Friday, 15 January 2010

Things Become Interesting For Otto

This week's sentence was taken from John Steinbeck's 'Cannery Row.'

It was:
'It was not so interesting driving at night.'

Things Become Interesting For Otto

Absently flicking through radio stations Otto at last settled on one that might annoy him slightly less than the others and headed south out of Mechelen on the E19. He was dragging a container-load of patio furniture to Évora for no readily apparent reason, but a job's a job and Otto drove trucks and that's all there was to it. Why the Portuguese wanted Belgian patio furniture was not something he was going to waste his life pondering; neither would he muse much on the whys and wherefores of the boxes of glazed tiles he would be towing on his return.
It was not so interesting driving at night. On the rare occasions he got to drive in daylight there was a whole world of colour and shapes, of fields and forests, buildings, cars, oh, and pretty girls of course.
But at night? Unless he drove through a town everything outside of his headlight beams might as well not exist. And these days with most places by-passed he could drive clean across Europe and not see a single town or city until he reached his destination.
Mostly Otto drove at night so it was just him and the dark. The living world was reduced to a glow on the horizon or swarms of tiny amber lights swimming in the big black. Otto existed in his own personal pool of light; a hundred yards of floodlit asphalt surrounded by a whole universe of nothingness, his sole relief being the headlights of oncoming cars and the tail-lights of those who passed him.
Daytimes he would sleep in his cab, waking at sunset to blink in the garish glare of over-lit service areas. A greenish world of artificial light. Bright halogen on shiny plastic. Conflicting shadows. Endless cloned cafés, endless bitter coffees, microwaved factory food and the stink of urinal cake. His fellow denizens of the night hunched, anonymous figures scattered sparsely across the tables; uncommunicative, avoiding eye contact; the occasional nod or grunt and then alone again and back out into the void, driving caffeinated at the blackness. Visual stimulus restricted to the patch of asphalt rushing at the front of his truck, Otto's universe contracted until his thoughts roamed no further than the insides of his own skull. Not that there was a whole lot in there to keep him entertained.
About five miles outside of Lille he suddenly caught sight of something at the side of the road. His headlights picked it out clear as day but in the few seconds it took his brain to register what he was seeing he had almost passed it. He slammed on the brakes as hard as he dared, concentrating on not jack-knifing his trailer. A rush of airbrakes and squealing tyres and then all was silent except for the ticking of the cooling engine.
"Holy shit!"
Otto took a deep breath, his heart pounding.
What the hell was THAT doing there?
Then, slowly, he reached for the door handle.


Vanda said...

Oh you evil, evil person. I just know we'll never find out what Otto saw.

dive said...

Hee hee hee hee hee!

MmeBenaut said...

Oh boy, this could be the opening of yet another novel, Dive. I read that so fast that I surprised even myself and I'm a speed reader!
I can only guess at what he saw of course ...
You took me along for the ride with your descriptions and I especially liked the phrase with which I could most identify: "driving caffeinated at the blackness". I've done that once or twice. Brilliant my friend, brilliant!

dive said...

Mme: Thank you so much.
Yes, 'driving caffeinated at the blackness' is something I am all too familiar with … dosing up on several cups of strong black coffee after an exhausting gig and driving 100 miles home chugging cans of Red Bull with all the windows open to keep myself awake. Then when I did get home I'd be too wired to sleep and would sit up watching crappy movies until it was time to go to work the next day.
Hey ho.

Scout said...


"Otto existed in his own personal pool of light" is a beautiful line, Dive.

dive said...

Stinker? Moi?
Hee hee hee.
Thank you for both compliments, Robyn. I like being a stinker.