I put quite a bit of effort into ‘Love Story’ and ‘This Urban Aesthetic’ so I’m taking it easy this week. Still, I hope you enjoy this shorter-than-usual piece.
What little is left of the paintwork is lifting away. Exposed to sunlight, the thick rust coating the truck’s bodywork is Mars-red. All but one of the tires are half-bald; the black sheep was apparently fitted after its predecessor hit a stray caltrop, a sign of things to come as the rule of law withers. There’s no windscreen but a long hood, like the peak of a baseball cap, has been fitted over the bonnet. Phyllis taps her finger against one of its support struts. It makes a hollow little ‘plink’ sound.
‘It’ll do,’ she says. ‘Give the man his money and let’s get out of the sun.’
She wraps her shirt around her hand before touching the driver-side doorhandle. She swears as the hot metal burns her skin through the fabric, but wrenches the door open and climbs into the battered vehicle. Inside it smells of tired leather baking in the heat.
Phyllis watches her girlfriend hand the van’s owner a roll of banknotes. Their value is depreciated but not yet lost, and there’s enough there to keep him happy. He has other vehicles, she can see, and money can still buy food if not water.
The van’s old owner is counting the banknotes, nodding and running his tongue over his lips. Sara climbs into the other side of the van, yelping as the handle burns her hand. She pulls a face and sucks at her fingers. Phyllis smiles a cold, rare smile.
‘Ready?’ she asks.
Sara smiles at her. ‘We’ll find him, babe.’
Phyllis turns the keys in the ignition, feels the throb of the engine rattle through the truck’s frame and then her own. She rests a hand on her protuding belly for a moment before reaching for the handbrake.
‘Son of a bitch will pay,’ she says, and kicks the old truck into gear. The sun is bright and swollen overhead. Its reflection glimmers off the truck’s patchy bodywork, obscuring the cracked and broken tarmac ahead.