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The War upon the Motorcar: Jason gives up.

December 6, 2013

Now into the third year of his despair, Jason realised he had been consigned to a kind of internal exile. The last time his country had been that badly damaged by the reassertion of the Status Quo he had gone and lived abroad for eight years. This time he couldn’t even afford to get his passport renewed, and this man of the pen had been indoctrinated by the mantra of the day: “Pen is penis; the PC is peaceful change”.

It was terribly believable, but he lacked the latest skills and was stuck with what he knew, only a few things that would always need saying, but nobody had time to listen any more.

The ‘War upon the Motorcar’ had brought him odd moments of guilty exhilaration and relief at not being detected, and then the understanding that his actions – despite some explosive attacks on parked cars – rather than being undetected, had barely even been noticed.

At his local news outlets each day, scanning the papers on the shelves, craning his neck (they had been placed upside down carefully to deter non paying headline readers like himself), still finding his actions ignored by even the pettiest tabloid.

That day’s local rag might occasionally contain some reference to his latest ‘Act of Vandalism’, never on the front page, never giving any indication that they understood the true purpose of it.

The campaign to ‘Pile up the Rubbish’ didn’t catch fire either, apart from the trash fire that had led to the Council removing what had only ever been an insignificant build up of litter around the estate.

The rest of his time, away from his ‘hobby’, Jason struggled to keep up with the petty demands placed upon him; he was always just a day or two away from going under completely.

The flat was in a state, and that was Jason’s responsibility too, because if Clara wasn’t at the hospital visiting Darren she was out getting more short term zero hour contract work than he could manage. Her mess was all about her daily routine – clothes hanging up, freshly laundered and waiting to be ironed, scraps of paper that ‘mustn’t be moved’, discarded or reserved products (he could never tell the difference) and items that got her to work looking presentable or relaxed her afterwards, their equally intimidating packaging, or the special piles of journals and correspondence relating to her never ending crusade to get the boy well and home, an increasingly lonely battle for Clara because he was so useless or clumsy in everything that might help Darren, Clara or even himself.

Left alone there, all Jason could think of to do was tidy up the place a bit, clean up his messy cups and plates, try and dust, and punish his own hoarder’s instincts by throwing out or at least cutting back his own ‘collections’, all worthless to everyone except him. His ‘war weapons’ were stored away and hidden from Clara, neatly enough but with the effect of making their home seem smaller and even more cramped.

Having partially completed that chore he would go on to making preparations for that night’s dinner or trying to keep up with his ‘job seeking’ obligatories – useless and irrelevant to him but mandatory, time consuming and stressful.

It was a treat to get off the computer but he had lost the ability to switch off and rest. He had to think but rejected each of his own ideas and schemes. The simplest effort distracted him, ate up his time uselessly, mocked him.

So he would sit or lie back, peer through the shutters or stare out the window, eavesdrop on the activities outside, imbibe the media’s latest messages of doom or enforced cheer.

The weather on that December day was cold but still; he could only think of worse storms coming, nothing good.

There was Darren’s room, kept intact, mainly by Clara, but already a place the boy would have outgrown, should he ever return. The memories it brought back to him were irresistible and unbearable, because there was nothing to replace them and it seemed there never would be.

He wasn’t really that angry with motorcars. They just represented the first offensive line of forces he couldn’t fully understand, or control any more than his little boy could. They had power, status and respect; his attempt to rebel against their dominance and the culture that accompanied them was just another aspect of what led to his loneliness, they helped to point out his uselessness, though what they contributed to was the destruction of the planet.

The dream was of course to change the world’s mind, make it see that there were other values, other ways to bring change. At that moment Jason could only see the extent of his failure. He couldn’t even think about it any more; he was irrelevant.

The familiar sound of Clara’s key working the door made him jump, and she came in, full of her day, radiating it’s chilly realities.

“I thought you were going out”

Clara said, not unkindly but without a hint of gladness. As she strode past him on the way to the kettle Jason noticed she was carrying a glossy shopping bag, a souvenir from more prosperous times.

“What’s that?”

he asked her. She ignored him for what seemed an age, not even offering to make him a cuppa. Then, her coat removed, mug put in it’s place on the coffee table but still standing, she pulled the bag open and removed a tatty toy they both knew well. It was a childish version of an elephant, made of some durable but unappealing form of rubberised plastic, a big artificial smile on its face.

“Remember this?”

“Of course I do!”

“I found it outside, right next to the bins.”

“I’m sure it’s not his but it is just like the one he had.”

“You sure? You sure it’s not something else you threw out that day?”

He couldn’t be sure about anything, of course, so he said nothing.

Clara might’ve started an argument, but she just rejected his belated effort to touch the precious reminder and stomped off to the bathroom with it, to sponge it clean and ask him, with the tender tone that always melted his heart,

“Do you think Darren would like it? Do you think it might wake him up a little?”

“I don’t know love. I hope so.”

“Don’t call me ‘love’, for God’s sake!”

So they lapsed into silence and he kept his distance but watched his wife, silently sharing the memories of happy bedtimes when saying goodnight to Eric the Elephant was the last thing their son asked of them before he snuggled down, ignoring their last kisses, and escaped into innocent oblivion.

Clara’s determination could drive him mad, but there were times when he genuinely admired it, taking strength from her refusal to give up, something he did every day. She would just keep going, every trivial action full of purpose.

“Your tea’s getting cold,” was all he could find to say but, though his words were useless, she could still find something in his tone that raised a wan smile, and she grabbed her mug and gulped down her drink.

“I’m sorry, it’s been a hell of a day.”

“I know.”

“Do you think he’ll get better?”

Too many of Jason’s previous promises had turned out be fruitless, but he truly wanted to say something that would make her feel better. Finally he half whispered,

“No matter what state he’s in, he’ll always know we love him,”

and, though he could even doubt that, Jason resolved there and then to make it so.

“So will you come to the hospital with me tomorrow?”

“I’ll try.”

That was no comfort to Clara, his efforts had let her down too often before. She bristled a little but it was better than the gloom and negativity she usually came home to.

So that was their life, and Jason couldn’t imagine anything changing. He was so tired, everything so hopeless, but just having her there was a kind of comfort, so he could honestly imagine just giving it all up and accepting that nothing would ever change. It was the same despair, but at least it enabled him to smile when, in her own familiar tone of matching resignation Clara finally asked him the same old question,

“So, what have we got for supper?”

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