…a little bit wrong
Now that he was moving, Smith felt better. It’s all to do with movement. You’ve got to feel that you’re moving. That’s what’s important. Passing other cars. Not having another car in front of you. Yards. The lengths of cars. Many cars. Space opening out in front of you. Empty space. Because you can only move through empty space. Not through something. That’s just crashing. Smith didn’t want to crash. Which is the very opposite of progress. Not going backwards. Because going backwards was going somewhere. And going somewhere is far better than going nowhere. Going somewhere is making progress and that’s what made Smith feel better.
And driving gave him time to think. As long as he wasn’t stuck behind a car going too slow on the outside lane. As long as he wasn’t having to overtake one car and then another. Change lanes. Changing lanes was the worst. There’s nothing worse than changing lanes. Apart from the realisation that you should have changed lanes. That if you had changed lanes half a mile back you would now be half a mile somewhere up ahead. There’s nothing worse than that moment of realisation. Apart from not making progress – that’s the worst. How can you think?
Which got Smith thinking about what he was progressing towards – the ultimate goal of his epic journey. Up ahead, at the end of Princess Parkway, was Didsbury Girls’ Grammar School, where his arch-enemy worked as a history teacher. Though he was more of his nemesis than his arch enemy. Or Smith was his nemesis. One or the other. But he’d have him soon. Get him. Tackle him. Confront him. Expose him. What the hell would he do to him as soon as he walked up to this Tommy Kilpatrick, the odd man with the slight limp? He had to do something. He would by instinct. Everything was, after all, leading up to that one point, Smith was thinking.
And at this point the traffic slowed to a stop, which snapped Smith out of his thoughts, forcing him to once more confront the vagaries of the particular: why was there a traffic jam at six-o-clock in the morning? Where had all of these cars come from? Why were they all stopped? What was the problem? Why weren’t they going? Moving forward? Smith was losing his peace of mind, because there was nothing more peaceful than free flow, the free flow of thoughts, no matter where they were going, going backwards even, but going, not crashing, not stopped, stuck, jammed up behind the back wall of a white van. Wanker.
Smith tightly gripped the steering-wheel and emitted a loud and drawn out groan. He knew what was happening to him. It had happened before. It had happened yesterday when he tugged his bag of shopping out of the hands of the Boy Scout at the check out. It had happened last Monday when he had been waiting for half an hour on the council’s refuse help line and had quickly descended from punching random numbers with one finger to hitting the phone’s handset against his own head. It happened. It was his fatal flaw. It would be the death of him. Smith had only limited patience. There came a point when the logical process he prided himself on would just cease. It was shuddering to a halt right now, because of the stupidity of what confronted him: a traffic jam at six in the morning. It didn’t make sense. The world was just stupid. It didn’t obey the rules of logic. It was wrong every day. It went wrong. It went wrong and it was wrong. It didn’t flow. What’s the world thinking?
It was because Smith was sure that this flaw running through him was very likely to lead to his demise that he labelled it his “fatal flaw”. On many occasions he had also referred to it, in his head as well as in conversations on his mental processes with others, as a “tragic flaw”. Though properly speaking, Smith would have to add, the flaw wasn’t really in him. At least it didn’t originate in him. It was other things. It was reality. The flaw was running through reality. But he felt he had no choice but to take some of the blame. The flaw would run through him soon enough. He could feel it. A tightening around his shoulders.
And anyway, some variety of tragedy was always likely to be consequent of this one flaw in the otherwise flawless reasoning machine which Smith clearly was. And it was such a little flaw. So easily forgivable. Forgotten about. Say nothing about it. I completely understand. So undeserving of punishment. And so, more likely to lead to catastrophe. And so, perfectly suitable for the appellation “tragic flaw”. It was as though, in Smith’s arriving upon this term to describe his own lack of patience, he had known, deep down, beneath the layers of skin, bone and generalisation, that he would be punished severely, disproportionately and unduly for what was more or less nothing or less.
But it was without such calm reflection that Smith edged his way towards the next turn off. And it was without such flawless reasoning that he applied all his weight to the accelerator in order to make up for lost time, barrelling down a quiet tree lined road. Not once did he consider that he would still arrive at the school several hours before it started. He had planned to arrive at the school at six in order to check out the lie of the land with plenty of time to spare, and by god, thought Smith, that’s just what he would do, even if it meant racing down narrow suburban streets, screeching around wide curves in quiet crescents, and crashing over road humps every fifteen seconds.
It was as he rounded a corner of a particularly quiet and tree lined road, the trees meeting over the road and therefore blocking out the barely perceptible light of the very early day, that tragedy struck, thus legitimising his nomenclature of his only flaw.
The headlights picked out the pale face, the neatly trimmed beard, the round glasses, the bushy eyebrows, the weak head of thinning hair, the grey stubble, the eyes magnified by his glasses, the mouth hanging open in shock of his nemesis – Tommy Kilpatrick. It was only a fleeting glimpse. As soon as his face appeared it was gone, swallowed up by the bonnet of Smith’s car with an awful thump. Tragedy had struck. And it was a convincing strike.
Shortly after the car rolled to a stop, and with no other intention than to confirm the worst – that tragedy had indeed struck – Smith pushed open the door and slowly got out of the driving seat. Resigned to the worst, he made his way back into the darkness, towards the dark heap fifty or so yards back up the street. And it was at that moment that it hit Smith: how beautiful the early morning is. Filled with the shape of the trees’ boughs, branches and leaves against the pale morning sky, Smith felt the shape of his fingers in his hands, the size of his legs in his stride and the cool fragrant air against his face. But ahead of him that dreadful heap.
The pale face of Tommy Kilpatrick was almost buried beneath his arm. It was as though, Smith thought, this was a heap of old carpet, or a piece of a broken sofa. Such is life he thought. Once taken away it leaves behind only a heap of old carpet. Such is life. Such was life. And as he bent down in order to fully realise the dimensions of the tragedy which had befallen him, Smith’s flawless reasoning finally kicked in. In the space of three or four if-then-and-therefores he had worked it all out, felt vindicated, absolved himself of all blame and settled upon a solution. It only remained to get the body into the boot of his car before another car came around the corner.