He was late sixties maybe. Galway accent. Denim jacket. Beard. Kristofferson look.
Bonnet open, Toyota, side of the road, hoping something might happen. He’d been there a while. Contemplating the engine, listening to the scream of the traffic on the bypass.
I pulled in. Asked him the rhetorical: ‘Everything ok?’
‘The car just stopped.’
‘I was driving down the road and it just cut out.’
It was getting cold, and dark, and supremely dangerous. We stood there. I said: ‘I can try it.’
He gave me the key. Put it in the ignition. Turned it. It went: clackclackclackkkkkk.
It reminded me of something. Maybe the Astra when the starter went. Or the Mitsubishi after the alternator broke. Or maybe it was when the engine went on the Insignia. Could have been that time with the Avensis too. Either way – there was no tools. No expertise. No hope. So I asked: ‘Do you have breakdown insurance?
He shook his head in a way that said the car should hardly be on the road at all and never mind that fancy stuff. There was nothing for it only give him a lift into town and try find a garage. On the way, I asked him: ‘Had you plenty of petrol?
‘I don’t know.’
‘Well there was a quarter tank in it when I left Galway.’
‘And is there much in it now?’
‘A drop. I think. Maybe I ran out of petrol?’
‘Where were you goin anyway?’
‘Yeah. I was goin to take a left at Clara and up through Tullamore and into Portlaoise and onto Carlow then down to Bunclody and into Wexford.’
But I might turn back now.’
‘If you get goin.’
‘That’s right. Do you think will I?’
‘Get goin? I don’t know. I doubt it.’
”The oil light was on too.’
‘A good while.’
‘And did you check it for oil in Galway?’
‘No….maybe I should have?’
At the garage, they had some ideas. None of them that good. Rain coming now. A bitter bite, white hot sky and clouds. The guy’s name was Jack. He took advantage of the Supermac’s across the road. Got a large chips. Came back. Sat there. We both thought. Eventually he said: ‘Them are nice warm chips.’
‘Was it not a bit ambitious leaving Galway this morning, for Wexford, in a car low on petrol? And oil?’
‘It’s not my car, see.’
‘Who owns it?’
‘I just borrowed it. Think will I get home?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘I might get the bus back.’
‘And what about the car?’
‘I’ll have to sort it out I suppose. Do you know anyone with a truck?’
Now he was thinking. I had a myriad of numbers from previous breakdowns. Chanced one of them. He was working. Said he could be there in twenty minutes.
So we went back to the car and waited. Jack still working on the chips. The sky still working on the rain. The traffic doing its best not to hit the Toyota. Loads of beeps. Incredulity. Exaggerated swerves. Jack said: ‘Tis a busy spot here.’
And then the breakdown truck came. Hazard lights. Chains. All that. Got it loaded up. A big puddle of oil on the ground from underneath. The driver said he knew a garage and would get Jack to a bus or a train or whatever he needed. Jack tried to give me €50 for my trouble and I said no. And off they went.