Sunday, July 9, 2017

Writing prompt: there is no exit

I stumbled upon a flash fiction challenge over on Chuck Wendig's blog and thought it might be a good opportunity for me to try and kick my creative juices into gear. So here it goes ... this one is based on an experience I had a couple of years ago. 

Prompt: there is no exit. 

The sound as I slid into the back of the Nissan was not as deafening as I had expected. I tried to change lanes at the last second, when I realised the wet road wouldn’t allow me to stop in time, but the decision to yank my steering wheel to the left occurred a moment too late. Thunk. My little Daewoo stalled. I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, sinking into my seat. I pressed the button for my hazard lights. The traffic on the Ringwood Bypass continued to flow around me while I restarted the engine and pulled off the road.

The Nissan driver was a middle aged man and his wife was the passenger. In case I didn’t feel awful enough after crashing into their vehicle, the first thing they did was open the boot to make sure the two dogs they were transporting were okay. Thankfully, their fur-babies were fine. I was still overcome with guilt.

They were friendly enough, assuring me it happens to everyone, we’re all lucky it wasn’t a serious prang, do I have insurance, blah blah blah. We took photos of each other’s licenses and number plates and of the damage on both cars. I’d pushed in the back left corner of the Nissan with the front right corner of my Daewoo. The driver of the other car put his hand in the gap between the wheel and the body and pushed the dent back out—only some chipped paint remained as evidence that their car had been damaged. My Daewoo was worse off … the front headlight was smashed, loose pieces of glass and plastic still finding its way onto the bitumen. The right side of the bonnet had buckled and the forward side panel was pinching the driver’s door, so it only opened enough for me to squeeze in and out.

We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to call it a day. It was starting to rain again and there was no point standing around. The Nissan drove off and I called the friends I was meant to meet for lunch and explained that I couldn’t make it, even though our meeting place was two blocks away from where I was stopped. I thought about calling to get my car towed; the engine might still start, but the car was far from roadworthy with a busted headlight and a door that wouldn’t open properly. But that meant sitting and waiting and paying—and then what? I just wanted to go home.

I got myself onto the bypass again and headed back towards Eastlink. I wasn’t familiar with the area, but damned if I was going to touch my GPS after the cash. I’d been following my GPS’s directions on the way to lunch, but it had detached itself from my windscreen and fallen into the passenger’s foot well. I’d yanked it onto the passenger’s seat next to me as quickly as I could, but in the rush of the moment I hadn’t heard the instruction the GPS’s robotic voice uttered. I glanced at the screen to see the arrow telling me to turn right at the upcoming intersection. What a stupid thing to do. In that split second of looking at the GPS screen on the passenger’s seat, the traffic ahead came to a stop. I looked back up in time to slam my foot on the breaks and at first, I thought everything would be fine. But the road was wet and oily and my little Daewoo slid further than I thought she would—right into the back of that Nissan.

No, I told myself. No more GPS today. Once I was on the freeway, it would be easy to get home. At least, that’s what I’d hoped. But as I approached Elgar Road, inbound on the M3, I had an awful realisation—there was no exit. I saw the ramp from Elgar Road coming down to merge with the freeway, and the outbound traffic had a ramp to exit onto Elgar Road. But from the inbound lanes, there was no ramp to exit onto that road.

I regretted not setting up my GPS for the drive home.

A few Ks down the freeway, I spotted the exit to Belmore Road and took the turnoff. I still wasn’t familiar with the area, but I knew it was closer to where I lived than the freeway. After a few wrong turns, I found a street I recognised and made it home. The Daewoo sputtered sadly into the garage and the driver’s door made an awful sound when I tried to close it. I would have to call RACV later. I went up to my room and flopped down on my bed, defeated. 


  1. What a bad day!
    I enjoyed reading this. It's fun looking at differences in language: boot, bonnet, prang, where we would say trunk, hood, and....accident? crash? I'm not 100% about prang. I assume you mean 'crash' in paragraph five where you say 'cash'?
    From a critique standpoint, I'll say the sound of sliding into the back of the Nissan had me initially picturing getting into the backseat of a car, so I was confused first about the deafening sound, then about changing lanes. It was just a momentary confusion. Paragraph five, where you jump back to recount how you got into the accident, is a good illustration of how a second of wandering attention can lead to bad things on the road. If you were editing this piece for publication, I'd suggest tightening it up a bit, and maybe giving more weight to that moment when you realized traffic had stopped, and that space where, foot jammed on the brake, you thought it was going to be okay.
    Funny how we're often the architects of our problems, isn't it? Futzing with the GPS leading to an accident, frustration with the GPS leading to getting (slightly) lost when all you want to do is get home. Thanks for sharing, Bonnee!

    1. Damn me for not catching that typo! That's what I get for trying to proofread without my glasses. But yes, prang is another was we Aussies say crash. I started using it more after listening to the traffic updates on the radio too often when I drive, they run every 15 mins on my favourite station and the reporter always refers to crashes as prangs. There was a lot of Aussie slang and local references in this piece, mainly because of true story behind it (though this is a gross oversimplification of what happened that day).

      Thank you for the feedback, I see what you mean about the opening paragraph now that I'm rereading it. I'd definitely look at fine tuning the part where the crash is explained.

      Thanks for visiting, Jeff! I'm glad you enjoyed my little story.


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