15 February 2007

Bad Route

This is a piece I wrote around a piece of artwork that appears in The Royal Tenenbaums, a fantastic movie, and indeed a fantastic picture.

Rachel had been scared every time she saw the riders for as long as she could remember.
She knew when they were there, racing around and around, by the screaming, nauseating whine of their engines.
The riders only came out in summer, when the grass was brown. The tracks they made would fill and overflow with the paddock’s brown dust. They rode, framed by the far away pine trees, tired and fragrant in the heat. Only in summer: only at dusk.
Sometimes Rachel would need to drive into town and, even before she stepped out onto the porch, there would come the distant buzz of engines, like wasps at the bottom of the garden.
It was bad when that happened - as if they were waiting for her.
It was bad today.

Rachel steps out quickly, letting the screen door wheeze and bang behind her. It is hot on the verandah, hot and claustrophobic. She comes down the steps and into the dry dust of the yard. Out in the air the heat lifts a little. The day is cooling as dusk comes on.
The noise of their engines is a swarm in the air. Muted, then higher and louder, bouncing off the house and reverberating around the yard. She fumbles for her keys and decides simply to wait until tomorrow, but if she misses the post, her letters won’t make it. She decides to wait until tomorrow anyway, but is inside the car and backing out of the driveway before she can really think, the steering wheel burning into her hands.
There is a little crest between her driveway and the road, and she dives the car over it too fast. The car stalls, and in the sudden silence she hears the engines again, around and around. Angrily, she turns the car over, shoves it into gear and accelerates towards town.
She cannot hear the riders now, not over the car’s engine, but she turns on the radio anyway. There is something country playing: always something country out here in the dry, brown dust and the dry, brown heat.
As she tops the rise she looks to her right, knowing she should not, but powerless to stop herself, and there they are.
There are five riders. Five young men, she always thinks, even though one has thick, black hair on his chest. Three of them ride undersized motorbikes, the other two ride four-wheelers. They are all dressed in blue jeans. None wear shirts. They are all tanned brown like the dust.
All the riders wear masks as they ride around and around. African masks almost - that shape anyway. Three have blue faces, grotesque and leering, two with black hair, and one with a shock of white. The other two masks are even more tribal. Their pointed oval shapes are filled with strange, bold, geometric designs.
Rachel is breathing in short, ragged gasps. Her hands are tight on the wheel and she is doing better than double the speed limit.
And, like they always do, the riders stop their endless race, around and around. They pull up in formation along the fence-line, as if to salute her as she passes. She races by, throwing a great cloud of dust behind her, small stones battering the underside of the car, and all the riders raise their arms, slowly, as if mocking her and her fright. They raise their arms like little children trying to look scary, as if they are saying ‘Boo,’ but Rachel knows they are silent.
The sudden blast of a horn jolts her clear. She looks up to see Hamish Chalmers in his old, red, International truck. Looks up to see she is about to kill herself against that solid iron 1950s grill.
She yanks at the wheel, miraculously dodges the truck, but the car flips with the hard turn and goes rolling along the road, kicking brown dust and dried-off grass up in a fan behind it. Rachel is thrown around inside, her head starring the windscreen, then the side window, and then suddenly she is out, clear, in the hot, dry air.
Didn’t I have my seat belt on? Is her only thought as she tumbles into the hard ground.

The shocking pain in her head pries Rachel awake. She goes to sit up but she can’t. She goes to take a deep breath and there is more pain. How can there be more pain?
She looks up into the worn out sky and sees they are all there, looking down. They still have their masks on, and their eyes gaze at her impassively. The one with the blue face and the white hair prods her with the toe of his sneaker. She screams.
The one with the thatch of black chest hair licks his lips, around and around.
That’s not right, she thinks, how could the mouth move like that?
And then they all smile, and she sees there are no masks here at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

who is the artist for this painting?