Stan grabbed his clipboard and headed out to the next car to administer another driving test. He stopped short when he saw the brown deathtrap at the head of the line. It was the long-haired wizard in his Pinto.
Four years ago he’d had to fail the man a few times, and the wizard was not happy. For the next several days, Stan continuously checked his hands and face for evidence he was changing into a frog or a mushroom or a Libertarian. He shuddered at the memory.
Stan straightened his back and got into the car. Fast food wrappers littered the floor and the backseat. The wizard had an obvious obsession with Popeyes Chicken and some place called Checkers. His pool cue lay over the top of the backseat trash.
“Hello, Mr. Garbol.” He buckled. “We meet again.”
“Mr. Baker.” The wizard handed Stan the test registration form, which he tucked beneath the score sheet. “Is this really necessary?”
“Every four freaking years?”
“My father’s a ‘sir.’ Call me Garbol.”
“No mister—just Garbol.”
“As you may recall… Garbol, you had to retake the test three times last time, and you only barely passed.”
“I saved you from a twenty-foot golem!”
“And I gave you extra points for that, but you also ran through a stop sign, which should have disqualified you.”
“The golem was right behind us.”
“Mitigating circumstances, I admit. That’s why I let you pass, but it wasn’t enough to allow you to skip it this time—trust me, I wish it did.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Stan dropped his head. “Shall we get started? Please?”
Garbol put the Pinto in gear. It coughed and sputtered as he accelerated into the parking lot toward the street. Stan marked the test sheet.
“What’s that?” asked the wizard.
“No turn signal.”
“In a parking lot? You’re kidding me.”
“Please hold your questions until the end. Turn right onto the street.”
Garbol sputtered and pushed into the street.
A black-haired woman in a minivan swerved to the inside lane, narrowly avoiding a collision with the Pinto’s rear. Dropping the clipboard in his lap, Stan gripped the console and the base of the window.
“Don’t worry.” The wizard shifted into second. “This car’s warded, you know. No other vehicle can hit it. Not even intentionally.”
“Did you also know that this model of Pinto can explode if it’s rear-ended? Excuse me if I don’t count on your ward thingy.”
“Aah, you don’t have to worry about that.” The streetlight ahead turned yellow. Garbol floored the accelerator getting them into the intersection just before the light turned red. “That was legal.”
Sweat beaded on Stan’s forehead. “Turn left at the next intersection and parallel park at the first available slot next to the courthouse.”
Garbol pushed the windshield wiper lever on his right up, turned it off, then pressed the turn signal lever on his left down. The turn signal indicator light turned on and stayed on. Garbol maneuvered the car into the left turning lane and stopped at the red light.
Stan relaxed his grip in the moment of respite. “Why exactly shouldn’t I worry about your car exploding?”
“Because it already is. I got this car on the cheap because I put it in stasis right when it started to explode. As long as I own it, it will stay that way.” The arrow turned green and he accelerated. “Well. Near stasis.”
Forgetting the peril of the wizard’s driving, Stan turned in his seat. “What does that even mean?”
“The car is already exploding. If you opened up the back, you would see the beginning of the blast, frozen in time. It’s quite bright. Difficult to look at.” Garbol slowed for an approaching parking slot. “It grows about an inch and a half every year.”
Stan’s jaw dropped open. “Is there any danger it might fall out of stasis and explode in real time?”
“Only if I’m knocked unconscious.” Garbol stopped next to a blue BMW, backed into the slot until he bumped into the red Corvette behind, pulled forward until he bumped the BMW, then pulled back a couple feet.
Sweat dripped off Stan’s chin onto the clipboard. He marked zero for parallel parking.
He heard screaming and looked up. A blood-red, wart-ridden troll, two stories tall, appeared from around the courthouse.
“Ho-ho!” said Garbol. “Here come my bonus points!”
Stan groaned. “Why does this keep happening?”
“You can’t ward something and expect the forces of evil not to get curious.” The wizard jammed the car into gear.