Thursday, 12 February 2009 - 4:18 pm

Balancing act

The hardest part was popping the back open. It was lucky that we had decided to steal hatchbacks – we had chosen them for their size, but now the hatch offered an escape route. Sally tore the tray out to clear the way, and then everyone inside was clambering towards us, very carefully.

The kids moved into the boot itself, while Thorpe and Sax made their way over their seats into the back. The rest of us were all pushing the bumper down. We had no rope or chain to use to anchor or lash the car with; all we had was ourselves.

There was a mad scrabble when the car slid forward a few inches, metal screeching against concrete. Everyone held on until it was steady again, and then those inside moved one at a time, very carefully. One leg out, then the other. Sally’s the lightest of us, so she’s the one who let go of the car to help them out. Me, I was fighting the ache drilling up my arm as we tried to hold the car in place.

The kids came out first, and Sax slid into the boot to take their place. He eased out and the car slid again. I thought it wouldn’t stop this time, but it caught on the rear wheels, leaving most of it hanging over the drop. I have scrapes all the way up my jeans from being dragged across the concrete.

Thorpe was the only one left in there. He made his way into the  back, and then suddenly there was a Nugget trying to climb back in. We were all shouting, clinging on and wondering what the hell. It wasn’t until I heard the little mew that I realised the cat was in the car. He’d found us and come along for a ride, and now he was dangling over a fifty-metre drop into a poisoned river.

The confusion was allowing the back of the car to lift, rotating up so that it could slip past the rear wheels and out of our hands. Someone picked Nugget off and tossed her back out of the way – there was no time for gentleness. I heard her crying and calling for Jones.

Thorpe was climbing out of the car, up onto the bumper. Its upswing was lifting me off my feet. We were losing. Hurry, we shouted. Jump!

I was dumped onto the ground when the car finally went. It almost took me with it. I heard it hit the concrete below, breaking something important. Then it screeched all the way down to the thick embrace of the river. It went alone – everyone had let go in time.

Thorpe had jumped just a little too late. He hadn’t made it to the road, but he had managed to grab onto Ben’s outstretched hands as the car fell out from under him. Now he was dangling over the drop and Ben was lying full-length and slipping. I grabbed his legs and shouted for the others to help. All of a sudden, there were six pairs of hands holding Ben in place.

We called for Thorpe to climb up. Ben was steady, so I went to offer a hand (I still only have one that’s of any real use). It took two of us pulling and poor Ben acting as rope, but we did it. We got him up to safety, gripped and grabbed and hauled until we all tumbled into a heap on the concrete.


All the way up, there was an orange blob attached to Thorpe’s leg. It wasn’t until he was topside that it detached and skittered away to hide in the arms of a little girl. I stared at the two of them, the kid and the stupid cat. Then I said that I thought that firemen were supposed to rescue cats from trees.

Everyone laughed. Even Thorpe. It was ragged, relieved and just a little hysterical. There were hugs and a few tears fought back.

We were okay. We had all made it. Right then, at that moment, that was all that mattered.


I leaned over the edge a little, peeking down into the sick swirl below. There wasn’t even a hint of the car; it had been swallowed whole. Then Ben pulled me back and into a hug, and I didn’t care. I was happy, I was delirious. I didn’t have enough hands to hold onto everyone on the way back to the bank, but that didn’t stop me trying.