Saturday, 22 March 2014

Tread


The front tyres at the outer edge show a zigzag of tread, as one would expect, but when the wheel is turned to park, no pattern at all is visible at the inner edge. To the tyre fitters the old car goes; the driver alarmed and repentant. She drives straight in, the way being unimpeded, into the tall rectangle of the workshop, leaves the key in the ignition. She opens the door marked Reception. 
Out of the wind it is warm. In this building within a building a large window attempts to bring in natural light but the plant has withered despite this and the careful bit of string support tied through a ceiling tile strut, and the tennis ball sized glitter ball hanging from a cable tie on the bamboo stick. The leaves were heart shaped, once.
A man with a face that has known weather sits at the desk. He asks after tyre sizes, and they'll check the tracking for free. Would she want it fixed, if the tracking is out? Yes, she says, emphatic. It's not usual for tyres to wear like that: it might be the pot holes, the storms have wrecked the roads this winter; the tracking needs checking, doubtless. They go out to where the car sits. The man rolls over two new tyres, cheap but well made he says, he uses them himself. Everyone's on a budget these days he says. The wind cuts in. She shivers, says she'll walk to the shop while the job is done. Behind her car a cluster of trucks has pulled up. The man makes a face: it's busy suddenly.
The wind is cold but it blows intermittently. There's a verge by the road where young trees sport young leaves and dance in the sun. The shadows flow over grass and wide pavement tarmac. She walks past petrol pumps where cars are queuing, where a man in a transit is rolling his eyes. One hawkish gentlemen in a sports car is hovering for the next pump without narrowing his choice: he blocks the way of the drivers who will tuck into a line so everyone will fit. Traffic spills back from here down to the main road. A baby cries and a radio is switched on. The sports car moves to a pump and eight cars can pull in to make separate queues.
In the shop heated air wafts. Smells of bread and coffee make her think of breakfast. She picks a banana from a display. All the bananas are lying like little yellow hills. They are usually the other way up. Perhaps the assistant was bored. This is a small but creative rebellion. She looks back at the display from the end of the aisle. The bananas have a sense of movement, that way up, she sees: they look like a shoal of leaping yellow fish.
She pays for her solo banana and her apple juice carton at an actual check out, not at the self serve machines. The check out lady is wide and jolly and her eyes twinkle.
Outside she walks quickly, the wind blows straight through her jumper. She takes her fruit breakfast to the tyre hall reception area. She likes the floor tiles and how wheel hubs and rims are displayed on the wall like tribal shields. All done, the man says, yes the tracking was the problem. It's fixed now, these tyres will last longer. Sorry for the wait he says, it got busy. It's not a problem, she tells him, and offers up a card to pay.
The new tyres are dark and capable. She likes them. It's like your car having new shoes, she thinks. Driving will feel comfortable, perhaps even stylish. Thank you, she says. Inside her car is sun heated and the wind is reduced to a light draft. A beautiful day, she notes, and drives home.



Based on a true life story! I'm not sure why I turned a panic visit to the tyre shop into fiction. Perhaps the embarrassment of how badly the front tyres had worn... Tracking was off by an impressive 6%... The new tyres are not pictured above: that is a picture of my shadow being exasperated by the car door locks freezing shut. I look forward to being able to miss the days of eccentric cars, just as I am currently nostalgic for fending off frost bite at a bus stop, laden with thin stretched shopping bags and a child who needs to poo. The rush of gratitude on reaching a destination!!


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