3rd A Driving Lesson

A Driving Lesson

‘Don’t fuss, Judy. All brothers tease. It just means he loves you.’

I tried to accept this assessment in the face of overwhelming evidence. When I was three, Gary would knock me off my tricycle and scream, ‘Cry baby!’. Later he announced loudly and falsely to my Grade Two classmates that I was a bed-wetter. If I couldn’t find a sufficiently recondite hiding place, he’d steal my allowance. When I was thirteen, I had an almost secret crush on a boy in my class. This one-sided romance was promptly quashed when Gary lied to the entire school, claiming that I’d forced a kiss on my unwitting suitor.

By the time I was fourteen, I realised that my friends’ brothers were, for the most part, loyal and supportive. They genuinely loved their little sisters. That meant that Gary was nothing but a bully. He never said a kind word to me, if a gruff, snarling one came to mind.

My parents didn’t get it. They thought Gary should teach me to drive. This was more of an exercise in sarcasm on his side, and swallowing my pride on my side. I couldn’t wait to earn my licence and avoid driving with him ever again.

My last lesson with him was driving at night. Our parents were out, and Gary seized his chance. He had me drive to another suburb and park. ‘Stay here, Squirt. I’ll come out when I’m ready,’ he sneered. He entered a house from which loud pop music blared. I sat in the car, contemplating a long walk home. Hours later I was bursting and sneaked in the house to find a loo. When I came out, a boy thrust a Bundy-Coke in my hand. ‘Drink up!’ he slurred. I was thirsty, and angry with Gary, so I drank. Then I sneaked back to the car and fell asleep.

In the pre-dawn hours, Gary noisily got in the car. ‘Let’s go, Squirt,’ he commanded. With the extreme caution of the learner driver, I drove for home. Inevitably, we were stopped by a RBT check. I barely registered, but learners must have a zero blood-alcohol reading. I didn’t remember that in the learner-drivers’ manual. It hardly mattered, though. As a learner, I wasn’t considered responsible, but Gary was squarely in it up to his neck. As my supervisor he was fined for letting me drive under the influence. Then the police breath tested him. He was fined a heap of money, and he lost his licence for six months for being in charge of a motor vehicle while heavily intoxicated. Served him right!

Of course he had to tell Mum and Dad. They were furious with him for taking me out on a drink-driving spree. I breathed a sigh of relief when Dad announced that he’d finish my driving instruction. My seventeenth birthday rolled around and Dad went with me to sit my practical test. Naturally, I passed on the first try.

By then, I was finally old enough to fight back against years of bastardisation. I considered arson, vandalism, public shaming and theft. In the end, I did nothing. Revenge just isn’t my style, besides which Gary had moved in with friends. Without a car, he needed to live closer to TAFE and his job sites in order to complete his apprenticeship.

On my eighteenth birthday, Gary was invited home for a celebratory lunch. Gary didn’t even bother to give me a present. He came over, just to get a free feed. While we enjoyed a coffee in the lounge room, Dad slipped away. Minutes later the cheerful hooting of a car horn lured us out front. A Suzuki hatch rolled into the driveway with a balloon waving from the aerial. Dad jumped out and threw some paper confetti in the air. He and Mum yelled ‘Happy Birthday, Judy!’. Speechless, I stared at my birthday present. I struggled to believe that this beautiful car was mine. I babbled an incoherent thank you.

Gary, ungracious as usual, complained that he hadn’t been given a car. ‘We had money put aside for your first car, Gary,’ Mum said. ‘But when you lost your licence, we decided that you lacked sufficient maturity for car ownership.’

Dad took over. ‘And I wasn’t keen on rewarding your churlish behaviour toward Judy with a car. You might consider turning over a new leaf, Gary. Life would be a lot rosier if we treated one another with mutual respect.’

Furious to see himself as others saw him, Gary stormed out of the house without a word.

I had a very enjoyable drive around the block before we sat down to my birthday lunch.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold, especially when he wasn’t harmed. I simply got more than he did.

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