ulterior

…that which is meant to be hidden and which cannot or will not be admitted

Once Smith had dropped off Helen, neither him nor Henry spoke a word for quite some time; neither of them, Smith driving the car in a relaxed manner, Henry sitting in the front passenger seat absorbed by his thoughts, so not relaxed, so more beset than absorbed by his thoughts, seemed inclined or likely to say a word.

It was Smith who finally broke the silence by volubly swearing at a car which had the callous disregard to swing in front of him and so force him to alter his steady but leisurely progress – Smith had no qualms about attributing emotions, volition or reason to inanimate objects, and so attributed callous disregard to the car, a black saloon, rather than its driver, who, out of sight, didn’t exist for Smith.

“That Helen, huh?” were the first words spoken in conversation between the two. These words were Smith’s and seemed to have little other purpose than to promote a conversation and so end what would have been for Henry an uncomfortable silence.

But Henry wasn’t uncomfortable because of the silence. Normally, the silence would have bothered Henry. He would have asked himself – why is it that Smith had nothing to say to him? Why was it that he had nothing to say to Smith? Should he speak? He was the passenger after all, wasn’t it down to him to put forward comments which could start a conversation? Was he remiss for not having spoken already? Was it too late to start a conversation at this point? Had too much time elapsed since Helen had left the car and taken the conversation with her? Shouldn’t he just have got out of the car when Helen left? Wasn’t he asking too much of life – to remain sitting in the car and presume that the conversation would continue to flow when its prime source had just left?

But Henry’s thoughts had gone down a wholly different, but equally tortuous path, since Helen had left the car, revolving around the seemingly innocuous but potentially debilitating question of what Helen thought of him. Therefore the manner in which Smith had decided to end the silence was somewhat of a jolt to poor old Henry.

“Yeah!” was all that Henry managed to say after a period of intense thought, though it was more of a cry, what with him expelling all the air he had in his body with that one word.

“She’s something alright!” Smith asserted. “She’s quite something.”

After several second’s deliberation, Henry came out with the reply, “Yeah!” though this utterance lacked the force of his last, as he had found himself completely without air in his lungs. Henry had to take quite a few deep breaths in order to recover himself.

“And there’s nothing going on with her and Oscar? Eh? That’s something else eh? Them living together like that and nothing going on?”

“There’s nothing going on!” Henry stated quite matter-of-factly; indeed the force of his assertion was of a degree someway beyond his normal range and therefore struck Smith as both excessive and odd.

“How do you get on with Helen then?” Smith’s curiosity must have been given a nudge by the force of Henry’s last reply.

“Me and Helen. Fine.” The manner in which Henry contorted his face did little to support his statement. Another “Fine” was offered as final and irrefutable evidence.

At this point, the goings on in the world outside of the car decided to impinge upon the goings on inside. The car which had just moments before displayed the barefaced cheek of swinging in front of Smith’s car, thereby forcing him to alter his steady but leisurely progress, now took another large step beyond acceptable driving etiquette by stopping in the middle of the road, right in front of their car, with the apparent intention of letting one of its passengers disembark at their leisure.

“What the hell?” Smith pleaded with the world.

“What the hell,” Henry concurred, less passionately, though Henry was no less resigned to the barefaced cheek of the world.

Smith felt it appropriate to push down on his horn for five or six seconds and follow that up with a few sharp jabs which should have registered his dissatisfaction with how events were unfolding.

Henry shook his head to express his complete agreement with Smith’s dismay.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Smith shouted out as soon as he had managed to wind down his window and hang most of his upper body outside the car. “What the hell is this?”

Henry seemed to visibly relax upon this escalation of events around him, events which had nothing to do with him, and sat back to watch what unfolded at his leisure.

What unfolded could best be described by focusing on Henry’s view of the front passenger door of the car in front, which was just then kicked open quite forcibly, and in a contrasting unhurried pace, there emerged a person who was both amusing and horrifying in his scale. Henry was unsure if he had ever seen someone of these proportions before and immediately set to wondering how this person, who could easily have been labelled a giant, managed to squeeze into the confines of a normal car’s front passenger seat. It wasn’t simply his height, which easily exceeded seven feet, but his bulk too. His girth as well as his height were worthy of comment, but neither Henry nor Smith, who by now would have also registered the scale of the man making his way towards his car, deigned to comment at that point on either girth or height.

Pulling himself back into the car, looking in his rear view mirror for any possibility of extricating himself from this situation, grimacing at Henry, scanning the street for any possibility of assistance should things get nasty, which they surely would, Smith let out a sigh of one resigned to a terrible fate, which he quickly followed up with a surprisingly upbeat and chirpy statement – “Oh look, there’s Helen.”

As the giant of a man advanced towards Smith’s car and its two occupants, who should have been in awe of his size and in tears of fear at his approach, he had every right to expect them to be, he was a little put out to see neither of them even looking at him, but both of them wearing the same brand of idiotic grin on their faces and both of them waving out at a woman on the street who had stopped to watch what was about to unfold.

“Hey Helen!” the two men cried out in unison.

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