With half an eye on the road, Rick shuffled through the CDs in the centre console of his HSV Commodore.
‘Offspring? No. Silverchair? No. Metallica? That’s the one!’
Eagerly anticipating the throbbing surge of distorted guitars and pounding drums, he tapped the volume up button on the steering wheel a couple of times.
‘Talking to myself? That’s okay,’ said Rick. ‘No one’s listening.’
The ever increasing beat of the music slowly caused Rick to increase his pressure on the accelerator. Unaware of this, and becoming less involved in the more serious aspects of driving, he slammed the wheel with open palms and sang whatever words he could make out. Track three was his favorite so he pumped it up louder still. Half way through the song, Unforgiven, the CD began to jump and skip as though it was scratched.
‘Man, that’s a new disc,’ said Rick. ‘What’s going on?’
The CD player ejected the disc in its cool mechanical way, then played the radio.
‘What the hell?’ said Rick as he pulled the disc out and lifted it to eye level for examination. ‘Nothing. No scratches, no marks.’
Reinserting the disc, Rick caught sight of his location and in the same instant saw a flash of light behind him.
‘Damn! Red light camera.’
The disc came straight back out again, so Rick tried another one which also popped out. Then he tried another and another, throwing each rejected disc over his shoulder onto the back seat with all the other rubbish. A blaring horn reminded him of the fact he was driving.
‘Pick a lane and stick to it, moron!’ yelled an irate motorist.
‘Stick it, moron,’ replied Rick as he casually flipped the guy.
‘I guess the radio’ll have to do until I can get someone to look at this thing.’
On Nova 96.9, Rick heard a favorite song and stopped channel surfing. Nearing the end of the Creed’s ‘With arms wide open’, the volume started to fade in the left speaker. A crackle and a cough and it went dead, leaving the final strains of the song in mono.
Rick fiddled with the channel selector, checking the other stations to see if they were affected. They were, so the problem again lay with his stereo, although it wasn’t in stereo anymore. More crackling followed and Rick prepared himself to lose sound altogether but the left speaker returned to the party as abruptly as it had left.
Stopped at a red light, Rick looked around at the other cars to see if their drivers were paying unusual attention to their radios and wearing bemused expressions. It appeared he was the only one not smiling which was very weird.
‘Happy motorists? Come on, what’s happening here?’
Suddenly the radio switched itself off. The lights went dead and there was not the faintest whimper of sound from either speaker. Another horn blast informed Rick the light had turned green.
Bothered by the non performance of his stereo, Rick raced up to the next red light and broke hard, skidding to a halt. Looking around again for any sign of bewilderment and frustration on the faces of other drivers, he decided to attempt to play another disc. Before he could push it in, a voice spoke.
‘Rick, you’re driving dangerously. You’re going to have an accident if you don’t calm down.’
So taken by surprise Rick did not immediately realize the voice was speaking to him. The light changed and he sped off again, tires screeching as they bit into the asphalt.
‘Rick,’ said the voice.
Unsure if he was still in his right mind, Rick hesitated.
There was a rumbling sound from the speakers, followed by the voice in stereo.
‘I said yes. What do you want? Who are you?’
‘You know who I am Rick. You’ve been ignoring me for some time now.’
Rick glanced over his shoulder, first the left then the right, searching for the source of the voice. Jumping on the brakes again to narrowly avoid running into the rear end of another car, he reached over to the stereo to fiddle with the knobs again. Nothing he did made the slightest difference. He pulled over to the left of the road, carelessly cutting in front of a couple of cars and cruised along to the next side street, into which he turned and parked the car alongside the curb.
‘Why’d you have to mess up my stereo?’ asked Rick. ‘It’s your fault I’m driving like a madman. You know how much I love my music when I’m driving.’
‘Stop saying my name. I know and you know it so just say what you want to say and get out of car.’
Turning the engine off, Rick waited for God to speak to him although he knew he needed to speak first. It was stubbornness versus patience.
‘I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring you. I’ve been busy...can you fix the radio now...back to normal? Why’d you have to do that?’
‘It was the only way I could get your attention. The only time you really listen to anyone or anything is when you’re driving, so now that I have your attention, I want us to have a good talk.’
‘Okay, you have my undivided attention. Make it quick, I have to get to work.’
‘I know. I know,’ said God. ‘You’re always in a hurry these days. Why don’t you make time for us anymore? Don’t you remember how good it was when we hung out together in the quiet early mornings, and I showed you things from my Word?’
Rick fidgeted in his seat and grabbed a cigarette from the packet in the glove compartment.
‘You’re right. Those were good times,’ he said as he lit the cigarette and drew deeply on it. ‘I don’t know why I stopped. I guess I just got out of the habit.’
‘Speaking of habits, when are you going to quit smoking? Anyway, why don’t you get back into the habit? I want to be involved in your life again. You know I hear every word you say. And I see everything you do. And I know every thought you think. I’m always with you so it hurts me when you don’t acknowledge me and you try to fool yourself into thinking I’m not around. I love you.’
Tossing the smoke out of the window, Rick turned his head and closed his eyes tightly, squeezing a tear down his cheek.
‘I’m really sorry. Really.’
‘I forgive you.’
Rick was saying thank you when the radio came back on. Wanting to hear his God again in the silence he switched it off immediately but the moment had passed. Feeling at peace, he headed off to work singing songs of praise and celebration.
Two days later, Rick was killed instantly when he sped through a stop sign and into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer.
Bio: D.A. Cairns lives on the south coast of New South Wales where he works as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had around 40 short stories published (but who’s counting right?) He blogs at Square pegs http://dacairns.blogspot.com.au and has authored four novels, Devolution, Loathe Your Neighbor, Ashmore Grief, and A Muddy Red River which will be published in 2015 by Rogue Phoenix Press.