Fiction: How and Why to Fly
By Lance Colet
Your sexy, cherry-red Pontiac Firebird is raised by a jack on the side of a highway. Wheatfields stretch from a pastel pink eastern horizon to the blazing west. Stalks ruffle in the summer breeze.
The problem with driving is that all the speed you build up eventually has to fade away in a clamping of brakes. For every meter per second of acceleratory ecstasy there’s the same meter per second of deceleratory depression. Every drive, race or road trip, is this purgatorial equilibrium of net-zero joy and net-zero sorrow.
You’re a mechanic, driver, lover, tinkering with the Firebird, coaxing lug nuts out, sliding the wheels off. Lube smooth. You squat by an exposed front rotor, unscrew the caliper, coo to each brake pad as you wriggle them out. Then you hurl them into the wheatfields and remount the caliper, this time without a set of frictional jaws to suck away any momentum.
The problem with driving is that it’s all a big tease. The meter ticks seventy, eighty, ninety, tickles a hundred, while you take your hands off the wheel and the pistons pump away with furious precision, thousands of explosions captured in cylinders. But eventually the road bends and you have to grab the wheel again and pump the brakes. The engine quiets and the meter falls left and you’re stuck back in the molasses of life.
You do the same with the other brake pads, slide them out from their protective calipers and launch them as far as you can into the fields. Without slotting any replacements in, you remount the tires, face the sunset, and streak blackened fingers down your face, leaving smears like war paint. Then force your darkened cheeks up into a grin.
The problem with driving is that all cars are built to limit themselves. They’re built not to give you any say in the tradeoff between speed and security. They’re stifled by some faraway factory that castrates them with safety standards and legal obligations to limit freedom.
You lower your Firebird down from the jack. It rolls forward. Steady it, tighten the tires, clamber inside and start the ignition. The engine roars to life. Now floor the pedal. Torque smashes you backwards and the car launches west as the meter soars to twenty, forty, sixty. You test the brakes. Nonexistent. Nothing pulls you back from seventy, eighty, ninety. Crazy eyes in the rearview, a face grease-black as if charred by the furnace of the western sky. The meter ticks a hundred, a hundred and ten. The highway ahead bends. Instinctually, you pump the brakes. You always do. But now there’s nothing to stop you. Frictionless rotors spin on in their mad revolutions. The Firebird flies off the road into the sunset.
Lance Colet is a hobbyist writer from Virginia. He has previously been featured in a handful of Penn State student publications, as well as A Thin Slice of Anxiety.