I'd like to introduce to you a good buddy of mine, Tera Lynn Childs. I read her in a contest years ago and thought this girl is good! I love it when I'm right. She sold shortly later.
Welcome to Killer Fiction, Tera!
Crime Scene Christie
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All my life I’ve been a pretty daring girl. In kindergarten, I walked home through downtown Montreal. At seventeen, I moved to New York for college. I have plans to visit, well, everywhere. But even I have limits. Things I don’t want to try, like skydiving and eating chocolate-covered insects (definitely not simultaneously). Like my mental list of places I will never, ever drive. Delhi. Bangkok. Paris. England. Sometimes limits change, though. Here’s how I wound up on the road in one of my no-drive zones...
On my first trip to England I had an astonishingly short can’t-leave-without-seeing-it-list: Bodiam Castle. This storybook stronghold had been an obsession since I first saw a picture of it’s crenellated towers, lilypad-filled moat, and bucolic setting. (Yeah, I never thought I’d use the word “bucolic” properly in a sentence, either.)
There was just one problem. Bodiam is kind of in the middle of nowhere. To get there using public transport would require three busses, a train, and a caravan of pack mules. I didn’t have time for that kind of expedition, which left me with one terrifying but unavoidable option: I had to rent a car.
Okay, I thought as I headed for the car rental company. I can do this. It’s for Bodiam.
The clerk handed over the keys and I faced my fear--a bright blue Ford that could fit in my bathtub. Deep breaths. This wouldn’t be so bad. I was already on the south side of London. All I had to do was head further south and slightly east. I had maps and everything.
Then I climbed behind the wheel. Instead of a nice little stick on the steering column, there was a scary big stick between the seats. (No, not that kind of stick, gutter-dwellers.) A standard transmission. I had to drive a stick shift...with my left hand!
Calm down, I chanted. It’s for Bodiam. I knew how to drive a stick. So what if I had to manipulate it from the passenger POV? I could do this. Left hand on the stick, eyes wide with terror, I pulled out of the parking lot with the intention of heading southeast.
You know, until that moment I never realized just how disconcerting it would be to drive on the other side of the road. Since I was already in the flow of traffic, I had two choices: A) drive headlong into an oncoming vehicle, or B) follow another car nose-to-bumper.
My chosen bumper headed northwest. Away from my destination. But heading the wrong way was preferable to a head-on collision, so I followed. By the time I reached the M25, a big loop around metro London, I had the shifting and the driving on the left thing down. Success! Finally, I was on my way to Bodiam at moderate speed.
As everyone else zipped by at mach ten, I tried to convince my brain that the slow lane (where I definitely belonged) was on the left. My brain disagreed. I kept checking my rearview mirror, expecting some jaunty Englishman in an cherry red MG to barrel into my backside, only to find myself staring out the driver’s side window at the sky above since--aaargh!--the rearview was on the left, too! But no matter how many times I told myself to check left--left, left, left!--my brain stubbornly refused to believe.
Finally, after navigating through tiny villages on rural roads so narrow even my bathtub-sized car felt like a squeeze, I found the road to Bodiam. My heart raced like I was meeting the man of my dreams, my own medieval knight in shining limestone. The castle came into view! I pulled over (on the right, sigh) to snap a few pictures from a distance, then sped on to the entrance.
I screeched the bathtub to a halt. A long rusty chain sagged across the drive, a big brown sign hanging low over the dirt:
“All rural National Trust properties are closed due to hoof and mouth disease.”
Nooo, I screamed (in my head--this was the bucolic English countryside, after all). After everything I’d done for Bodiam, this was my reward? All that arguing with my brain and shifting with my left and finding sky where the rearview should be, just so I could shoot a fuzzy snapshot across a sheep-filled field from half a mile away?
Seven years later I’m still a little bitter. (Can ya tell?) I got to see other wonderful things--like the picturesque ruins of Pevensey and the pastel-colored resort town of St Leonards-on-Sea--but my dream castle was still (literally) a distant dream.
At least I have a reason to go back. Bodiam--and England’s drivers--had better be ready, because next time I’m taking the fast lane!
~Tera Lynn Childs
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Posted by Christie Craig at 9:08 AM