Alphonso Morales started his day beside himself with excitement. It was his eighteenth birthday and his father had presented him with vouchers for lessons with a driving school in the town. Predictably, his father had rushed out of the house before he could adequately thank him.
“Make sure you’re ready,” Alphonso’s mother said to him at breakfast, “señorita Villanueva at the school called yesterday and told us that they have made you the first pupil of the day for señor Guiterrez, their most experienced and respected instructor. He will be here by ten o’clock.”
“Ish. You should know that it is an honour to be taught by their best man. They usually save him for their most important client families. Youngsters are normally taught by more junior staff.”
“¿Why do I have this honour, Momia?”
“Your father has helped many people in this town Al, and some important men owe him favours, including the owner of the school.”
“¿Has this to do with what Malena calls her special evenings when she works hard and comes home looking extra tired?”
“You may very well think that, Fonsi. I couldn’t possibly comment.”
Alphonso smiled at his mother, rose from the table, planted a kiss on her forehead and said, “I’ll get ready, Momia. Thank you so much for my birthday gift.”
“De nada bebé,” she replied.
Scowling a little at what he saw as his mother’s continuing infantilising of him, he went to his room and changed into his going-out-in-public clothes, returning moments later and presenting himself for his mother’s inspection.
“¿Will I do, Momia?”
“You’ll have to. Señor Guiterrez is outside. Go!”
Alphonso barely heard his mother shout good luck to him as he ran to the car. The instructor scooted across to the front passenger seat and signalled to his pupil to get in the driver’s side.
“Jump in, Alphonso and listen carefully whilst I explain to you what we need to do.”
“Thank you, señor Guiterrez,” the teenager said, taking his place behind the steering wheel.
“If we are going to spend a lot of time together, my young friend, and I think we are, we can be more familiar. My given name is Bartolomeo, but you can call me Buddy.”
“Thank you, Buddy. You can call me Al.”
“¿Not Fonsi or Pancho?”
“My parents call me Fonsi, my teachers in school call me Pancho, but my friends call me Al. I prefer that.”
“Because it sounds like an American name, and everybody knows anything American is cool.”
“I may have to disagree with you on that, though I know young people think it. I have to admit, I did too when I was your age.”
“¿But you don’t now?”
“Indeed not. If you look below the surface you’ll find that no country is as good as it is claimed to be. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses. Now, let’s find yours. It’s time for you to start the engine.”
Sr Guiterrez… sorry, Buddy talked Alphonso through the rudiments of starting the engine, getting into gear and moving off. Under his direction, Alphonso set the car in motion and started driving along the residential road where he lived with his family. By the time he had mastered the clutch and gearbox, the pair were barreling along in second gear at a speed approaching fifteen kilometres per hour.
Alphonso was quick to pick things up and it wasn’t too long before they were travelling at a speed that wasn’t a massive inconvenience to other road users. Rounding a bend in the road, they came across a serious hold-up.
“Slow down, Al, and bring the car to a stop behind the grey car in front.” Al did as he was told and, remembering what his instructor had said earlier, applied the handbrake and placed the gearbox into neutral.
“Stay there, Al,” he said opening his door and stepping out of the car, “I’ll see if I can find out what’s causing the hold-up. In fact, switch the engine off. It looks like we’ll be here for a while.”
“¿But what if we start to move again? I can’t drive without you in the car beside me.”
Buddy ignored him and went to speak to other drivers, returning a couple of minutes later.
“It seems,” he said, “that there’s been an escape from the circus. The councillors and all the staff of the council chamber have had to evacuate and are blocking the road. They’re saying something about an elephant in the room.”
This was written in response to Kreative Kue 247 published on this site.