‘Stop, look, listen’, said Agatha, feeling young Matt tug on his reins, impatient to cross to the services, ‘… pay attention.’ He had been humming the Marseillaise for the last half hour, bringing Agatha’s sense of impending disaster into sharper relief. More pressing, however, was the current action of her son’s rather excessive intake of fruit juice during the first two hours of this most interminable of bus journeys on his bladder. Not only were his hands sticky, but now that his hum was turning into a whine, like wine becoming vinegar, she could almost taste the bus’s diesel fumes being slowly infused with the salty aroma of his piss. Stop. Look. Listen.
Without warning, without her willing it, she slackened her grip on the reins as she felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear transformed from another’s whisper to an internal roar of indignation straining to be set free. A split second was all it took. The scream of a passer-by mingled with the screech of brakes and it sounded to Agatha like the smell of burning rubber as her senses overlapped and bled into one another and her heart stopped. There was silence. Numbness. Then a warm, wet heat that spread through the tightness of her jeans as she screwed up her eyes in preparation.
She turned her gaze towards the future ground zero of her memories, tears already flowing. But there, looking directly at her, smiling, was her son. Unharmed. She stepped forwards to envelop him in her arms, scoop him up to safety, to right all the wrongs …
She didn’t see the lorry. She didn’t hear the lorry. She didn’t feel the lorry. But she smelt fear, and tasted death.
© Pete Langman 2015
***Pete Langman would have been one of the great Dickensian ne’erdowells had he been born in Household Words rather than Hitchin. One-time professional guitar slinger, he holds a PhD on Francis Bacon (the other Francis Bacon), an ECB level two Cricket Coaching certificate and a White Fish swimming badge from prep school. Oh, and Parkinson’s disease. Author of Slender Threads, Black Box, and The Country House Cricketer, he blogs at petelangman.com and tweets @elegantfowl. Pete lives in Brighton with a recalcitrant ginger cat. *****