The car’s engine sputters. The vehicle seems to shudder before it dies. I am on a country road. Dark. Nothing but trees and fields for miles.
What will I do? What can I do?
I read somewhere, once, that you’re supposed to stay with the vehicle in the event of a breakdown in the outback. I’m, strictly speaking, not in the outback but I guess the mantra still applies. I rustle in my handbag for food. There’s a muesli bar and an apple. I flick open the glove box to look for the torch. Gone. I flick on my hazards.
My phone! Of course, I can use its torch. I check my bag; it’s not there. I flick on the interior light, scout about on the floor to find it. I wriggle my hand under the seat. It must be there.
Headlights gleam in the rear vision mirror. I sit up. A car’s approaching, slowing. It pulls in behind me. The door opens.
Do I stay in the car, or open the door? I decide to wind down the window, like I’ve seen on all those American TV shows, when a police officer stops someone.
‘Hey,’ a voice calls. ‘Are you alright?’
‘No,’ I reply. ‘My car’s broken down. I can’t find my phone to call the RACV.’
‘Your phone?’ The man seems oddly confused. ‘There’s a pay phone back in the town, but that’s about sixty clicks away. The next town is forty. They’ll have one there too.’
Now I’m confused. A pay phone? What? No one’s used a pay phone for twenty years.
‘You want me to drive you to the next town? I’m heading that way.’
Oh fuck. Do I hop in the car with this guy and hope he’s not a serial killer, or do I take my chances out here on the road. My eyes size him up. I reckon I can manage him if he tries anything. All those boxing sessions must be doing something.
‘Sure, thank you,’ I say. ‘That would be great. Do you have your mobile on you?’
‘Mobile? What you talking about? Mobile what?’
‘Phone? Your mobile phone?’ My tone is sharp. I’m exasperated. I feel as if I’m back in the 80s. I grab my bag and other belongings and hop into his car. It’s a Kingswood. My heart skips.
‘Um, this may sound strange, but what year is this?’
‘Honey, have you banged your head? It’s 1985.’