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Image by Jozsef Hocza

The Case of the Disappearing Keys

(c) Linda Hutchison April 2020

I had my father to thank for many things, but the latest was for teaching me how to stop my car’s engine without turning off the ignition. As its newly-chromed bumper rested precariously an inch away from the unforgiving bluestone gutter, I reluctantly dropped the clutch and the engine shuddered to a halt. I stared at the empty slot in the dashboard where my keys should have been and shook my head in disbelief. This 1958 Morris Minor had placed me in many uncomfortable predicaments, and the latest just happened to be in Church Street, Richmond on a Saturday. Miraculously I’d found a parking spot. I texted my father the lemon and face palm icons which he knew meant the car had had its own wilful way again and climbed out of the driver’s seat. He’d wait for the alien and skull to appear before coming to get me.

As I scanned the road that I’d just travelled, and my eyes followed the ribbon of white that marked the centre line, I thought back to our past adventures. I couldn’t decide if the rust blocking the petrol filter on a busy Sunday afternoon on the Punt Road hill, or a large huntsman at eye level heading to work up High Street in Preston was the worst experience, or perhaps it was the starter motor seizing twice in peak hour at a major intersection. Then again, there was that time the motor cut out halfway across Station Street in Box Hill and I had to coast up onto the footpath, coming to rest neatly in front of the Real Estate Agent’s. Thank God it was a very small car.

The road seemed clear for several hundred meters up the hill, so I started walking up the apron. The pink diamante unicorn key ring that my niece had insisted on was suddenly a blessing as it leapt into view with the reflection of the afternoon sun. I dodged a cyclist or two and a large semitrailer and retrieved my keys from the bitumen. Turning downhill, I strolled back slowly to admire the quirky chameleon change of the champagne-violet pigment on the curves of my beloved Morry. I smiled with relief and affection. For months, I’d ended up with wet feet whenever I’d driven in the rain. I’d had the windows resealed and tested, but the leak persisted. The sudden disappearance of my keys had solved the mystery. It turns out that the water had come from under the car – splashing through a split in the rubber boot over my gear-stick. And that’s where my key ring, overladen with its diamante unicorn, had dropped when I’d bumped my way down Church Street – straight out of the ignition, through the hole in the rubber as I changed gear, and onto the road. For once, the car and I agreed. The unicorn had to go.


The Case of the Disappearing Keys: Work
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