had tried a Hail Mary. Hail Marry, full of grace, please, now's the time to deal a lucky ace. Amen. They had taken the first corner and the second without rolling or striking a lamppost. They had mounted and dismounted the kerb. The blue light of the police station had appeared and when the brakes were applied the projectionist had switched to slow motion. They had travelled the last fifty metres with wheels locked and the screech of rubber on tar loud above the roar from the exhaust manifold. They had needed at least another twenty-five metres.

WHAAM! Henry's thoughts went first to Roy Lichtenstein. The loud noise caused by front end of car striking rear of police van might have been depicted as CRAASH! Or KAPOW! What about KADUNK!? No, it was WHAAM! It came immediately to mind and brought along with it the flashback to a schoolboy joke - why is a kudu called a kudu? Because, as it canters through the veld, a kudu's balls go KUDU, KUDU. Did Roy Lichtenstein know that one?

WHAAM! Then the sudden quiet, engine cut out, in which small noises were heard. Like a tinkle of glass, creak of contracting metal, trickle of water. With the slow motion of the last moments and then the impact something had stirred in the depths. A recurring image. It was as if it had happened before and it would happen again.

Birkin groaned. He was slumped over the steering wheel but was regaining consciousness. A voice spoke next to Henry's window and he turned to find two policemen bent forward and peering in.

"Goeie naand, Menere. En nou wat maak julle ouens? Kyk vir die skade, dis die staat se eienskap. Is julle dronk, of wat?"

"Hell, no man. Jesus no. No no no. Drunk? What makes you think that? My friend here just had a little blackout. 'n Swartuit or donkerkop or something jy weet. Medical problem. Very sad, runs in the family, like epilepsy or syphilis. No no no. Hayikona. I mean, does he LOOK drunk? This isn't a drunkard, this is an accident victim. I mean, did you go to police college or didn't you? Next you'll be asking us if we struck a pedestrian or a vehicle or if this is a case of housebreaking or illegal possession of a firearm. Can't you tell the difference? Yissis, this is incredible! Only a fuckin' cop would be so unfeeling as to try and humiliate an ou when he's pouring blood and just totally fucked up his pride and joy on a stupid heap of crappy cop van. And anyway, who's calling who drunk?"

The way these two cops were moving about whilst he was addressing them had alerted Henry to the clear probability that they themselves were heavily intoxicated. Fuuuck, he thought to himself, this is a sad, bad country. He got out and went round to the driver's side and helped Birkin, who was clutching his face in both hands and moaning and whimpering.

In the brightly-lit charge office one of the cops actually fell over and, on hands and knees, vomited on the floor like a dog. Henry acted scandalised, whilst the other policeman, much steadier than his colleague, fetched the first aid box and began helping Birkin with his smashed up mouth and forehead.

"Now this is what I call a fokken skande. A policeman, a custodian of the good values of sobriety and social responsibility and orderly conduct, abusing the trust placed in him and behaving like the lowest of skollies, creeping about on the floor, kotching and puking his heart out he's so arseholes-pissed. On duty! Sies, man! Have you got fuck-all shame? And here I am, an accident victim, in a state of shock after a terrible experience, here I am shaking with shock and you cops do nothing. I need something for shock. What you got for shock, Konstabel?"

The policeman looked at him blankly with steady uncomprehending suspicion. Jees but these cops have all got blue eyes! Psychopath blue. "Alright," he said, "Kyk man, ek is geskok. Ek het 'n dop nodig."

"Oooo, okay. Ek verstaan. Ja ons het 'n bietjie Smirnoff." From under the counter he produced two filthy looking glasses, half a bottle of vodka and an almost empty lemonade. Henry surveyed the scene with a growing feeling of revulsion as the policeman demonstrated his versatility by switching from paramedic to barman, abandoning his patient. And Birkin, blubbering and cursing and dripping blood all over himself and the floor and the counter.

"I must just go outside to piss. Net 'n oomblik." He went out to the car. The driver's door stood wide open and, taking the keys from the ignition, he opened the boot, shouldered his pack, and called Lady Provider to heel. Birkin had driven him straight into a bog, a quagmire, a quicksand. If he hung around he would be sucked down into several days of questions and filling in of forms and phone calls and accusations and explanations and the terrible, terrible company of these thugs. Hayikona. No ways. He must walk on.

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