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2 The Red Car

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ave you ever wanted something so badly that you ended up hating it? Have you ever hated something so much that it made you despise anything that has to do with it? And when you were overcome with hatred, have you ever wanted the original object of your desire to disappear from sight? That’s what happened to Nasos with red . . .

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He saw her steering her car around the marina with the yachts, coming his way. Was it red? That’s what mattered to him. He thought it looked black in the twilight, maybe grey. No. As he drew nearer he saw it clearly—it was red. Yes, yes, a fiery red sports car with shiny silver rims. When she saw him, she revved the engine, the wheels screeching as she turned a corner then she hit the brakes abruptly, coming to a sudden halt in front of him. “Nasos?” She asked, lowering the electric window. “Nasos,” he confirmed, looking at her without moving. “What are you waiting for?” Are you going to get in? I’m Jenny, who you met on Facebook. “Of course,” said Nasos, dazed, as he crouched down to get into the seat. “Do you like it?” she asked him as she put the car into gear. Want to go for a ride? “Of course,” he repeated. She started to tell him how she had found it, after having searched in ten car dealerships. Then she told him how she had tinkered with the engine, to make it faster and how much she had spent on various accessories. He silently observed her as she drove like wildfire, swerving between the other cars on the infamous Poseidonos Street,

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known for its street racing culture. He remained silent. Staring out the window, he fell into deep thought. “Do you want me to put on some music?” she asked, breaking the silence as she switched on the radio. The car’s small interior resonated with a deafening wave of sound, the bass line causing the car to vibrate, making it feel like the doors were going to burst open. Her driving became even more feverish. Somewhere near Varkiza she stopped to get cigarettes from a kiosk. Then she sidled up to his side of the car and asked, “Do you want to take the wheel for a while?” “Why?” he said, surprised. “Because you like red cars, isn’t that right?” “Alright,” he said hesitantly and opened the door. He got out, held the door open for her as she got into the passenger side and then pushed it shut. Then he circled ‘round the car, reaching the front where he stood facing the hood, studying it as if estimating how much it weighed. He stepped closer and stroked the fender, running his hand up the side of the windshield and opened the door on the driver’s side. He leaned toward her. “Do you mind if I look at the engine?” he asked. “Go ahead,” she said proudly. “Here pull this!” she said pointing to the lever. The hood of the red, two-door sports car popped open and he leaned over the engine. It purred, blowing hot air into his face, the heavenly scent wafting his way. He quickly lowered the hood and got inside. He took off his jacket and threw it into the backseat. “Everything okay,” she asked him. “She’s a real beauty,” he said. “You mean me?” She asked coyly. The truth was that Nasos hadn’t really noticed her at all. He now gazed at her sweet little face, framed with a black bob,

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noticing her lively eyes. She was petite and perfectly suited to the little sports car. “You match the car,” he said to her as he put it into first, slowly accelerating. He drove at high speed down the seaside road in Sounio, as she talked about her life. Just past Anavisso, where the road widened slightly, he suddenly pulled over near the sea. He rested his hands on the wheel and looked at her sideways. Then he put his hand behind her seat and leaned towards her. “He’s going to kiss me,” Jenny thought, as she adopted her most suggestive, alluring posture. With the hand that was behind the back of her seat, he groped through his backpack and pulled out a revolver. As he leaned in close—almost close enough to touch her face—he pressed the gun against her temple. “Don’t move!” he barked, his mouth tense. Her eyes opened wide as she edged away from him, speechless. She sat there, frozen. He opened the door and jumped out, continuing to point the gun at her. In one swift move he grabbed the keys, lowered the emergency brake and grabbed his backpack out of the back. He slammed the door shut and locked the car with the key, automatically locking her door as well. With one hand he pulled a thick ratchet strap out of his bag, the kind that has an adjustable buckle at the end used to secure freight on trucks. He kept the gun trained on her through the window as he quickly wrapped the strap around the car from bottom to top, securing the doors shut. The ratchet strap creaked as he tightened it around the car. She started screaming and banging on the car windows hysterically. The motion of the car set off the alarm, its screeching supplementing her panic. He paused for a moment,

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moved the barrel of the revolver against the window, ready to shoot. He stumbled over his words but he managed to stutter, “I’m sorry, but it’s not red.” Using great physical force, he pushed the car off the cliff. Slinging his backpack over his shoulder, he turned away, muttering to himself. “It was only pretending to be red, it wasn’t the real thing.”

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He was around five years old when they took him to the fair. He had stood in front of the merry-go-round’s revolving platform, watching the horses, motorbikes and airplanes as they whirled round and round. There, in between them was a shiny red race car with bright headlights. He had pointed at it enthusiastically, saying, “that’s what I want to ride!” And in he climbed. When the ride was over he would exclaim, “I want more!” Again and again, until they had to drag him out. Then he saw it on the road, a real red race car. He pointed at it again. “If you’re a good boy I’ll get you a red car for Christmas,” his mother told him one day. And he was a good boy. On that special holiday, he found the car that they had promised him on his pillow. It was red . . . his first car. Of course, it wasn’t the red car that he had seen on the street. It wasn’t an awesome Italian race car, with an engine that roared! He couldn’t fit inside of it either, because it was just a small toy. But it was a red car, and it made him happy. He admired it all day long; he turned the wheel and pushed a button that honked the horn. The other children were jealous. One day his little car rolled out into the street and a

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real black car ran it over and crushed it to pieces. That’s when he started to ask for another red car. Over the years he collected many red cars. When they asked him what he wanted, he would say, “I want a red car.” He lined them all up on a shelf; he dusted them and examined them one by one until he got older. By nine years old he had learned to drive like a grown up. He would swipe his father’s car keys and go around the block like a rally driver. His mother and father didn’t know whether to be proud or terrified of this behavior. By middle school his tune changed. In the meantime he had had over fifteen accidents. “Who did you run into?” his father would ask. “A red car,” he would invariably answer with enthusiasm. And that’s how it was. When he would see a red car he would rush to crash into it, like a raging bull, until it was destroyed. He would never crash into another car from the rear, never from the side, never into the fender. He didn’t seem to care about the damage to his own car; after all, it wasn’t red. He didn’t give a damn about danger, he didn’t give a damn about anything. It was enough for him that he got to tell his friends another story about how he had ravaged yet another red car that wasn’t his. And yet what he really wanted was the red car that he had destroyed. When he turned eighteen they made him another promise. “If you get accepted to university, we’ll get you a red car of your own,” they said. And so he did. They got him a red, Japanese-made car. Again, it wasn’t the red, Italian race car that he wanted. It was just an average red car. When he started to work a few years later, he tried his best to save up money. Some people wanted houses, others wanted savings accounts, others, to have fun. He had that red Italian race car in his mind’s eye, the one that had

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the engine that roared! All of his fantasies revolved around it. Women, trips, enjoyment, were always connected to the red car. He worked overtime, picked up extra assignments, got a second and then a third job, he even worked from home. But the money was never enough for such an expensive car. It became an obsession. He only felt at peace when he was dusting and polishing his collection of little red cars that he had had since he was a child. Every so often he would buy a new model to add to it and it was always a new red car. The money he had saved wasn’t enough by a long shot for that red race car he so dreamed of. Even if he saved for another twenty years, he still wouldn’t have enough money. He was employed at a bank, and one fine work day, an idea occurred to him. “Here’s your check,” he said to his customer. “That’s not my name,” the customer replied. “Oh, I’m sorry. Let me issue you another,” he offered. Then he took the first check and deposited it into his own account. That’s how he began to steal. He cheated on his transactions, skimmed off his clients, plagiarized checks, and tweaked receipts; he started putting more money aside for that amazing, red car. But “red” didn’t turn out as he thought it would. There was black as well. One black day they caught him and fired him. He had to pay back what he had stolen and lost all of his money. He just barely escaped a jail sentence. “Get married,” his mother said. And she fixed him up. “We’ll find you a good job,” his wife said. “My father has connections.” “I don’t want a job,” he replied. “What do you want?” she asked.

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“I want a red car.” That’s how he got another red car. It had a shiny hood ornament, leather seats, climate control and a two hundred horsepower engine. They called him lucky. But to him, it just wasn’t the red car he longed for. It was that red, Italian race car with the engine that roared. He had seen it in a dealership window and he often went by just to stare at it through the glass. “That’s what I want,” he would say. But he did have a red car and it saved his marriage for quite a few years. He was afraid of losing his wife because that would mean losing the red car as well. He felt so strong and invincible that it never crossed his mind that a woman might not want him. After all, he had a red car! But one day he caught his wife with another man, in a black car. That black day returned. She left him, and took the red car with her. From that point on, when he was alone, he spent hours looking over his collection of little red cars that he had had since he was a child. There were over four hundred little red cars. Small ones, larger ones, sports cars, sedans, jeeps, even little trucks and a red double-decker bus, like those in London. The bus gave him an idea one day. “If only buses here were red too . . .” he muttered to himself. It didn’t matter, the idea in and of itself was enough. Without a penny in his pocket, he started looking for a job that would have something to do with red cars. And he found one. He got hired as a fireman, only the forest fire watch in summer to begin with—then it turned into a permanent position. To hell with his university education and credentials. None of that mattered now. What mattered was that he spent all day in a red car.

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He would often drop by the showroom that had the red, Italian race car in the window. It was his dream. He always squirmed outside the glass showroom window, close enough to steam up the glass with his breath. What a dream, what magic! Only once did he decide to pretend to be a potential buyer and go inside to touch it, up close. But on that particular day the car was no longer there. He was gripped by despair. Where had it gone? Was it sold? Who had bought it? He turned to leave and then turned back. “I’ll ask who bought it,” he said to himself. But then he changed his mind. What did it matter, since it wasn’t there for him to touch, to stroke, to run his hand over its shiny surface, following its aerodynamic design. In spite of this, he went into the shop and struck up a conversation with the haughty salesman. “A girl bought it,” the salesman told him. “It was a gift from her father.” So there were others who wanted a red car? And not just any red car; that kind of expensive, red race car that he had wanted since he was a child. On hearing this news, he felt that something had knocked the wind out of him. He took refuge in his apartment. He was consumed by his jealousy and loneliness. His computer had a game on it that gave him the illusion of driving that car, right there on his screen. The exceptional feature was that he could hear the sound of the exhaust, the sound of the engine as it roared. He drove the simulated red race car for hours, as he had done when he was five years old at the fair.

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The port workers hoisted the ruined car—with Jenny’s dead body inside—out of the depths of the sea lining the coastal road in Sounio and dragged it onto the concrete. It looked like a strange package, wrapped up tight with the yellow strap around the doors. They believed it to be an accident until they saw how it was wrapped. “That’s how we found it, with the ratchet strap around the doors,” the port workers said. Inspector Voridis speculated. “Someone must have wanted to take revenge.” They searched through her bag, through the car inside and out, through everything. But who would want to take revenge on the owner of a boutique? The inspector held in his hands a man’s jacket that they had found on the back seat. On it, words were embroidered with thick red letters: “THERE IS ONLY ONE RED.” He wondered what it meant, “there is only one red.” Which red? That’s how the police started their search. For his friends, it was the seductive woman wearing red that they would search for on Facebook. When he got tired of driving the simulated red race car, he also started looking for the object of his desire on the Internet. He was looking for a woman too, but one with a red car. What could be easier? Maybe he would even find her, the woman with the red, Italian race car from the display window in the shop. He might as well try. He received many replies that frustrated him to no end; some written, others were voice recordings. “I have a white car with red upholstery. Good enough?” “It’s a green two-seater but I have red hair. Want it?”

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Then, amidst the other replies, he came across “ . . . it’s a red two-door and drives like the wind. Should we meet?” “That could work,” he thought. He was consumed by curiosity. He quickly typed his response. “Let’s meet in Kalamaki, Friday night at 9 p.m.,” he replied and promptly hit the send button. Before his date, he surveyed his collection of little red miniature cars once again. He examined a few of them and caringly stroked a red sports car, the one he liked most. He carefully got ready for his first date with the new red car. He put on a jacket that had the words “There’s only one red” embroidered on the back, threw a backpack containing various items over his shoulder, as was his habit, and got on his motor bike. When he arrived, he parked a small distance away and impatiently walked over to the place where they would meet. He didn’t want her to see him arrive on a vespa. That’s how he had come to know Jenny with the red car. Now Mirella, who had arrived in another red car, was waiting.

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He threw his backpack onto the backseat and got into Mirella’s car. “Do you like it?” she asked. “It was red when you bought it?” he asked her. “Yeah, fiery red. And it’s 4X4!” He took her on the same route. Somewhere in Anavisso she turned onto a dirt road and said, “D’ you wanna drive? It’s awesome on dirt!” He opened his door, circled around the car, took off his jacket and sat in the driver’s seat. He threw his jacket into the back and started the engine.

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“Do you mind if I rev her up a little?” “Floor it!” she said enthusiastically, her voice and eyes oozing with excitement. He drove like a madman, over rocks and puddles. The headlights penetrated the darkness, blazing along the dirt road’s path. He steered into potholes and she shrieked hysterically every time the car swerved off the track and muddy water drenched the windshield. Suddenly, he pulled the emergency brake and yanked the wheel hard to the left. The red 4X4 spun completely around and then came to a full stop amidst her yelps. He had done more than excite her. He leaned over her and felt the warmth of her panting breath. Meeting no resistance, he brought her lips to his. That’s when he reached one arm into the back seat and grabbed his backpack. He opened the door and jumped out, yanking the keys from the ignition. “What are you doing? What’s wrong?” she managed to ask. He slammed the door and pulled the Kalashnikov rifle out of his bag. Before she realized what was happening, he aimed and then emptied his ammunition into the car, his body shaking violently from the force of the weapon. He went round to the other side and continued to fire, riddling the windows and the car’s red exterior with holes. “It was red, but its engine didn’t roar,” he said when the din of his shooting spree died down. He bent down and looked through the window. He saw her lying motionless in a pool of blood. The words across the back of the jacket that he had thrown on the back seat read “THERE’S ONLY ONE RED.” He put the rifle into the backpack, threw the bag over his shoulder, and walked away. Continues in the pages of the book..

2-Τhe Red Car-piec  

The Red Car 37 ave you ever wanted something so badly that you ended up hating it? Have you ever hated something so much that it made you de...