{14} in transit: the cornwall courts death rattle

The woman who approaches the car is not small in frame, or young. The brightly patterned skirt that hugs her body seems extra loud, ballooning out as it holds her legs and hips together.

“Green Pon’, driver?” she asks, wiping the sweat off her forehead with one hand and gripping a scandal bag full of groceries in the other.

The driver, who falls into the category of cantankerous old men, takes his time to answer. He’s doing a slow survey of the stand with his eyes and eventually gives the woman a grudging nod. She responds with a loud cheups and opens the door, levering herself into the front seat. Her descent is accompanied by muted squeaks and groans from the car’s chassis, and she pulls the door shut with a clanky thud.

Bending to check his passenger status through the back window, the old man scratches his chin absently and throws a last longing glance between the plethora of passengers still waiting on a drive and the meagre three adults he has in his back seat. He starts the car regardless, and pulls into the flow of traffic.

The car picks its way over the limestone-style landscape on King Street and Green Pond with a series of clunks and scrapes. Stones glance off the metal underbelly of the car with sharp pangs, and the overall effect is not unlike the last rattling breaths of a dying man. From the rear of the vehicle, it sounds as if various essential parts are being picked off and left behind in the stony rubble. Machine doesn’t stand a chance against the unyielding terrain.

The passengers sit grim-faced and unmoving as they bounce with the rhythm of a hill and gully ride. The car’s suspension is so shot to hell that the men who sit at either door can feel every jerk of the car tyre through the peeling upholstery. The car has probably seen better days but that was long before it was slapped with the red plate and Taxi Association insignia – scarlet letters that invite all sorts of abuse. Peeling seats and rickety chassis are the less obvious forms, but there are worse: the door handle that sticks out at a crooked angle, for one.

“It open from di outside,” the driver tells the woman when she tries to jimmy the dismantled latch.

She gives another cheups and reaches her arm through the window to let herself out of the car.

The driver continues to mutter to himself as he drives off and his gravelly voice overlays the out of sync radio that pulses out Zip FM tunes like a sluggish heart beat. They’re a sad accompaniment for the taxi’s lament, but it manages to reach the housing scheme without any fatal stalls. With less groans and grinding now that it’s on firmer ground, the taxi zips its way through the maze of streets and houses, delivering its meagre cargo one by one to their respective destinations.

With one reckless arm dangling from the window (calling to familiar faces, or giving rude gestures when smaddy bad drive ‘im), the old man turns his old faithful automobile in the direction of town so that taxi and driver meander slowly away in a wake of dust and the heartbreaking sound of parts in need of mending.


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