Time continues to slip away; the sun, too. It’s nearing dusk, and the shifting temperatures can be felt emanating off the swaying trees as the wind starts to pick up. Somewhere in between it fully setting, and our initial arrival to Josh’s car, which has been parked along the curb, halfway up the hill where our apartment is, we are approached by a young man. He cautiously advises that we step out of the vehicle while he and his friends unhinge their own car from another one just like it. Together, the two make a T; they appear to have collided on the hill, some time earlier.
Rendered effectively numb to the sight of crushed cars by now, we have been casually watching this group work, commenting occasionally on their precarious approach, which begins and ends with them unknowingly digging themselves deeper into the trenches by slamming on the gas, time and time again, effectively turning those sheets of snow into slabs of ice in a matter of seconds. At last, one simple question can’t be avoided any longer: do you need help?
Well, sure. But how? asks the girl who has been directing the boys. A quick reach in his backseat, and Josh plucks a broken cricket bat out, waving it in the air.
We will use this, he says.
There’s an addled look exchanged by the couple; they shrug and then let Josh take charge. Chipping away with the cricket bat, my friend is now down on his knees, beside the wheel bearings as they continue to spin; alas, there appears to be progress. We see the first vehicle begin to swing, finding its footing on the freshly packed snow, before it frees itself from the other and flings itself down the hill, as if it were a rock shot from a sling shot. The other vehicle is still stationary, stuck horizontally on the slope; finally, the force of four grown humans heaving it in one direction overtakes the insidious elements, freeing it, too, from its idle position, sending it soaring downhill on a prayer.
Well, the girl says, once the charade is through. I think I might need an IV filled with tequila after that one.
I nod, laughing as I echo the sentiment. She apologizes for the hostility that riddled our initial introduction, and thanks us for our time. I did not take it personally, but found it peculiar that she at first brushed off my offering of help with a simple, cold, ‘no’.
As Josh and I begin to break off from these strangers, though, we see a lone Range Rover stuck, wedged against a stone mailbox from one of the massive homes across the street. It seems to have occurred in the short time we were watching the vehicles tumble uncontrollably down the hill. A bearded man wearing a puffy designer jacket is behind the wheel of the Rover, a giant bulldog panting beside him. He dons an expression that teeters between distraught and being detached entirely from the outside world; he’s still scrolling his phone when one of us walks up, knocking on the glass.
Do you need help?
He’s startled. Well, yes. But I didn’t want to ask, because I didn’t want any of you to get hurt.
One moment, Josh says. He returns, waving his cricket bat.
Wait, is that a cricket bat? the man bellows out, beaming now.
Yes sir, Josh calls back.
Ha! I was stationed over in England for four years, the man chortles. Never could make sense of the game…
Well, now it’s helping you out, Josh cracks, sharing a laugh with the man.
One, two, three, all four of us, down on our knees, doing everything in our power to muster the strength to shove this massive SUV just far enough to become unstuck from its slanted position.
You guys have to be careful, the man insists, as he revs the engine. One of us could easily become trapped in between his fender and the mailbox, if the momentum suddenly surges, sending his vehicle into a state of free-will. The adrenaline, however, raging through one’s body, is too great to overcome, effectively rendering any possibility of danger to be real. After a few vehement efforts, we are finally able to free the vehicle; but, much to this man’s foresight, the sudden suspension of control sends it swinging uncontrollably. There is a sudden crash. Glass shatters, the four of us gasp.
What was that? the fellow chokes out, as he suddenly finds himself free, floating on the patch of ice before finding a footing on the slab of ice.
’Your rear window…’ the girl replies anxiously.
That’s it? the driver asks. We nod silently. Is everyone OK?
We nod again, watching as this man and his vehicle quickly nose dive down the hill, gradually gaining and then losing control as it swings over the solid ice. Not total control, though. There are more shared gasps as we glimpse the near grazings of other cars as this massive SUV barrels downhill, barely holding traction. I feel myself biting my hand, hardly able to watch. But, eventually he is free. Because of us, four strangers with seemingly nothing else to do.
At the bottom of the hill, the man inexplicably slams on the breaks, right before another near collision with an abandoned car nearby. One of the guys calls out, Don’t stop now!
But mere seconds later, the driver is standing outside of his Range Rover, swinging in the air a glass bottle.
Here! the man shouts. Take this! It’s some random bottle of vodka I bought. It’s yours! Thank you!
A shared laugh amongst the group, before we exchange apprehensive glances.
I’m not taking that, the girl says. Do you guys want it?
Josh and I look at one another. I shake my head, and so does he.
After biding a vague farewell, our group disbands. Josh and I return to the car, where we blast the heat and bask in the sequence of events that just happened. Not ten minutes pass, however, before my friend looks up, and casually says he wants to go check on the man, just to make sure that his SUV did not get stuck on the next hill, which stands between us and the interstate. Peculiar, his idea appears, but I agree to wait while Josh goes on his way. Another five minutes pass before Josh returns, clutching under his arm the bottle of liquor. Its frosted over and fully sealed; we smirk at the sudden turn of fortune.
It would be rude not to drink this, right? says Josh, grinning as he snaps the seal and takes a sip.