The sound that a car makes when it hits a human being is often described as a ‘sickening thump’ but this really is contextual, and if you couldn’t see anything, and if you couldn’t hear any sort of preceding screeching of brakes, then the sound of the impact might be mistaken for the sound a sizeable watermelon makes when it is accidently dropped onto a carpeted floor. That’s not sickening at all. But just before the non-sickening watermelon hitting the carpet kind of sound she turned and saw the car. It’s such an instantaneous thing – you could read anything you want into the eyes of such a person, fear, horror, foreboding, acceptance, joy, anything. It was just a wide-eyed look that says nothing surer than I see an object coming towards me. And then her body was flung onto the windscreen where it rolled upwards and over the hood, just like in a movie. There was no blood but half of the windscreen had almost completely caved in, and her body appeared to be a motionless heap in the rearview mirror. ‘Motionless heap’ is perhaps quite an appropriate way of describing what could actually be seen, although, come to think of it, we don’t usually observe a ‘heap’ of something (dirty clothes comes to mind) and comment or dwell upon its state of motionlessness. Maybe there is no real way to represent any true events that happen in the world.
This was the year I came to know the actress Emily Perkins quite well. You don’t want to know all the details surrounding our blossoming friendship – it is enough to say that it blossomed. We got to know each other and eventually I observed that Emily Perkins didn’t talk too much about her role as the voice of Nemo’s mother in the 2003 film ‘Finding Nemo’. Around the time of the film’s release (this was when we first met) she did talk about it a lot, at dinner parties and charity art auctions for instance, because unexpectedly the film had become a major worldwide success. A minor part in such a popular movie was a talking point and Emily Perkins would talk about it. Yes, she had had to audition for the part. No, she didn’t get to go to Australia to voice the part. Yes, she hoped the success of the movie meant there would be a prequel, one in which Nemo’s mother, Coral, would feature more prominently.
There was an uncomfortably audible creak as June shifted in her chair. The noise reminded us all of her bulk, then the slight difficulty she had walking (it was a semi-waddle), and finally the unfair proportion of Arnott’s biscuits she consumed at every meetings. The creak effectively placed all of these things on the agenda just under ‘President’s Report’. But she didn’t seem to mind. In fact she used the air of unease to her advantage and began to say what we all knew she had been waiting to say since the meeting began.
‘We need to stage a public event. It’s the only way we can move forward. A rally of sorts. We need to get some media attention. We’ve just heard the financial report… I think we all know what the figures mean. This club is in danger of folding if we don’t get some new members.’
Of late it had become a more frequent topic of discussion. Our club was in danger of fading into non-existence. We didn’t need much money but currently even the monthly biscuits and coffee were barely coverable. Terry – a fitter and turner who also coached his son’s soccer team on the weekend – had recently relocated interstate for a new job. Naturally he’d taken his silver 2003 model Tarago with him and reluctantly resigned his membership (he’d made promises of meeting up with us when he was back in town to visit with family, but they were half-hearted gestures at best and we all knew it). This left only four of us in the club. I didn’t think this was such a bad thing, but the others seemed disgruntled. The acrimony was building and I knew some of them were going to move on soon. I’d heard talk of book-groups (apparently people in such groups drank wine and engaged in friendly couch-based conversation) and even passing mentions of a fortnightly Asian cooking class. Something had to be done.
‘Okay June,’ I said, trying to take on the Presidential tone that was necessary for the smooth running of any meeting, ‘I agree. We do need to do something. But before we vote on a course of action I want to remind you all of the initial scope of this club. As you well know I set up this group a few years ago in reaction to what I think is the traditional model of the car club. You know how these groups are run – they’re not exclusive about the sort of car you own, but they are exclusive about ego and money. You need to have a flash car, you need to spend a lot of money on its upkeep, and you need to show the thing off regularly at show-and-shines or on Sunday drives. Our club is all about everyday people, everyday people who own the same sort of car and cluster together around that fact. Anything we do to encourage new members has to stay within these boundaries.’
‘We need to rally and drive down the main street,’ countered June. ‘We need to be seen. We can give out Christmas toys or something, if a cause helps.’
‘We are not going to drive down the main street en masse! We are not showing off our cars.’ We had been through this. I was tired of talking about it. I missed Terry. He would always say something slightly flirtatious to June at times like this and manage to change the subject. But Terry was gone. June now had more sway.
She continued on arguing and pushing her agenda until she had enough steam up to force things to a conclusion.
‘I want a vote,’ she declared, abruptly and finally. ‘I want to know how everyone else feels about this.’
It was a painfully stupid end to things. With a quorum of just four people there was only one way a vote could turn out. In the pause that followed June’s pronouncement you could see us all adding the numbers with our eyes. June and I had obviously performed this simple addition before and our eyes settled on each other very quickly. The eyes of the other two present flickered back and forth, working out what it all meant. I knew straight away what June was doing. The other two members of our club already had allegiances. Nathan was a friend of mine and had been since high school. We had maintained a friendship despite differences in the way our lives had moved. I think we both enjoyed having at least one tie to the past, at least one friend who would get all of the context straight away. A conversation between the two of us was never filled with unnecessary detail and scene-setting. It was pared down to the bone and we liked this. Sometimes we wouldn’t even talk at all but just sit in the same room. Both of us could relax in the presence of the other. I guess if I had to be honest I would admit that I do suspect Nathan had gone out of his way to purchase a silver 2003 model Tarago. He had been looking for a new car, something with more room for the kids, but the coincidence of him hearing a guy at work talking about another guy he knew with one for sale (going very cheap) was a bit of a stretch. I could have prodded at this story but in the end I decided it didn’t matter. Nathan wanted to be a part of my new club and I didn’t mind having him on board. I knew he would be on my side for any vote.
Nathan had purchased his Tarago shortly after my group gained its first members. I had started the club as a joke, but eventually I knew that it had to become real. Many of the best things I’ve ever done in my life have started out as wildly silly fantasies. I’ve learnt that all it takes to experience more of life is to research your fantasies and construct them to the best of your ability. I had once carved a poem into a field of canola in fifty foot high letters and taken an audience up in hot air balloons to read the work (sheep were herded through the words at dawn – the text lit up in a gigantic glowing line of orange). The car club was one of those silly ideas that kept popping back into my head and saying ‘Why not?’ Eventually I placed an ad in the local paper. It was small, unassuming, and simply indicated the existence of a social club for owners silver 2003 model Taragos. I had a response almost immediately. Terry phoned me wanting to meet up. He was taken by the humour of the idea. We struck up an easy camaraderie and together wrote down some details for the club – a charter, a membership application form, a ‘code of ethics’.
Nathan soon came into the fold (he’d heard of ‘Terry’, perhaps was jealous I was spending less time at his place…) and soon after our last two members arrived. June and Jennifer came to our second official meeting together. They didn’t know each other, but even the very act of walking in the door at the same time I think cemented their bond. They were both working mothers, both happened to own the same car. They had both recently taken their kids to see Finding Nemo. They had seen the ad in the paper and for some reason had viewed it as a way to get out of the house, to meet new people.
And so now, one year on, I knew Jennifer would side with June. Another dead end.