“Mom, Rex has asked me to go with him this weekend. He wants to visit with our friends in Bundaberg.”
Claire looked at her eldest son Paul in surprise. It was the mid 50’s and she struggled with normal protective instincts and the desire to recognize her teenage son’s right to make his own decisions. It was the age old conflict Mothers have to face as their brood discards baby feathers and begins to strut around the barnyard.
Rex came from a broken home environment and Claire had extended the mother hen treatment to him from an early age. She’d opened her heart to him to try and compensate for the rough deal he’d received during his childhood years, but her keen powers of observation had found fundamental flaws in his character. While she couldn’t say for certain he was responsible, money had been misplaced from homes he frequented as a child. There was always a good explanation for his big spending habits but everyone knew he wouldn’t have received any money from his home. Claire was sympathetic, but cautious.
“How will you be traveling?” she asked at last.
“Rex has rented a car from the car dealership he works for as a mechanic.” The boy looked at Mother hopefully.
“Hmmm!” Claire drummed her fingers on the kitchen counter and mulled it over. Alarm bells were ringing, but could that be a Mother’s protective instincts?
“Go talk with your Father!”
“What do you have to talk over with your Father?” Said a voice from the inner sanctum; the office into which none but Father would venture. Jack’s head appeared around the office door, and it was smiling. Good sign!
“Rex invited your son to go to Bundaberg with him this weekend. He’s renting a car.”
The smile evaporated. “Did you say Rex asked him? I don’t think that’s a good idea!”
Now this was not the kind of response Paul welcomed and a torrent of reasons emerged to reverse the trend of that con versation before Jack’s immutable decision took hold. He was in his teens and therefore should be treated as an adult not a child. His parents were showing prejudice toward Rex which was totally unfair. The family in Bundaberg who were to be anticipated hosts was known and responsible. The excuses went on and on.
“Sorry Son, the answer’s no!” Jack retreated back into the inner sanctum.
But that was not the end of the discussion as far as Paul was concerned. The barrage of excuses persisted until Claire was plunged into uncertainty. Was she being judgmental in her instincts about Rex? Should she be showing more trust in her son’s good sense? Was she being overprotective?
She poured her concerns to sleepy Jack as they were settling down to sleep that evening. This is a favorite time for women to mull over all issues that trouble them, and this is when a man is most vulnerable as he seeks to turn off issues of the day and get some sleep. Before lights were out he’d agreed to let Paul have his way.
Paul was ecstatic when told of the decision next morning. The glum look on both parent’s faces was a bit of a turn off, but they’d get over it when he returned triumphant from his weekend away unharmed and intact.
Friday afternoon after work they were on their way to Bundaberg. Rex showed up on time in the sparkling Ford and loaded luggage under the baleful looks of Jack and Claire. No doubt that fine Christian lady was sending some urgent messages upstairs as the journey began with a spinning rear wheels take off.
Rex revved the V8 motor as they cleared the city and headed for the next major town Maryborough. The needle began a rapid climb as the V8 motor surged into a joyous roar. They were doing 70 miles and hour and the needle inched higher. Rex settled back and laughed thumping his arm onto the open window and steering with one hand. At this point Paul remembered the look of caution exchanged between his parents as he asked for permission for the weekend away by himself.
“Rex, if you’re going to drive like this you can let me off here and I’ll hitch a ride back home.”
Words were barely out when they swung around a corner on the wrong side of the road to see a car rapidly bearing down on them. Rex grabbed the wheel and jerked the car over to the correct side of the road. The back of the car spun around and they were heading side on toward the pillars of a bridge at great speed.
Paul felt the impact of the bridge post as the car hit, flew into the air and spun across the creek bed to land on the other side rolling over and over. It was if the world had slowed down and the event was being viewed in slow motion. Bench seats rearranged themselves inside the car, the roof flattened to inches above the hood, and as the car settled on its side with passenger door sprung open Paul took stock of his situation.
Was he dead? No! Was he going to die? Probably! Was he injured badly? No sign of injury. Was the driver OK? Nowhere to be seen!
Then he noticed white smoke pouring out of the motor. Was he going to be incinerated in this wreck? All of a sudden his mind became crystal clear and he looked around for a way out of this life threatening situation. Seats were jammed in the upside windows and the roof caved in. No way out there!
The passenger door had sprung open after hitting the bridge post and was wedging the car up a few inches from the ground. Fear gripped as white smoke increased in intensity and with superhuman effort only fear can produce Paul began to rock the car up and down until the car was balanced precariously on its side sufficient to let him quickly crawl out through space created while the car was in the rocked up position. His legs and arms worked!
Dozens of cars were lined up on the highway and people reached the car just as the great escape was completed. Paul pointed them to the wreck and poured out his story of a trapped driver, but while the torrent of words was in progress people were pointing back over to the other side of the bridge. The driver was not in the wreck!
With shaking limbs Paul slowly approached the groaning driver. Was Rex badly hurt? Rex began to weep. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” It appeared he’d seen the bridge coming up and jumped out before impact. Miraculously he was not badly hurt.
But that’s not what Rex was sorry about. Words came tumbling out and it was soon apparent Rex had not hired the car at all. It had been taken without permission from the car lot. To put it bluntly, the car had been stolen! A different kind of fear now gripped Paul. How he wished his parents hadn’t listened to his foolish plea.
An ambulance arrived with screaming siren and the two were bundled in and taken north to the Maryborough Hospital. Rex was examined carefully and admitted to the ward while Paul was given a quick medical examination and released. The only transportation back home was by single carriage train, and on the way all classic symptoms of shock manifested themselves. First there was that bone shaking cold, but soon something more sinister began to manifest itself.
Paul experienced a slowly developing paralysis of the lower part of his body, and with it an urgent need of bathroom facilities. He called out for help in his fear, but passengers turned away and looked elsewhere. Probably drunk they thought and turned to watch in disgust as Paul dragged his paralyzed limbs down the corridor and fumbled his way through toilet needs.
When the home station was reached he had to wait long after the train terminated before someone was found to take pity on him and call a taxi. He was carried from the platform and deposited home to his shocked parents.
Paul expected to be treated as an outcast after the story was told to sober parents, but that was not to be. He received nothing but love and support from his parents. Jack visited with the car dealer, the police in whose hands the matter had been placed and slowly the nightmare began to resolve. It appeared Paul could have been in serious trouble with the police had he touched the wheel of the car at any time. Then he would have been an accomplice to theft.
How grateful Paul was when the nightmare ended and feeling slowly returned to the lower part of his body. Years later x-rays revealed there’d been internal bleeding from that accident, and it was a miracle this hadn’t been discovered and recovery had taken place.
Paul valued his parent’s opinions in the choice of friends after that experience. But the greatest discovery of his life was no matter what circumstances one experiences good or bad, family will always be there to stand by you.
“© copyright Ian Grice 2012, all rights reserved”