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Fiction #295
(published September 14, 2006)
by Dave Prescott
The guy has his head out of the window, gulping for air, but does that stop Nigel? Does Nigel slow down? No, he carries on even faster, away from the festival, away from the crowds and civilisation, along the top road to the coast and maybe beyond.

"You see I've always wanted to direct films," says Nigel. Andrew Nicholls's face is white and sweat-sheened. This is harder than any audience heckling. Damn it, this is harder than watching his wife give birth.

"So how did you get into scriptwriting?"

Three-times Oscar-winning scriptwriter Andrew is physically unable to form words.

"In fact one of the reasons I moved to the area was to give myself space to be, space to create, you know? Love films man. I mean, I'm not really a driver. I just do this for the wedge. I stack shelves in the evenings. A man's gotta do, you know?"

Andrew cannot speak. Nigel is talking about the greater good. Andrew would do anything not to die today, here, on a Welsh mountain road, in the drizzling rain.

What can you do? Some kind of background check, to make sure your pool of temporary festival drivers doesn't include people with sociopathic tendencies? But then, where do you stop? Sexual history? Ancestry? Do you end up brewing your drivers in test tubes, tinkering with their genes to make sure that they drive, and only drive? Expensive business, that. Still, look what happens if you don't.

"Will you take cash?"

"Don't worry, this is a courtesy car, you don't have to pay anything." Nigel waits for the temporary traffic lights to change before grinding the car into gear.

"No, I mean, will you take cash to stop talking?"

At this Nigel bristles. He prides himself on being a self-aware kind of guy. He thinks he knows how he looks to others — slightly edgy, interesting, maybe a bit bohemian, did I say interesting? — and it is a shock to realise that he may have misjudged the situation.

Andrew Nicholls has been on a two-month speaking tour — he has spent a total of three hours with his family the whole time — and last night he was drinking champagne from the bottle with his fellow speakers while the taxi was dragged from the mud by a tractor.

"I've sent out five scripts, but that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter now. Nothing matters." Nigel accelerates into a bend. Andrew is worried. He thinks he maybe should have carried on humouring the driver. He looks around at the landscape and wonders how long he would last out here. He decides it is time to dig deep.

"Tell me about your film scripts," says Andrew. Nigel looks across and nods at his fading passenger.

"Basically think Linklater crossed with early Tarantino, before he turned into a fucking producer's whore. All the violence of the former combined with the acute social commentary of the latter," says Nigel with a smirk. Just then a pigeon flies into the windscreen and Andrew watches it shrinking in the side mirror, flapping madly and plummeting to the road. He stabs at the button for the window and vomits down the side of the car. Some of the vomit crawls down the inside of the window. Nigel pulls the car over to the side of the road. Andrew is apologising.

"Not necessary my friend. I know how it gets," says Nigel. He is rubbing Andrew's bent back. The drizzle is getting worse. "Tough business, this." Some sheep have wandered onto the road. Nigel kicks at them. "Listen, not right now, but could I maybe get your signature?" One day soon he will be the one being driven around, vomiting out of cars. Classic rags to riches stuff.

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