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Lateral Thinking - by Bruin Fisher

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This is almost exactly 1,000 words, so I reckon it counts as Flash Fiction. I hope you like it; it should please Lugnutz, at least...

Lateral Thinking

by Bruin Fisher

It was a dark and stormy night…

I was out for a spin in my car. Not something that I, or anyone else, as far as I can see, does these days, but back then it was the sort of thing you did on a sunny Sunday afternoon, especially if you had a Bristol 402 Convertible – a hand-built classic car from 1950 with an interior all walnut and beige leather and an exterior of understated aerodynamic lines in metallic Duck Egg Blue.

I’d got a bit carried away and driven much further than what could be described as a Sunday afternoon spin, ending up at a nice little country pub where I’d stopped for a pie and chips before setting off on the return leg of my overstretched Sunday jaunt. However when I emerged from the pub the weather had already begun to change and now it was dark and I was battling a nasty crosswind and a heavy downpour.

I had the soft-top up, naturally, to protect the upholstery as much as myself from the lashing rain. The windscreen wipers were just about keeping up with the deluge, keeping the view ahead reasonably clear, aided by the powerful beams from the quadruple headlamps.

I nearly drove right past, but just in time caught sight of the scene in my peripheral vision. Under the inadequate shelter of a bus stop, three people were huddled together. One of them was the focus of the attention of the other two, and as I slowed to a stop my brain worked out what was happening. An elderly lady was in difficulty and the other two were trying to help.

I pulled up to see what, if anything, I could do to help. I left the headlamps on to throw some light into the shelter. As soon as I climbed out of the car the weather hit me and I wrapped my sports jacket tight around me and ran for the bus stop. The old lady was sitting on the bench seat with the coats of both men around her shoulders, shivering uncontrollably, and the young men were rubbing her back and arms, trying to warm her up. As I approached, all three turned toward me and I almost tripped over in my surprise.

Although I didn’t recognise the elderly lady, I certainly did recognise both men with her. One was my good friend Jimmy, one of the best people I know. He once saved my life on a seaside holiday in our childhood. When the raft I was on was blowing out to sea and I was tiring out trying to paddle against the wind, he swam out to me and towed me back to shore. He was a very strong swimmer, on the school team. The other was George Garrett, a man I hadn’t met but hoped to. I had no idea if he was a good swimmer, but I knew he had the physique for it since he used the same gym that I did and I’d often seen him in the changing rooms. Actually I’d begun timing my gym sessions to coincide as far as possible with his in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elegant line of his back as it curved into his buttocks, and his long shapely legs with their dusting of blond fur right down to a pair of narrow ankles. Eventually, I’d been promising myself, I would pluck up the courage to speak to him, maybe even to invite him for a post-gym drink. But it hadn’t happened yet. And now here he was.

Now, you’ll be thinking you know what happens next – I bundle them all into my car and zip along to the nearest hospital for the old lady, then deliver the two men to their respective destinations, with a warm glow of good-deed-for-the-day-done. Is that what you’re thinking? If so, you don’t know your classic sports cars. My Bristol is a tiny two-seater. I could only give one of them a lift. But which one?

The old lady needed to get to a hospital, but if I took her, I’d be leaving my friend, and more to the point sacrificing the chance to get to know George, and I really really wanted to get to know George.

But if I took George, he would never want to know me because I would be the kind of person who’d leave an old lady in need in order to pursue his own romantic purpose. To put it crudely, I’d have let my cock over-ride my conscience.

And if I took Jimmy my conscience might not have complained so much since I owe Jimmy and I always will, but I would have solved neither the old lady’s problem, or mine.

I was in danger of letting everyone down and even turned back towards my beloved car, perhaps instinctively seeking solace there from an inanimate object, when the solution came to me. Firstly I did what everyone expected me to do – I helped the old lady into the passenger seat of my car. Then I did what surprised even me. I handed my car key to Jimmy and told him to drive her to the hospital. I’d never trusted my car to anyone else before, but needs must, and I reckoned Jimmy was a safe pair of hands.

Which left me and George to wait for the bus together, with George predisposed to think well of me as a good Samaritan. So I didn’t even have to pluck up the courage to talk to him – he started the conversation. It turned out he’s a classic car fan.

That was thirty years ago, George and I have been a couple ever since that night, and we availed ourselves of the right to marry after the law changed here in England in 2014. We still have the Bristol 402, and we now have two other Bristols that we’ve restored together.

© Bruin Fisher June 2016

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Thank you Cole, would that it was a true story, but alas no it sprung entirely from my febrile imagination. After the germ of an idea for it came to me when I was reading through a list of lateral thinking puzzles. You know the kind of thing: a man is found hanged from a rope slung from a rafter in the middle of an empty room locked from the inside. There is no furniture, his feet dangle three feet above the floor, how did he die? - and the answer of course is that he stood on a block of ice which has since melted away.

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Of course.

A lovely story, Bruin, with enough detail to give the character dimension and the situation a wacky sort of plausibility. One would love to learn how George and Jimmy happened to find themselves together in the same bus shelter.

Are you ready to tackle the farmer, fox, goose, and bag of beans crossing the river in a too-small boat?

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A man, his boat, a straight boy, a gay boy, and a virgin?

Aha! A mystery. Which of the two boys is a virgin? And will the straight boy be tempted?

Colin :icon_geek:

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From the first I've always like your writing. While reading your story I began to think it was shaping up to be a variation on the Fox, chicken, grain puzzle.

A Stock Puzzle, subset of the Inventory Management Puzzle. You are a farmer taking a fox (or a wolf), a chicken (or a goose) and a sack of grain to market (don't ask why you're taking a fox to market) and you come across a river. The only way across the river is by a small boat, which can only hold at most you and one of the three items. Left unsupervised, the chicken will eat the grain or the fox will eat the chicken (however, the fox won't try to eat the grain, nor will the fox or the chicken wander off). What's the quickest way to get everything across the river?

The standard answer is:

  1. Take the chicken across

  2. Come back with the boat empty besides yourself

  3. Take the grain (or the fox) across

  4. Take the chicken back

  5. Take the fox (or the grain) across

  6. Come back with the boat empty besides yourself

  7. Take the chicken across

And then there is the 1950 Bristol 402 convertible. Handsome and and sporty, looking very much like a BMW of the same period. You might purchase one today in reasonable shape for 100,000 pounds or half a million in mint condition. I would rather drive a car like that than own a Rolls.

See if you agree. https://www.classicdriver.com/en/car/bristol/402/1949/254916

Let me guess, new in 1950, 550 pounds

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