Behind the wheel

by Eva Mannix

“Mirror, signal, manoeuvre, mirror, signal, manoeuvre,” Douglas repeated these words to himself as he left his flat on the way to the driving test centre with his instructor.

Convinced of impending failure, this mantra would somehow distract him.

He arrived at the centre, signed the form and met his examiner who followed him to the car; the car he’d learnt in, which had  slowly become his friend, a trusted companion, as he’d gained confidence over the past few months.

He’d tamed the car. He could control it and there was a mutual respect, an understanding.

As he sat in the driver’s seat, Douglas’ feelings towards the car changed. It was beginning to challenge him. He felt a negativity coming from the car. He felt that it was turning on him. “You traitor,” thought Douglas.

Douglas started the engine, “mirror, signal, manoeuvre, mirror, signal, manoeuvre, signal, manoeuvre, mirror, mirror, manoeuvre, signal.” What was happening? Oh no. He couldn’t fail before he’d even left the test centre, surely? “Come on car,” he thought to himself. “Don’t let me down now. Give me half a chance to drive for a short while.”

Suddenly there was a breakthrough. The examiner gave Douglas some instructions and this strangely reassuring voice helped to steady his nerves. “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre,” Douglas was off. Indicate here, turn left there, reverse park here, roundabout there, turn right and stop right there. Douglas drove well, and although he could feel the car resisting, he was able to control it and he overcame his worries. His growing confidence soon became apparent to the examiner.

As Douglas glided through the city roads, his mind turned to why the car had been behaving like this. Was it jealous that he might leave, or sad that Douglas would no longer need his help? Douglas began to feel stupid for personifying the car and laughed to himself. “Sneered, more like,” thought the car.

The examiner asked Douglas to park in the test centre and smiled as he told Douglas the good news. But Douglas hadn’t been prepared for success. He couldn’t deal with it, so taking the examiner by surprise as he stepped out of the car, Douglas turned the engine back on. He put his foot down hard on the accelerator and between them, Douglas and the car rammed the examiner up against the wall. Manoeuvre, signal, mirror.

Eva Mannix used to be a teacher and is now co-writing a series of children’s stories with two friends.

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