Craig makes progress, black leather jacket and criss-cross seatbelt, arms crooked racing-style, chin-down, ripping through the late afternoon traffic, pools of standing water exploding left and right, the whack whack whack of the wipers pushing everything aside, the traffic, the water, the seconds.
Suddenly he hits a deeper patch of water and the car twitches violently, seems to rise up. The wheel wraps hard, to the left, to the right. He brakes, the car kicks back, snaps around in a lost spin through panicked gaps in the traffic. Misses stuff. Lumps up on a low grass rise at the side of the carriageway, smashes backwards through a barrier, slides down an overgrown slope to stop in a clump of gorse.
Craig sits gripping the wheel, slowly becomes aware of the limp and tick of the cooling engine, the whoosh of passing traffic on the road above, slowly moves his arms and legs, finds he can, looks around, faces peering down from above.
He is still in the car when two yellow jackets climb over the barrier and slip down towards him. Ambulance, he realises. The one in front tells him to keep looking straight ahead, hauls open the passenger door; the other holds it open whilst he crouches down and looks inside. He speaks quickly. Reaches in, feels his neck. Asks him to move his legs and arms. Asks some questions, tells him to swing his legs out of the foot well. He reaches in, takes his hand and hauls him out of the car. The other one, a woman, grabs hold of him, too. Together they pick their way up the ploughed bank to the barrier, and the ambulance waiting beyond.
‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it happened.’
‘It’s pretty wet out there.’
‘I know. But nothing I haven’t seen before.’
Craig pauses, rubs his face, then apologises as he’s upset the working of the BP cuff. He puts his hands back in his lap.
‘It’s so ironic. I was going to put slicks on this morning. I didn’t want to be held up.’
‘Just a minute.’
He stares straight ahead.
‘God. When I think. What might’ve happened.’
‘Concentrate on what did happen. That’s the thing with these accidents. There are so many what ifs. They can drive you crazy. You’ve just got to focus on what did happen. You lost control, but no-one got hurt, everyone’s safe, you get to go home. That’s it.’
‘But just think. I could’ve been killed. All those worries. All those stupid little things – you know? Your life. The whole bit. Gone, just like that. When I think what could’ve happened.’
‘You made it out. That’s it.’
We don’t tell him what he doesn’t appear to know.
The other side of the gorse bush.
A flimsy wooden railing, a twenty foot drop onto an underpass.