After three months of weaving carefully around the cars on his street he decided to do something about them. He’d moved into the house because the road was relatively free of vehicles. Some of the main roads were impassable, cars in the margins and cars in the middle, forcing him to take to the footpaths. Which the weather was, in turn, filling will soil and branches at an alarming rate. He wondered often how long more the bicycle would be a feasible mode of transport. He’d cut it off a lamppost in St. Stephen’s Green. It had taken him two hours with a hacksaw.
He began by testing the engines of all of those cars in the middle of the street that still had keys in them. A dozen or so, surprisingly, started without issue after months unused. Throwing his bike into the back seat of each one, he drove them in meandering, traffic-avoiding routes to an empty six-storey car-park across the river. He then cycled back to his street and tried the next one.
Once those had been cleared he tried the front doors of his neighbouring houses, collecting the keys from each hall table into a canvas bag and then matching them with their likely partner on the road. Another dozen or so cars were cleared this way. Following that he was reduced to those vehicles without keys, or with flattened tyres or dead engines.
It took a couple of hours of searching before he located a working tow truck at the edge of the city. A clamper’s truck with a near empty tank that he refilled by syphoning diesel from nearby buses. He spent a slow few days dragging dead cars across the river, bike strapped to his front grill, just in case, radio set endlessly scanning the airwaves, just in case. He found the white noise from the speakers comforting.
After a few days his street was cleared and by the end of the week he’d cleared a few hundred metres of the road into the city centre. He couldn’t believe how clean the thoroughfare looked without vehicles. What began as a semi-constructive enterprise had taken on slightly obsessive properties. He was aware that he indulged his own whim; a longstanding dislike of cars and traffic. But why shouldn’t he treat the city like his own? He wondered whether he should go back to foraging food, but the many spare rooms of his Georgian house were stacked with more dried and tinned food than he would eat in five years.
So he kept going, switching car-parks once he’d filled the first one. In the evenings he walked along his cleaned blocks and appreciated the bird-filled trees overhanging the road and the rabbits chewing at the grass coming up through the cracking concrete. He allowed himself two rabbits a week. Picked off, overly tame, with his shotgun. He was minding his cholesterol, opting for tuna or peanut butter on other days. This was the last piece of medical advice he’d been given, he clung to it like driftwood.
When his widening circle grew to include the small Huguenot Cemetery he found himself crossing himself each time he passed, out of old habit or something like it. Who was he blessing? he wondered. It seemed absurd to defer only towards those whose absence he could account for. Should he be crossing himself on every road in the city? The country? He imagined digging up the graves to see if there were bones still in them. He was afraid that there would be, but more afraid that there wouldn’t.