A Little Fiction – Excerpt from Another Unfinished Novel (Dinah and Shaw part 1)

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

‘Are you absolutely certain you know what you are doing?’ said Dinah, aware, for the first time, that she was gripping the seat rather more firmly than was strictly necessary. Shaw thought for a moment. He raised his eyes to the sky, without moving his head and breathed in sharply.
‘Certain is a very strong word,’ he said. ‘Can we ever truly be certain? I’m not sure…’
‘But you have a pretty good idea, right?’
‘I have a good idea of what I’m doing,’ he said after a pause that was just a beat too long for Dinah’s liking. ‘Only by dint of the fact that I am doing it. Whatever it is that I am doing, I know that I am doing it. Whether I’m doing it correctly, well, that’s a whole different bucket of frogs. Besides,’ he ploughed on, having gained the kind of momentum that, like the Queen Mary at full steam, meant that stopping was both protracted and cumbersome. ‘There are no prizes for doing things right.’
‘I think you’ll find there are,’ said Dinah.
‘Well, yes,’ agreed Shaw after a pause for reflection, ‘but not necessarily the kind of prize that we would like…’
Dinah pushed hard on a brake that did not exist on her side of the footwell. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ she squawked, aware that any prize, however fanciful, would be preferable to an untimely death. ‘Do you think we could possibly stick to the right side of the road?’
Shaw peered exaggeratedly into the distance. ‘Well yes,’ he replied when, eventually, he was happy that his point had been made. ‘Which side would that be?’
‘Just choose one that doesn’t have vehicles hurtling towards us,’ she shrieked, attempting to fold herself into the glove compartment.
‘I mean,’ continued Shaw, ‘it’s all subjective, isn’t it? There is no right or wrong is there? Only opinion…’
Dinah swallowed hard. ‘I would really rather like it if you went along with the majority view. At least,’ she said, ‘until you manage to drop below a hundred miles an hour.’
Shaw glanced down at the dashboard dials. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘that’s what that is… What’s that flashing?’
‘I think it is a tiny piece of the car’s AI that has managed to retain its sanity and is questioning why you are still in third gear.’
Shaw gazed questioningly at the gearstick. ‘It’s not automatic?’ he asked. Dinah shook her head in answer, as a rigor-like grimace fused itself to her face. Shaw, uncertain of how to approach the gear change, lifted his foot slightly from the accelerator and the car began to slow a little. Dinah peered out from between her knees. ‘Where are we going anyway?’ she asked, hampered only by the fact that her tongue had become welded to the roof of her mouth.
‘I’m, not certain,’ said Shaw. ‘I normally decide that when I get there.’
‘So, how do you know when you’ve arrived?’ She persisted.
‘Well, if I wasn’t there, I’d be somewhere else, wouldn’t I?’ Shaw looked at her as if it was, just possibly, the most stupid question he had ever been asked.
Dinah blushed slightly; embarrassed but affronted and, therefore defiant. ‘So, what if you arrive somewhere that you’re not meant to be?’ she asked.
‘Not meant to be?’ Shaw, again, looked confused. ‘Where you are,’ he said, ‘is where you are meant to be – although not,’ he paused for effect, ‘not necessarily where you had aimed to be.’
‘But how then,’ Dinah groped on, ‘do you know that you will find what you’re looking for?’
‘Looking for?’ Shaw, himself, looked alarmed now. ‘Who actually ever knows what they’re looking for?’
‘But your advert,’ said Dinah, hunting through her pockets for the scrap of paper. ‘It says that you specialise in finding things: missing people, missing pets…’
‘I do,’ he protested. ‘Although what I find is not always what I thought I was looking for.’
‘But how do you know what’s lost?’
‘We’re all lost,’ he answered. ‘Somehow…’
Dinah eased herself back into her seat, happy, for the first time, that the car was travelling at a reasonable speed and roughly in the same direction as all the other vehicles. This was without question the weirdest job interview she had ever been on and, having assumed some kind of self-control, she decided that it was time to get a grip on the conversation. ‘So,’ she began, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there, why do you even need an assistant?’
‘To assist me,’ he replied, deliberately trying to inflect an unsaid ‘Doh!’ into the words.
‘To do what?’ she persisted.
‘Whatever I’m doing.’
Dinah realised that she was on a road to nowhere and tried a new tack. ‘What’s the rate of pay?’ she asked.
‘Pay?’ Shaw was shocked. ‘What for?’
‘You advertised for an assistant.’
‘I know,’ he said, ‘but not an employee.’
‘You expect somebody to assist you for free?’
‘Only for as long as they want to.’ He passed her a mint which she unwrapped and placed in her mouth, deep in thought.
‘Erm, I thought,’ he said, only a little petulantly, ‘that you would unwrap that for me.’
‘Oh,’ she mumbled, fishing the sweet out of her mouth. ‘Do you want it?’
He looked at it in her hand, glistening with saliva, and was tempted, but, ‘No,’ he replied. ‘It’s fine.’
Dinah, meanwhile, had made a decision. She realised that somehow, via a process she did not fully understand, she had, herself, found something for which she did not realise she was searching. ‘Alright,’ she said. ‘I’ll be your assistant.’
‘Good,’ said Shaw, now taking the half-sucked sweet from her and popping it into his own mouth. ‘But, in future, you’ll have to be a bit more careful with the mints…’

If you have enjoyed Dinah and Shaw, their little story now has a part two a part three and now a part four

6 thoughts on “A Little Fiction – Excerpt from Another Unfinished Novel (Dinah and Shaw part 1)

Comments are closed.