Writing Prompt: Dr Who on the Highway

Walter had his foot flat to the floor but still the car behind him beeped. Short, staccato slaps on the horn to register disapproval at his driving speed. He pressed down on the accelerator again but it made no difference. If anything, the speedo was slipping backwards. Now the horn behind him was continuous, a whimpering wail of displeasure. Walter watched cars speeding past; all four lanes were chockers. Damn Sydney traffic. There was no such thing as a quiet Sunday drive anymore.

A glimpse in the rearview mirror showed the empurpled face of the driver behind him. In the interests of self-preservation, Walter flicked his blinker on and limped onto the next shoulder on the highway. He was barely off the road when a half-eaten carton of fast food landed with a thump on his bonnet, along with a stream of vindictive comments about his parentage as the car that had been behind him finally passed by.

Walter shut his eyes and folded himself around the steering wheel. He only just resisted the temptation to rock himself back and forth. He had to pull himself together. He was a doctor, a respected academic. He shouldn’t be so bothered by a little light road rage.

After a minute or two, he felt calmer. He turned the car off, listening to the ticking of the engine as traffic hurtled past. He wound down a window then opened the door, climbing out into the hot summer morning. He walked around his old dark green Toyota Corona. He loved his car. Every scratch and scrape had a story. So what if it couldn’t speed along like the more modern cars?

His kids mocked his attachment to Betty, as he called her. Every now and then they’d badger him to upgrade, to get something with air conditioning that worked all year round rather than intermittent heat in winter. And power steering. Imagine! When he said he couldn’t afford it they laughed at him. A Professor of Business Finance should drive something better. He’d respond with a detailed treatise on depreciation and asset values until they gave it up as a lost cause.

He headed over to a scrap of shade. He’d wait a minute or two before getting back on the road with Betty. It was his usual Sunday pilgrimage to visit Mother. Years ago the kids would join him for the drive, but as they’d gotten older they were less interested in visiting their grandmother. At times he didn’t blame them. Even he could see she was hard work.

A loud, shrill sound carried over the traffic noise and Walter stepped back to the car to grab the phone from the car door. Was he late? Mother called if he was less than punctual.

‘Hello?’

‘Is that Doctor Who?’

‘Yes.’

‘Really?’

Walter sighed. This old chestnut. ‘This is Doctor Walter Who speaking. Who is calling?’

‘Sorry, Doctor. We weren’t sure if it was a real name. Sometimes people are a little, well, creative when they fill out their entries.’

‘Entries? What’s this all about?’ Walter frowned, glancing at his watch. He needed to get back on the road or he’d be late.

‘Beg your pardon. My name is Ellie Fraser, and I’m calling on behalf of the Red Cape Fundraising Committee. I have some good news for you.’

‘The what? I don’t know anything about a fundraiser.’

‘But you bought a winning ticket, Dr Who. In our fundraising lottery. You’ve won a brand new car!’

‘What?’ Walter dragged a hand through his receding hair.

‘You’ve won a Kia Picanto. It’s the first prize in our lottery.’

Walter shook his head. He rarely bought lottery tickets, knowing what he did about the statistical chance of winning anything. But there were some tickets that his mother had asked him to buy. Funds were being raised for a new bus for outings in her retirement village. He’d paid scant attention to the prizes and had paid for a book of tickets simply to please her.

And now, with all of this kerfuffle, he’d be late. Mother would never forgive him.

This piece was written as part of a writing group activity. We each selected cards at random for setting (a busy highway), time (a hot summer morning), character (Dr Who), situation (a lottery win) and theme (forgiveness). It was challenging but fun to try and incorporate these elements in a writing prompt activity with the timer ticking away.

[Photo: writing workbook]

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