A Catholic Monthly Magazine


by Maria Kennedy

by Maria Kennedy

Processing or displaying moral virtue.  Oxford dictionaries.com

Doing the right thing leads to a deep and satisfying happiness. Roger gets there in the end. It’s not always easy. Barbara’s goodness is in her sacrifice.

Barbara was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches to her carrot and sultana cup cakes with a generous swirl of cream cheese icing on top of each one. Her best friend Shirley was coming over and it was the first time they’d had a chance to catch up since Shirley and her husband Mike had returned from their big OE in Europe. Barbara checked the fridge for wine and took out the camembert. Barbara hoped Shirley had photos. Photos might be just the thing to get some travel enthusiasm into Roger. She’d been working on Roger for some time now but she could never get him to commit to a leaving date.

Roger put the paper down. “I know what you and Shirley will be like when you get together. I’ll get out of your way. I’ve got a couple of things I want to do in town.”

What Roger didn’t have the heart to tell Barbara yet was that he was looking to buy another car. Not just any car. He wanted a sports car convertible, painted red and with black leather seats. While the girls were jabbering it gave Roger a chance to go and have a look around the car yards. Yet he still felt a pang of guilt sneaking out like that without fully telling Barbara about what he was up to. He hoped she wouldn’t hold it against him. He just wanted to have a bit of fun. He wasn’t getting any younger and, with the invested retirement lump sum payment maturing at the end of the month, he had the opportunity to have what he had dreamt about for years. A convertible. It would mean a delay on any travel plans he and Barbara might be planning but only by a year or two, once the reinvestment matured again. It would give them plenty of time to plan.

“Suit yourself,” said Barbara. Roger could hear her irritation. “I thought you would be interested in seeing the photos.”

“What for?”

“To help us plan our overseas trip. Get some tips. Even just to get a bit excited about it all.”

“Another time,” said Roger as politely as he could.

There weren’t a great many convertible cars to choose from in the car yards. Just enough for Roger to realise there was a wide price variation between models. When it came down to it, there was only one he could even consider - a white sports model with blue vinyl seats. The mileage and list of owners were both high. But that kept the price down. The sales attendant spotted Roger peering in at the driver’s side window and offered him the chance to take it for a test drive.

“No obligation at all, sir.”Convertable car

Roger tried to make his acceptance sound casual, disinterested even, yet he couldn’t wait to lower himself in and turn the key. In neutral the engine purred. First gear was peppy, second a little stiff, but dropping down into top was like finding heaven on the highway. At first Roger was too self conscious to open up the car roof but he decided he couldn’t make up his mind unless he saw everything was in good and proper working order. This was the clincher experience that drew Roger into a kind of reverie. Yes, this is what life was all about.

He drove beyond the city boundary. The cool air was making his exposed ears painful. A new hat with low sides would fix that. Back in town, he drove around a few streets. The steering wheel was quite stiff on the corners. He could fix that too, Roger thought. Roger was just about to return to the car yard when the idea suddenly hit him. He would drive past his house. He wanted to see what it would feel like. Whether Barbara liked it or not, he was in the first steps of taking ownership of that car.

As Roger neared the familiar number eighty-seven he took the car down two gears and slowed down so he could enjoy the ride past. That’s when he saw the pair of them standing on the street verge. Barbara was saying good-bye to her friend Shirley. When Barbara looked up and recognised him, Roger watched as her mouth dropped open and her eyes locked into his. Roger parked the car two houses up and waited.keys_handover

“What are you doing in that?” Barbara’s voice sounded incredulous. Roger had the uncomfortable feeling she would have asked him the same question if he’d turned up wearing a clown costume.

“I was just taking it for a test drive. No harm done,” he added defensively.

“Since when have you wanted a convertible?” continued Barbara.

Roger let his defensive mask slip momentarily. “Since I was 16 years old. What do you think Barbara? Isn’t she a beauty? Let me take you for a drive.”

When Barbara sat in the passenger seat she felt so low down she was certain she was almost sitting on the road. And when Roger drove off she felt a cold draft of air and wished she had her jacket. “Just how do you think you are going to pay for this?”

“The retirement fund is about to mature.”

Barbara understood exactly what this meant and she sat in the car in silence. The money for the trip had just been eaten. She couldn’t believe this sudden turn in events. Had her husband lost his senses? Yet when she looked across at Roger, she saw how the car affected him. He was grinning from ear to ear in an utteringly stupid sort of way. She wondered if this was just the kind of thing that kept people “our age” alive. Roger glided into the curb outside their house and let the engine purr in neutral.

“Is this what you truly want?” she asked, meaning did he want this more than an overseas trip. “I hadn’t realised.” Barbara paused briefly and looked down at her hands. “If it will make you happy go ahead and buy it.” In typical Barbara style she added. “Really Roger, at your age.” Then she sunk her head back into the seat support and gave a laugh. Roger wasn’t sure what had amused her.

Eventually Roger returned the car to the car yard and gave the key back to the sale’s attendant. He mumbled an excuse about needing time to think it over. Roger felt confused. He was ashamed of himself, yet he was happy. He wanted the car, yet he didn’t. He was disappointed, but smiling.

Roger hadn’t expected Barbara to be so good about everything. He had gone behind her back. If he got the car then Barbara would have to wait a year or two for her much desired overseas trip. Even so, she had just given him the go- ahead. He could scarcely believe it. If he wanted to, he could buy that car. But now that he had the freedom to choose, he realised he didn’t really care. It wasn’t the car that made him truly and deeply happy but having Barbara sitting beside him when he drove.

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