Tuesday 14 March 2023

The Car Wash by Judith Skilleter, Aperol Spritz

Danny is 8 years old and hates car-washes. He goes with his dad every Saturday to the local car-wash and he does all sorts to avoid going. He hides under his bed – but his dad finds him and thinks it a huge joke.  He goes to a friend’s house – but his dad waits until he returns home. He tells his mum he does not want to go – she tells him not to be selfish as it is the only time he and his dad can have boy’s time together and his dad enjoys it so much. Then after each trip to the car-wash he and his dad usually go for an ice cream and his dad talks about football. Danny hates football.

Danny once told his dad he would rather not go but his dad looked so sad afterwards, and looked so glum getting in the car on his own, that Danny felt terrible and rushed after the car and got in. His dad grinned and Danny felt sick inside. “Boy’s together” said his dad. “Yeah” said Danny with no enthusiasm.

You see, Danny’s dad has a new car, his first ever brand new car and he is so pleased with it. He spends hours fiddling with all the knobs and buttons and working out what does what and peering under the bonnet. And he is always outside polishing it till it shines and the weekly car wash is an absolute necessity, as far as his dad is concerned,  in order to keep it in tip top condition. And it is an opportunity to be with his only son, something he looks forward to very much.

Danny can understand why doing this together is important to his dad.  Danny has three older sisters who just seem to baffle his dad – clothes, make-up, mobile phones and friends are all that interests them, all that they talk about, even Lizzy who is only ten. Danny has overheard long conversations between Danny’s dad and mum about how his dad cannot talk to his daughters, he does not know how to and they just disregard him. His mum said not to worry, it was just a normal phase they were going through. “But how long does this phase last” asked his dad.  His mum just shrugged her shoulders; she too was facing the wrath and moods of pre-teen and adolescent girls.

Danny would love to spend time with his dad but not go to the car-wash – it terrifies him. First of all he hates water, especially water coming at him with force and surrounding him. He is even reluctant to take showers; he waits until the water is at the right temperature and at the gentlest setting and he leaps in, a quick wash and then he’s out. This is so unlike all his sisters who seem to be in the shower for ages. “How can they get so dirty” he asks himself. “Perhaps it’s to get off all that make-up” he reckons.

But in the car wash and having the car between him and this surge of water makes no difference because he can clearly remember falling into a swimming pool in Majorca when he was five years old. He can remember water all around him as if it was attacking him, from all sides, and he can remember punching and kicking and trying to fend off this attacker. And he can remember calling for his mum and water gushing down into his tummy and lungs. Then he can remember nothing until he woke up with someone pressing hard on his chest and all this horrible water coming out of his mouth – and his breakfast. Then he remembers crying and feeling the most awful pains in his chest and tummy – and his mum was crying and his dad was crying and he had no idea why they were so sad. He knows this happened; it was real but somehow no-one talks about it anymore. It is as if it never happened.

And then in the car-wash they are attacked by long legs, as if twelve massive spiders are in the car-wash trying to get to him with their huge hairy legs battering the car, trying to get through.  And above the car, sitting on the car roof, where he could not see them, there would be 12 huge hairy bodies, all with evil eyes. The spiders would be determined to get through the metal somehow – and to kill him. They were trying to get to him, through the front windscreen, through the back windscreen and even through the doors, especially his door. Danny hates spiders.

Danny has tried to tell his mum and dad why he does not like going but they just do not listen. They tell him he is being silly, that there is nothing to be frightened of. But Danny knows something different; he knows the truth – the spiders and the water are just waiting for him, to get him once and for all. The water is waiting to finish off what it tried to do in Majorca and the spiders are there to make sure the water succeeds.

Poor Danny. What can he do?

About the author

Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching. Her first children's novel The April Rebellion, has recently been published. Judith is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire 45 years ago and is married with 3 grandchildren

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