- Alien 1: What do you mean, which one? That one there, standing on the shoulder next to the car with the hazard lights going.
Alien 2: So?
Alien 1: He’s saying something. What’s he saying?
Alien 2: What?
Alien 1: Turn on the speakers! Listen! He’s saying, “Come take me with you! Take me away! Rectal probes, breeding experiments, I don’t care.”
Alien 2: Preparing tractor beam.
Alien 1: Wait! Hang on, what’s that in his hand? Looks like a…
Alien 2: Aiiieee! He’s playing a tin whistle!
Alien 1: Fucking fuckity-fuck, let’s get out of here!
I drive something over to the in-laws, cake or something. When I want to leave, my car won’t start. My father-in-law, who is a retired mechanic, comes and looks at it. He says, It’s a diesel – you have to wait until all the lights turn off before you try to start it. I know this, and it is my habit, but I say nothing. He tries, and it starts and I drive home.
This is a literary technique known as “foreshadowing” that God overuses in my opinion.
There is a get-together at work, goodbye party for someone so I drive into Vienna that evening although it is a Saturday and I normally like to spend my weekends at home. My car dies on a bridge. Luckily there is an emergency lane and I coast into it and turn on the hazard lights. It feels unfair, not to be among those zooming past thinking, “poor sucker, stuck on a bridge.”
I call the auto club on my cell phone and they take my information (car model and color (blue Fiat Doblo) year (three or 4 years old I guess) and license number (I forget, something with something-something, and I’m not getting out onto a busy bridge to check) and say they’d send someone right away, arrival time 1 hour and 15 minutes. Maximum. I hang up and try starting again (waiting carefully for all dashboard lights to go off) and it starts and I drive off and call the auto club on my way and cancel, but warn them I might be calling back later, who knows.
I leave the party tennish and make it to the freeway where the car promptly dies again. This is how it died: lalala, everything okay, cruising along, suddenly: engine light on, power abruptly from 100% to 0%, power steering goes away. I park on the shoulder, on the emergency lane, turn on blinkers and wait. Play a few songs on the tin whistle, carefully watching the rear-view mirror for cars about to crash into me and trigger the airbag, which would send the tin whistle clean through my Medulla Oblongata.
Car starts a few minutes later and I’m on my way.
Then it dies again, right after I leave the freeway for the Schnellstrasse, which is the same as a freeway only called a Schnellstrasse. This time I sing a song. Car starts after a couple tries. It’s eleven at night. I drive off and car dies again after a kilometer.
This time, it doesn’t start again and the battery is nearly dead. I give up and call the auto club. “My car died on the road,” I say.
“Fiat Doblo?” the dispatcher says.
“That’s right,” I say.
“You were on that bridge today too?”
“Uh huh.” Hour and fifteen minutes, he says. Maximum.
Okay. I play a couple more songs on the tin whistle. I remember I have a reflective warning triangle in the back. I put on my reflective emergency vest and start trying to assemble the reflective warning triangle when, suddenly, out of nowhere, fucking blue lights flashing all over the place.
I am really happy to have the company. I walk over towards his car, but not in any threatening way, stopping before I get too close cause I couldn’t remember whether Austrian police like you to get out of the car (I think they do) or prefer you to wait inside, like US police do. But I was already outside the car putting together my reflective triangle thing, so I think it would be okay.
He gets out and comes over to me. I smile in a friendly, but not too broad ( which could have been seen as crazy, threatening) way and shake-his-fucking-hand. “Hi,” I say. He asks and I explain what the problem is. “Definitely the last Fiat I ever buy,” I say.
He speaks a very strong Austrian dialect and I have to ask him to repeat himself a few times, because dialect does not go well with foreign language, and tinnitus and repressed panic at 11.30 pm. Our conversation goes like this: “Lalalaa.”
“I said, you broke down on the freeway a couple minutes ago, right? Another cop drove past you.”
He asks to see my license and registration. I show him the license, but can’t find the registration in my wallet. “It’s inside the car somewhere,” I say. He doesn’t insist on seeing that, which is good because after he leaves again (telling me to be careful, drivers get hit on this stretch all the time, a couple “got nailed just a few days ago…” and pointing out a slightly wider emergency-pull-over spot thirty meters ahead) I check and can’t find it.
An empty freeway is a quiet thing when you’re standing there all by yourself in the middle of the night imagining monsters in the wind-rustled cornfield to the rhythmic backup from your hazard lights. And pushing a stalled Fiat Doblo thirty meters up a slight incline is good exercise.
I take a piss. It is great to stand there and piss on the freeway. I stand by my car in my reflective vest and play a few tunes on the tin whistle. That is when I notice the lights.
Heavy cloud-cover and a circle of white lights up in or just under the clouds, revolving counter-clockwise. First thing I think of are fairies. Some cars come, I put my whistle back into my pocket so no one will think I have a gun and send the cops back a second time. When I am alone again, I take another piss and then play more tunes. Back come the lights. Fairies attracted by old Irish tunes.
The corn rustles and I wonder how big a monster could hide in there before you noticed it.
Then it dawns on me: Circular lights, breakdown, abandoned road at night. It’s the fucking mother ship. I raise my arms in supplication. “Take me with you!” I say out loud. “I can leave the whistles here if you want. Just take me.”
Cars come and the lights go away. I drink my emergency can of Red Bull and eat my emergency ration of a granola bar.
Listen: it was the perfect time for a treat.
I could have hung out there all night, except it was getting a little cold. But it was nice in a way. Then the auto club guy showed up and started my car and told me what to have the mechanic look for on Monday (fuel filter) and followed me back into town but the car didn’t die anymore and he even called me after I got home (around 12.30 at night) to make sure I’d made it home okay. And I hadn’t even tipped him.
The next day, I found the registration papers in the secret hiding place in the glove compartment.