Code of the Road

Oh dear, this is my second attempt at a story for this week’s Friday Fictioneers, the excellent site facilitated by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/ . Like the first attempt it was triggered by the photo prompt below, which was kindly provided by C.E.Ayr.  Originally I had what I thought was a reasonable story that made sense, but it was slightly too long.  It seems that by cutting it down to 100 words, I created confusion. I’m sorry about that. I considered leaving the story untouched or taking it down, but have opted instead to tweak it.  This might be classed as cheating, as it’s not really flash fiction any more.  However, I forced myself to keep to exactly 100 words, by way of penance.  If it’s still unintelligible, please see my reply to Rochelle’s comment.

Thank you for the comments – I’ve learned from them.

PHOTO PROMPT © C.E. Ayr

Code of the Road (100 words)

Christine studied the Government recycling number.  The metal must be from a Chrysler Valiant Charger E48, once legendary in Australia.  Now that car was like Christine.  Brash, high maintenance and stuck in a body that only attracted unwanted attention.  Both had taken different names when they’d moved to America.  Rebadging hadn’t helped, though.  They’d never fit in.

Christine realized her shoes looked ridiculous. Size 12 but tight.

As a recycled object herself, what would her number be? Shortening Christopher would be ambiguous – they might use “MAN”. The number was obvious – “ZERO”.

She walked away barefoot, wondering who to be tomorrow.

 

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25 Responses to Code of the Road

  1. Dear John,

    My parents bought a 1960 Valiant. I’d almost forgotten about that car.
    I’m a little baffled by Christine. Is she transgender? Size 13 is a big shoe for either sex. Your story intrigues me.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Like

    • JS Brand says:

      Dear Rochelle,
      Oops – it seems I got it badly wrong with this one. I know stories are like jokes (if you have to explain them, you should start again), but I feel obliged to try to account for myself.
      Yes, I had it in mind that Christine had once been Christopher, but that she hadn’t proceeded to gender reassignment yet. I hoped that giving Christopher, rather than Christine, as the starting point for her “recycled object code”, together with the reference to size 13 shoes and the earlier mention of “being trapped in a body…” would make that clear, but I was over-confident.
      The number E48 immediately rang a bell as being linked to a car. I put that together with the labelling some manufacturers put on products made from recycled materials (this bench was made from 3,000 recycled plastic cups etc) and imagined that a future government might introduce a requirement to show the origin of all manufactured items. So, E48 showed that the metal grating had been made from a recycled Chrysler Valiant Charger E48. Only car geeks would know about the E48 bit, but the name related to a car sold in Australia from 1971 onwards. As far as I know the Valiant Sedan was sold in the US as a Plymouth, but I don’t think there was a US version called the Charger. Perhaps the Dodge Charger was related, but I don’t know. Petrol-heads, please note – I don’t profess to be an expert.
      In the longer story that I had in my head, the Chrysler Valiant Charger would struggle to fit in to 21st century America because its environmental credentials are appalling by modern standards and its body size and shape are out of line with what people want in an everyday car. It might be accepted if it was a proper American muscle car or an exotic European supercar, but it’s neither of those.
      Whilst I wouldn’t want to make a crude comparison between a car and a person, I felt Christopher/Christine might feel like an outsider for some of the same reasons, i.e. those on the surface which draw attention and comments, rather than because of internal factors that people often don’t consider. I realise that talking about a person “recycling” himself is a bit crude, but “reinvention” and “rebirth” don’t quite fit the bill either, as a person’s previous life can’t be erased. Perhaps the size 13 shoes were too much of an exaggeration. I know not all male to female transgendered people are huge, but I also know that for a significant proportion of people height and build have a negative impact on trying to fit in, partly but not only because they make it difficult to find clothes that look right.
      Having decided that Christine thought society might view her as a recycled version of Christopher, I got her to consider what her governmental recycling code would be. As with E48, her code would have at least one letter (MAN – because that’s how she’d been born) and at least one number (ZERO, because other people made her feel like that’s what she was).
      On reflection I was never going to get this across in 100 words, but I think it was worth a try.
      Thank you for giving me a reality check.
      John

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with Rochelle here although we had a 1948 Plymouth.

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  3. Is Christine actually Chistopher? I’m assuming so. I absolutely loved how you compared the car and the person, and this line especially: ‘stuck in a body that couldn’t hide in a crowd’. I was a bit confused by ‘metal’ at the start, but presumably piece of a car?

    Like

    • JS Brand says:

      Hi Claire and thank you for your comment. Yes, Christine used to be Christopher and I’m slightly worried that she might head back that way as things haven’t worked out the way she wished they would. Sorry about the ambiguity re the metal – it was meant to refer to the grating over the drain. I think I took the “flash” in flash fiction too literally this time and created a confusing story with too many aspects that weren’t clear. It’s probably against the grain to have done so, but I’ve tweaked the post to try to make it clearer. I might not have succeeded.

      Like

  4. ceayr says:

    I confess that not only Christine, but your whole story, baffled me.
    But, to be fair, I am quite easily baffled.

    Like

    • JS Brand says:

      Mea culpa. I’ve always wanted to use that expression, in circumstances that wouldn’t lead to a custodial sentence.
      I’ve probably broken a golden rule of flash fiction writing, but I’ve tweaked the story to try to make it clearer. I can’t promise it’s worked.

      Like

  5. Your story was a little hard to follow. I read it a couple of times but I think I understand that Christine is reinventing herself? himself? again? Either way, I wouldn’t want to try and find size 13 shoes! 😉

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    • JS Brand says:

      Hi Courtney. I realise now that the story was hard to follow (due to excessive haste on my part) and I’m glad you still figured out what I was trying to say. I’ve tweaked the post slightly in the hope that anyone else who chances upon it won’t be flummoxed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was interesting. I liked the idea of the recycling number. Is this something that is actually done in Australia or fiction. And I get the impression Christine is recycled as a trans-sexual?

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  7. JS Brand says:

    Thank you. I made up the idea of the recycling number, as a progression from the practice of stating the source of some products, e.g. for things made from recycled plastic it’s not unusual for there to be a label indicating which plastic items have been recycled to make them. I think it’s a worthwhile attempt to encourage people to use recycling facilities. The addition of a number and a record somewhere would be unnecessarily complicated, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a bureaucrat somewhere hasn’t thought about it (I’m not sure what that says about me!).
    Yes, Christine is a recycled Christopher, although I feel a bit uncomfortable using that term.

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  8. Dale says:

    After having read the comments, I understood! That said, I loved the idea behind your story and look forward to your next ones as well!

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  9. Arl's World says:

    Very creative take! 🙂

    Like

  10. gahlearner says:

    I haven’t read the original, but this one was clear to me on first read, and broke my heart a little, too. It’s sad and beautifully told, I think. The comparison of the imported car and the imported man/woman who both didn’t find what they sought is powerful, IMO. I feel sad for Christopher, the last line is especially sad and says all about the treatment of those who’d like to be themselves, but don’t fit ‘the norm’.
    I don’t think editing is cheating, but if you don’t want to confuse your readers, you could leave both versions up.

    Like

    • JS Brand says:

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking the time to send this thoughtful and positive comment. I like the suggestion about leaving up the old and new versions, but the first one was never quite right; I think it needs to stay in the cyber waste bin.

      Like

  11. I found it very good but sad. She is having to become a new identity each day, simply (in my opinion) in an attempt to accept her/his self because of what society thinks the “self” should be. I may be way off base on my thoughts here but that’s what I got from it. Very good!!

    Like

  12. JS Brand says:

    Thank you. You’re pretty close to base.

    Like

  13. Sometimes it is good to come late to the party. I got your story and it is so painful and poignant. Your parallel between recycled car parts and humans strikes a hard punch. Well delivered!

    Like

  14. Margaret says:

    I love your concept – and I think ‘recycled’ is a great adjective for Christopher/ine’s experience. You’ve covered so much ground! No wonder you struggled with word limits in this one. I think the meaning’s clear, although I didn’t read the original version. It’s a very touching story that gets to the heart of your character’s situation and dilemma.

    Liked by 1 person

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