My other half loves VW Beetles, she’s a total fan. The house is covered with VW Beetle paraphernalia, VW Beetle models and yes, her car is a VW Beetle. So I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked when she gave birth to our first child and changed our lives forever.
I was holding her hand and her face was screwed up in a combination of agony and expectation. I smiled as best I could to comfort her as she squeezed and pushed at the doctors orders while I wiped her brow. The Doctor cried “I think I can see the head, one last push now” and screaming all the while she pushed and pushed and we were met with silence and the shocked face of the doctor.
I panicked then, what was wrong, what had happened to the baby!?
“Why isn’t it crying, why isn’t it crying!?“
“T-t-theres a problem with your baby. I-I’ve n-n-never seen anything l-like t-this before. My God, how did….”
“Let me see!” I yelled pushing my way to the end of the bed while my wife burst in to tears.
What I saw was a miniture green VW Beetle, the size of a baby, covered in muck and blood. It seemed to quiver on it’s tiny little tires and then it began beeping with it’s tiny horn. It was crying.
“God man, get me a towel before it catches it’s death, can’t you see it’s cold?” I said, pushing past the stunned nurses and doctor and grabbing a towel. carefully, I cradled the tiny car in my arms and wrapped the towel around it.
“What wrong with our baby Harold? What happening?! WHATS HAPPENING!?”
“It’s okay dear, everything’s fine, look, here it is.”
And with that I lowered the bundle of green metal and soft white towel into her arms. She looked confused for a second, but then the bond between mother and child kicked in and in that moment she knew it was hers. The Beetle seemed to know too as it’s horn became silent.
After a moment Sarah looked up, her eyes wide and full of tears. “Isn’t he beautiful Harold?”
So it’s a he? How do you tell these things, its a fricking car!
“Yes dear, it..he is. I, I just need to go outside for a moment and talk to the doctor, I’ll be back soon. I promise.” I squeezed her hand. “I love you, no matter what.”
With that I walked outside the ward the shocked nurses and doctors in tow.
Once we were out of the ward I spun on my heels and grabbed the doctor by the overcoat.
“What the hell is going on Doc, is this some kind of sick joke you play on people for kicks? Where the hell is my baby!?”
“I-I-I… I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like it before, it’s impossible, something like that can’t happen. I can only surmise that your wife had it implanted…”
“WHAT!? HOW DARE YOU! First you pull this then you accuse my wife of carrying an implanted car for nine sodding months! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
“I’m s-sorry sir, but there isn’t any other possibility, this can’t happen, it’s medically, scientifically impossible for this to happen naturally. To do so it would have to be some kind of miracle!”
I wanted to smack that doctor right in the mouth but I needed to be there for Sarah and that wouldn’t be possible if I was in a police cell. Fists clenched at my sides, I took a couple of deep breathes and began to calm down.
“Okay, fine. So where do we go from here?”
“Well, this is unheard of, if the… item… was implanted, especially for nine months, then all sorts of internal injury could have occurred. I’d like to keep your wife in so we can run some tests, find out the extent of the damage, determine when it happened. We should probably keep the… it, in as well, for cross-examination purposes.”
“Okay, fine, I just want this to be over. First though, I want to talk about it with my wife. Excuse me.”
I walked back into the room with my wife to find her still cradling the little car. It seemed to be revving gently and the back of the towel was stained black from exhaust fumes. Looking at them together, I couldn’t imagine how they couldn’t be mother and child, surely no-one could act something like this so convincingly and who would risk themselves like that. Besides, the car definitely seemed to be alive somehow. Unless it was being remote controlled somehow, which seemed unlikely, nothing else could explain it’s behaviour.
“Honey, the doctors want to keep you and the… baby… in for some tests. As you might imagine, they are a little shocked by whats happened.”
“Will you stay with me? I don’t want us to be apart, not now the babies here. He needs his father as much as he needs me.”
“I’ll try. Sarah, honey, I know you’re feeling pretty emotional right now, but is there something you’re not telling me? About the baby?”
Sarah frowned at me then and tears formed in her eyes.
“It’s because he’s different isn’t it Harold? He’s your son! No, there’s nothing to say other than I love him and if you only give him a chance you’ll feel the same way!”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. It’s just so… strange, it’s not what I expected at all, I mean the doctors, they say things like this don’t happen. Ever.”
“Then he’s our own little miracle. I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want any tests, I want to go home Harold, me and my baby. I want to go home.”
And so after much arguing with the doctors, we went home.
Home was a small 2 bedroom bungelow in the suburbs. It was also surrounded by reporters. Someone at the hospital had obviously blabbed everything and so as I pulled up in my wife’s VW Beetle, we were slowed to nearly a halt as I gently pushed the car through the throng of lights and cameras and reporters screaming for an interview.
I was glad the windows were wound up. Unofrtunately all the noise woke up the baby and it’s horn began beeping loudly, crying and crying. Sarah of course was terrified by all the attention and was desperately trying to calm the poor thing down.
“Mr. French! Mr. French! Is this some kind of art project?”
“Was it some kind of political statement?”
“VW are denying any involvement, do you care to comment?”
“Did your wife have sex with a car?”
“Do you really believe the car is your child sir?”
“Harold? Harold? Sarah French, any comment? Were you forced into this?”
“Do you think this is a genuine miracle?”
It was all too much and I parked the car in the drive way I opened the door suddenly, slamming it into the stomach of a reporter and knocking him over.
“Get lost, the lot of you! Me and my wife have been through a lot in the past few hours, can’t you vultures just leave us alone?”
And then I said it.
“You’re scaring the baby!”
It only set them off again even louder. Ignoring them as best I could, I went around the other side of the car and helped Sarah out. Still cradling the baby, we both walked to our front door. The reporters were at least smart enough to get out of our way now or heaven help me, I would have done someone some damage. I turned the key, opened the door and we were in, safe from the cries and accusations and questions and lights. I gently lead Sarah into the living room and then set about closing all of the curtains while she saw to the baby. When I’d made sure we we blocked out from the outside world I sat down beside her with moist eyes as she sobbed into my shoulder amidst the beeping horn of the tiny beetle.
“It’ll be alright honey. We’ll get through this, together. I love you.”
She looked up at me then, her eyes red above tear stained cheeks. “Tell me you love him Harold, tell me you love our son!”
I looked down and brought a hand to my mouth. I couldn’t say it and it was killing me.
“Can I hold… him?”
Her face lit up a little then and she passed the parcel of metal and and glass and towels into my arms. I stared into it’s windscreen.
Through the glass you could see interior perfectly, everything was there, a tiny, miniature gear stick and steering wheel. The seats seemed to be leather, not like Sarah’s car. Trembling, a stroked the bonnet and the beeping began to subside to be replaced with the slight rumbling and an engine and in that moment, I knew this little car, this tiny green VW Beetle was my son. Tears began falling from my eyes then, splashing across the babies windscreen, and it’s tiny windscreen wipers brushed them away.
“Hey there little guy. I’m your daddy, yeah, that’s me. Jesus Christ Sarah, we have a son. I’m a dad, a real dad!”
Sarah and I fell asleep on the sofa in the living room, holding each other in each others arms, the baby cradled tightly between us.
It was really real. I was a father.
I woke up feeling groggy and blinked until the dim light through the drawn curtains managed to reach my brain and drag me out of oblivion. That, and the endless beeping from the baby. Sarah was waking up too and at the sound of the beeping she panicked.
“Maybe he’s hungry? We should feed him, he hasn’t had a single thing since he was born.”
“Oh God, I’m a terrible mother!”
“Easy dear, you’re doing just fine.”
Sarah squeezed my hand and then began baring a breast when a frown appeared on her face. “Umm, Harold, how are we going to feed him? He doesn’t have a mouth.”
“Like any other car I guess, he has a fuel cap right? Can’t you just, uh, stick it in there?” I said gesturing to her half-exposed boob.
A little frantically, she pulled back the towel and looked for our son’s fuel cap. It was there, miniature just like the rest of him. And like other cars, it was locked.
The baby was still beeping and we still had no way of feeding him.
“Maybe you could try and open it with a knife?” I suggested, grasping at straws.
“Harold! I am not sticking a knife in our son! What do we do, maybe we should call the hospital?”
“Or a mechanic.” I said, plugging the phone back in - we had unplugged it during the night when we had been woken up by more people desperate for statements and interviews. I began dialling the number for the hospital when the phone rung. I answered it.
“Hello? Mr. French?”
“This is Doctor Singh, from the maternity ward that delivered your…uh…”
I let him struggle with that.
“Anyway, given the, uh, unusual circumstances we thought you’d like to know that we found something in the afterbirth.”
“Jesus!” I burst out, then I quickly held the phone closer, hunched over to muffle the sound of the phone so that Sarah couldn’t hear. “It’s nothing serious is it? Sarah’s alright isn’t she?”
“Well no, no, though we’d really recommend some tests Mr. French. No, as I said it’s related to the usual nature of the birth. At first we though t it might have been something more serious but then the nurse pointed out it’s similarities to certain kind of object. Mr. French, we found a key.”
“We’ll be right there.”
I dropped the phone and turned round to Sarah. “Sarah, our prayers have been answered, we’re off to the hospital!”
Quickly she wrapped up the baby and we burst out of the front door, almost tripping over some of the reporters that had returned early for a chance of a story.
“Out of my way, we’ve got to feed our baby!” I yelled as we bundled into the car and dashed off to the hospital, several excited reporters trailing behind us all the way there.
We burst into the hospital reception followed by cameras and reporters and ran up to the desk. The baby was beeping louder and harder, the poor little guy was starving.
“Dr. Singh, we need to see Dr. Singh right now!”
The receptionist suddenly panicked under all the attention, her eyes darted to the little green Beetle and back to ours and she stuttered a response. “H-He’s in th-the m-m-maternity ward.”
I nodded, we knew where that was and we dashed on followed by our entourage of news hounds.
“Dr. Singh! We need that key!” I yelled as we burst into the ward.
A nurse looked at us shocked and ducked into an office. A moment later she returned with the doctor and a small plastic bag. Inside there was a small metal key with a black grip. It was like a little toy.
Sarah grabbed the bag, tipped out the key and put it into the fuel cap. Suddenly everything was quiet, the reporters, the nurse, even us were all holding our breaths. The key turned and the cap came off. There was a cheer and then Sarah not even thinking pulled out a boob and pressed her nipple against the tiny hole behind the fuel cap. We waited, the baby kept crying and then Sarah looked to me worried.
“It’s not working Harold, he isn’t feeding? Why isn’t it working?”
I didn’t know, I didn’t know the answer. I looked to the doctor but he was as confused as I was. Then one of the reporters spoke up.
“He’s a bloody car love, unless your boobs squirt 4 star, he ain’t having none of it. You can’t put milk in an engine, it’d gum the little bugger all up.”
We both looked at the reporter, back to each other, down to the baby, and then back to each other again.
There was a pause.
“To the petrol station!”
We all ran to the nearest petrol station, luckily only a minutes walk from the hospital, with the doctors, nurses and reporters in tow. I ran to one of the pumps, grabbed the nozzle and pushed it against the baby. Damn it, it was too big for his miniature fixings.
“What do we do now? Jesus, somebody, elp us, our babies starving to death!”
A woman parked on the other side of the pump stepped out, she had a baby of her own.
“Hey, you’re that couple on the news. Flipping heck, I thought is was some kind of stunt! Here, take this, maybe it’ll help.” She said, handing us a squeezable babies bottle.
I could have kissed her. I unscrewed the cap, poured out the milk and stuck in the nozzle and we filled the thing up with petrol. Meanwhile, the sound of police sirens was in the air and I heard the sound of the petrol station clerk complaining to a police officer.
“They can’t do that, their blocking up the entire faircourt! It aint safe!”
“Quiet mate!” One of the reporters hissed, “He’s feeding it!”
And I was. I had screwed the cap back on and had pushed the rubber tip of the bottle into the babies fuel hole. I squeezed gently and the beeping began to subside to be replaced by a gentle, slowly deepening rumble.
“He’s feeding! He’s feeding!” I cried out with joy.
The crowd we now had around us let off a cheer and when the baby was finished we screwed his fuel cap back on and let out a sigh of relief.
“Do you mind if we keep this?” I asked, gesturing with the babies bottle towards the woman who’d lent it to us.
“Sure, of course you can.” She smiled, wiping away tears from her eyes.
Next, Sarah and I pushed our way through to the station clerk.
“Sorry about all the commotion.” I said, looking back at the petrol pump and pulling out a twenty pound note. “Your petrol just saved our sons life. You can keep the change.”
I was high on joy and relief. Standing next to Sarah, I hugged her and addressed the crowd.
“Okay then,” I grinned, holding Sarah close, “who want’s an interview?”
Of course, we were bombarded with requests back at the petrol station. Eventually though, we settled on an interview with the reporter who had suggested the petrol in the first place. In a strange kind of way, we felt we owed him. Sure he was a bit surly and he was a tabloid reporter, but that didn’t really matter. He’d helped save our sons life and so an interview was the least we could do.
A few weeks later, once everything was arranged and a nice little sum had been deposited in our bank account, the reporter turned up at our house with a photographer. As part of the agreement, Sarah had agreed to go back into hospital for some more tests. At first, we had felt a little offended by that but when the reporter explained that not only would this clear things up for the story, it would also clear things up for the world at large and put all doubts to rest about the legitimmacy of our child, something he said would no doubt cause us problems later on if we didn’t sort it all out. We didn’t like the thought that we somehow had to proove to the world that our family wasn’t a fraud, but he was right. I’d already received a letter from our insurance company that they could no longer provide medical insurance for Sarah and of course we’d received some legal rumblings from VW’s lawyers. It was all a bit of a worry so we were glad for the reporters advice and reassurance.
The tests had come back conclusive. There had been no implantation, no surgery. Nothing out of the ordinary, well, except for the completely inexplicable growth of a miniature VW beetle in Sarah’s womb. No-one could explain how it happened, the medical community was baffled as much as we were. They wanted to keep her in indefinitely, study her and the baby as long as possible, hey said they’d pay us for the privilege but all we wanted to do was to be left alone to raise the baby in peace. Life in a test-tube was no life at all for Sarah and the baby and we wouldn’t allow it so we turned them down every time.
I answered the door.
“Hello there Harold - we’re here for the interview.” The reporter said, offering a hand.
I shook it and welcomed him and the photographer in. “Come on in, Sarah’s in the living room with the baby.”
“Speaking of which,” the reporter said, pulling out a portable dictaphone and setting it to record, “have you decided on a name yet, it’s been over a month since he was born, right?”
“Uh? Yes, yes it has and no, we haven’t decided on a name. It’s tricky, and we’ve been mulling over a few ideas, but we never expected to be naming a car. Speaking names, perhaps we all better introduce ourselves for the record?”
“Of course, silly me. Okay, I’m Jim Morrigan, here with Phillip Matthews, our photographer interviewing Harold and Sarah French in their lovely home.” He said, sending a questioning glance my way which I replied to with a thumbs up.
“From the outside, you wouldn’t expect this to be anything but the average family home. And your expectations would be right. Inside is the model of normal suburban life, painted with a multitude of VW Beetle paraphrenalia from pictures to models.” He continued as he walked into the living room and sat down in a seat opposite the couch.
I joined Sarah on the couch and the photographer started setting up some gear.
“So Harold, Sarah, this all must be pretty exciting for you. A new addition to the family. Your first child?”
“Yes.” Sarah replied.
“Why don’t you tell me a little about yourselves? How long have you 2 been married? How long have you’ve been interested in Beetles?”
“Well,” both Sarah and I began, then laughed. I let Sarah continue, “we met about 10 years ago, at an airport. We’d both been waiting for almost 24 hours, I was going on holiday and so was he and having spent so much time not talking to each other, we thought we might as well talk and things went on from there.”
“Did you ever get to go on holiday?”
Sarah laughed and squeezed my hand. “No, no, we both ended up cancelling everything in the end. I didn’t relish paying for a taxi and a train journey home and so Harold offered to drive me back. We were both really tired, which is probably why neither of us realised that we both lived in completely different directions! Poor Harold dropped me off and then realised that he’d now need to drive almost 80 miles to get home, I offered to let him sleep on the couch but he was so shy he said he wouldn’t want to intrude, a stranger in my home, and so he’d sleep in his car in the driveway. You really were a funny thing back then Harold.”
I just gave an embarrassed grin. “We don’t have to print that story do we?”
“Don’t worry Harold, I’m just recording all this for notes, this isn’t going on the radio or anything.”
“So how did you two get interested in Beetles? Just looking around the home I can see they are a big part of your life.”
“Well, I’m afraid to say I’m not that interested at all, it’s all Sarah’s obsession, I’m just an innocent bystander.” I laughed, while Sarah punched me gently in the arm.
“Yes, it’s true. It’s all me I’m afraid. I’ve always loved them, ever since school, even before. Some girls had Barbie, some girls had My Little Ponies, I had Beetles, and I’ve never given them up since. I think it’s probably all my fathers fault. He’s a mechanic and he always used to take me to work and show me how all the cars worked.”
The baby started beeping so I excused myself and went to fetch another bottle of petrol from under the sink. In the living room I could her Sarah answering questions and laughing. It was good to see her being so confident and happy. All this business had hit her harder than she’d let on. She was scared enough when we found out we were pregnant that she wouldn’t be a good mother and then finding out she couldn’t feed him really hurt her. We’d had many a tearful night over the last week but she was coming to terms with herself as a mother now and things seemed to be going great. I was so proud of her.
I strolled back into the living room and handed over the bottle. I always let Sarah feed him.
“So, Sarah, Harold. What do you think happened? We’ve all heard the speculations and accusations and we’ve seen the medical proof that this wasn’t some kind of ruse but what we haven’t heard is your take on all this. How do you think this happened?”
I felt Sarah’s hand on mine and I squeezed it tight. No matter how much we’d tried to ready ourselves for this question, it was still difficult.
“Well, I.. we, we don’t know. We’ve no idea how it happened. I mean, things like this just don’t happen do they, it’s impossible. What can you say to that, when the impossible is staring up at you, crying out for it’s next bottle of petrol? You just have accept it.”
“I’ve never been very religious,” Sarah continued, “but he’s a genuine miracle. Whether it’s God or some other higher power, I don’t know. Whatever it was that made this happen, it sure has a sense of humour. Not that it funny, I mean, well…”
I rescued her from her faltering. “Every time a child is born, it’s a little miracle right there, right? Our miracle is just a little… different.”
Jim nodded and motioned for Phillip to take a couple of pictures.
“So, have you had any contact with VW? What’s their take on this?”
“Well, at first they were pretty silent, but recently we’ve received some letters regarding legal action. Obviously, we can’t go into it for legal reasons but it’s not pleasant. Hopefully the medical examination results will shut them up. To be honest, we never expected them to react like that, I mean, can you think of a better way to get everyone talking about VW?”
“Funny, that’s exactly what some people have been saying, that this is some kind of PR-stunt. What do you have to say to those people?”
“It’s completely ridiculous and not only that, insulting. Child-birth is such a sacred process, how could fake something like this and live with themselves? For any PR-company, it would be suicide I’m sure. I don’t know about anyone else but I’d be livid if I found out someone and mocked something so special for advertising. So to all those doubters out there, no, this isn’t some kind of stunt. The last thing we were expecting when we went into that hospital was to come out with a baby car and now we have, we just want to be left alone so we can get on with our lives and with raising our son.”
“What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on taking the baby to school when he’s older? Are you going to clothe him, keep him in the garage? You must have a lot of things to think about.”
We sure did. Sarah and I had been wracking our brains out about what we were going to do. The baby couldn’t speak, at least, not yet. Could it learn in the future? We didn’t know and we weren’t about to subject him to a battery of tests in some lab to find out. School was another thing. He was tiny, would he ever get any bigger? Other kids might pick on him or be afraid of him and he’d never be able to feed himself. Plus, running a car in a school room, sure he was small, but he still emitted exhaust fumes. We always made sure the windows were open nowadays. Could we keep him in the house? I wanted to, but what if he wanted to, I don’t know, be in his natural habitat? Maybe he’d like it better in the garage. There were so many questions to think about and we didn’t even come close to having all the answers.
“I think we’ll just have to take one step at a time.” Sarah said, mirroring my own thoughts. “We’re going to be learning a lot over the next few months, it’s too early to make any plans yet, and too strange. No-one’s ever had to do this before.”
“Okay. Let’s wrap this up with one last question. If you could change all this, have had a quote unquote ‘normal’ baby, would you?”
We were both unanimous in our answer. “No, never, not for anything in the world.”
Jim and Phillip hung around a bit longer to take some more photographs and we showed them around the house, had a cup of tea, talked a bit more about everything - off the record - and then he assured us he’d send us a copy of the story before it went to print. We thanked them, saw them out and then when they were gone we both sunk into the couch and cried and laughed and hugged each other. It was all a little emotional.
We learned a lot of things over the next couple of weeks. We learned that publicly embarrassing a large automotive company not only stops them hassling you legally, but also gets you a nice apology hamper. We learned that speaking with the media seems to have the opposite effect than you’d expect. After the interview hit the papers, everything seemed to quieten down a bit, I guess everyone had learned everything they needed to know from the article, or had learned enough that their outrage or amazement had been curbed sufficiently so that they would leave us alone.
Most of all though, we learned that living with a small car is just as much work, if not more, than living with a human baby.
After the injection of cash from the newspapers, neither of us had to work for a while and with our unique circumstances, we decided to both stay home with the baby so we could spend as much time together as a family as possible.
It turns out living cars learn to drive far sooner than humans learn to walk and only a few days after the interview we’d been kept awake for several nights by the sound of the baby not only beeping, but now tearing around it’s cot, revving repeatedly and generally making an awful racket. It’s sheets and blankets were shredded where it’d repeatedly ground it’s tyres against them and on more than one occasion it had sped up too much and bumped into the walls of the cot, hurting itself and thus crying it’s beeping cries.
During those days I idly wondered if they could make car clamps in his size.
Eventually, after much dicussion over whether it was cruel or not, we came up with a solution. We laid Jeremy on a brick, so that his wheels couldn’t reach any surfaces and send him rocketting away. Now, before you gasp at the apparent abuse of this, be aware that Jeremy didn’t seem to be particularly bothered by the brick. He cried just as often, but this time at least he didn’t hurt himself and he didn’t tear up everything around him. We could still hear him crying and would deal with whatever was bothering him as best we could.
Oh, you may have noticed. We named him. One day we were watching the TV, trying to get the baby to sleep when Top Gear came on. He stopped crying and drifted off almost straightaway. Somehow the name just seemed appropriate.
As time went by, we had to deal with the things all parents had to deal with I suppose and more. By the time Jeremy was 2 years old, he hadn’t shown any signs of growing or changing size. This wasn’t entirely surprising, metal doesn’t just grow, but then again, people don’t just give birth to cars either.
We were one of the few families with both a family doctor and a family mechanic. We took Jeremy for a check up, to see if the mechanic could tell whether he was growing at all and if not, just to make sure he was in good shape. This turned out to be quite difficult.
Jeremy, it seemed, was a sealed unit. Much like a human being, his internals didn’t seem to be designed to be easily accessible without surgery. The mechanic did what he could though and everything seemed fine. Sarah and I are only worried about what will happen if he gets sick or has an accident.
Luckily though, he never seemed to get sick. I don’t suppose cars can catch colds. We had a close encounter once when he nearly drove off of the table, but luckily after catching him, telling him off and comforting him, he learned to look before he leaped.
As time went by, we needed to go back to work and so the issues of nursery schools or baby sitters came up. That was the beginning of a whole new adventure.
“Harold, do you think he’s okay? What’s wrong with him?”
“I don’t know, I just don’t know. This has never happened before!”
It had started during breakfast. I was just finishing my toast when Jeremy drove up to me, bumping me softly in the shins.
“Hey there little guy, you want to come up on my lap?” I’d said, fully expecting a round of enthusiastic beeps in reply.
Instead, I got this screeching, modulating sound. Sarah dropped the bowl she was washing up and it shattered on the floor. Jeremy, startled, quickly reversed away, silent.
“Hey babe, what’s wrong?” Sarah said, worry in her eyes. Neither of us had ever heard anything like it. It was almost like his battery was running low and his beeper was suffering the effects. Oh God, what if it was? We didn’t have anyway of fixing it, we couldn’t just open him up.
Jeremy let out another warbling, fluxuating howl and led us on a merry goose chase around the living room, driving all over the place - under the coffee table, behind the sofa but eventually we caught him when he nearly upended himself sliding on a stray magazine, something that warranted me a scathing look from Sarah before she returned to the worrying at hand.
It didn’t take long for us to decide to take him to the mechanic.
When we got there, we were both flustered and worried. Jeremy had been screeching the whole way there in intermittent bursts and my own fears about his battery were eating me up. I dared not say anything to Sarah, she was already in tears.
Jim had become a good friend of ours over the last couple of years and not just because of the extra business he’d received being known as the Car Doctor for our son. He’d been understanding and supportive the whole time and so when we finally arrived he’d already put all his other jobs on hold so he could make us a priority.
“Right, let’s get him on a rig and have a look at him.” Jim said, getting straight to business. We walked into the work area where he had a special rig made up, a miniature he’d built just for Jeremy.
“Do you have any idea what’s wrong?”
“Give me a chance!” Jim replied, then he turned to Jeremy. “Hello there littl’un, I’m just gonna take a look at you for a bit, find out what’s making that awful racket, alright? Then I’ll get you some of that special petrol you like.”
Jeremy revved happily and warbled again. Sarah squeezed my hand so hand I thought she might break something.
“Do you two mind waiting outside?” Jim said. “You’re a big boy now aren’t you Jeremy? Don’t need Mummy and Daddy holding your handle.”
I looked at Sarah and she looked at me and Jim gave us a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of him. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
We smiled somewhat half-heartedly and went and sat in his office. The wait seemed like forever as we watched him through the office window. He couldn’t do a huge deal, not being able to open up Jeremy’s hood, but he checked everything, listened to every sound, checked all the emissions. Last of all, he checked the dashboard. Obviously he couldn’t fit inside Jeremy to have a proper look so Jim was one of the few mechanics we knew of that had what essentially amounted to an endoscope. He looked around in for a bit and then stood up straight suddenly.
I ran out of the office. “My God, what is it? What’s wrong?”
“Gimme a sec.” Jim said, grabbing something from his toolbox and reaching through Jeremy’s passenger door.
Jeremy suddenly released a burst of static at us and then we were suddenly treated to the voice of Johnathan Ross at full volume, a single word caught mid-sentence before the volume suddenly dropped to zero.
He talked at each other for a moment, dumbstruck, then burst into laughter and tears. His first words!
It took a while before our doctor could refer us to a paediatrician that would see us. It something we’ve gotten used to now. Even after all the events on the news, people still think it’s some kind of joke. I feel sorry for Jeremy, he is going to have to deal with this kind of prejudice his entire life. It makes me so mad sometimes.
Both Sarah and I were concerned. We’d bought a whole load of books when the baby was on it’s way. Various pieces on how to raise a child, what was healthy for them, when we could expect to see various things happen. Of course, we’d given up on some of them, like hearing his first words. Cars don’t have voice boxes, though it turned out a radio did just as well. When he was born we didn’t need to add any more books, Sarah had them already: The VW Beetle Automotive Repair Manual was our bible. Even after all the denial and accusations, by way of an apology VW had quietly offered us 24 hour support on a private number, which was very nice of them. Every one of our books said that 3 years old was a little old to only just start talking (and the repair manual said the radio should have been working straight away, but I think we could safely ignore that one) so we were a little concerned to say the least. Jeremy was our first child, he was special in so many ways, it would be so unfair if he was also, well, disadvantaged.
We got to the paediatricians office without much trouble and were introduced to Dr. Lacy McKay, a 40-something blonde woman with a kind face. Names were exchanged and hands shaken and once the pleasantries were over we got to business. We all sat in a room furnished with two sofas and numerous children’s toys dotted around, Jeremy was put on the carpet and Sarah and I sat on a sofa opposite the doctor.
“Hello Jeremy, my name is Doctor McKay.” she said, kneeling down towards him.
Jeremy reversed away and hid behind my legs. “Hey there little guy, it’s okay. Go on, say hello to the nice lady.”
Jeremy didn’t seem to be convinced though and stayed firmly behind my feet until I parted them. The doctor waved through the gap and Jeremy hid himself again. Eventually this became a game of peekaboo between my legs which lasted for about five minutes before the doctor sat up and addressed us.
“So Harold, Sarah, why do you think you’re here?”
“Well, we wanted to know if something was, umm, wrong with Jeremy. Isn’t three a little old to have only started talking? It’s just, I’ve never done this before. I just want to know that we’re doing it right.”
The doctor smiled. “Okay. Why don’t you tell me a little about Jeremy. What has it been like since he was born? What have you done?”
“To be honest it’s been stressful and wonderful and crazy. I don’t know. All the craziness with the media, the doctors, just getting to see you. Everything is so hard. But it’s been wonderful too. I wouldn’t give up Jeremy for anything.”
“And what have you been doing since he was born. Both of you.”
“We’ve been at home, taking care of him.” Sarah answered. “Both us spend as much time with him as we can, making sure he’s okay, playing with him, talking to him.”
“Any family outings?”
I saw where this was going. I answered for us. “No, none of us have really left the house much for, well, almost a year and a half. Damn it, you’re right. I don’t know why we didn’t see it before. You must think we’re awful…”
I just hung my head in my hands while Sarah draped an arm over my back.
“No, no, it’s fine, understandable even. You’ve been living under certainly what I’d call… unique circumstances. You’ve had the media to worry about, not to mention Jeremy himself out in the world where he can get hurt, where people might react badly. You’re perfectly entitled to be afraid and it’s not uncommon for new parents to be a little overprotective, especially when their child is special, as Jeremy clearly is.”
Jeremy was next to the doctors ankle, pushing a building block towards her.
“Oh! Is this for me Jeremy?”
”..ya!” burst out a sample from the radio.
“Why thank you Jeremy.” The doctor said, bending down and scooping up the block. She placed it besides her and gave us a smile. I had a feeling we were going to like Lacy.
“Your child is fine, you don’t have anything to worry about, he’s just a late starter, that’s all, but he seems to be making progress. I would recommend though that you start leaving the house. Not only are you starving Jeremy of new and interesting things to see and do, but yourselves too. ” She leaned over and smiled at Jeremy. “Nobody likes a boring, grumpy mummy and daddy.”
“One thing I will warn you on though is this. Jeremy’s use of the radio is something to be concerned about. As a parent, there are several things on the radio you might not be happy with him listening to. Now I can’t say whether or not Jeremy can hear everything that might be available on his radio or not, we’d have to run through some tests, but remember that is he a car, not only are you teaching him, but it’s possible that he’s learning things from the entire spectrum of radio broadcasts. You need to make sure that it’s you he turns to as his parents and not some voice on the radio. You can do that by making sure that you’re the ones to teach him things and take him places. We’re all on new ground here, there isn’t any precedent for any of this so I can only offer best guesses but my general advice is that you need to start involving Jeremy in the world around a lot more than you have been. For the good of both yourselves and for Jeremy.”
Sarah and I sat there for a bit as we absorbed all the doctor had to say. She was right of course.
“So he’s definitely okay?”
The doctor picked up another block that Jeremy had deposited at her feet and held it up. “Yes, I think so. If you are interested in running those tests, and I highly recommend you do, then please let me know or if you would like we could schedule in an appointment now.”
I looked at Sarah. We were still a bit antsy about submitting Jeremy to ‘tests’. Once we did one then what next? We didn’t want to end up a few years down the line with Jeremy as a nearly permanent fixture in a lab somewhere., being poked and prodded by men in white coats. We both decided we’d take it one step at a time.
“We’ll get back to you about the tests.” I stood up and shook the doctors hand. “Thank you so much for seeing us.”
“Yes, thank you. It means a lot.” Sarah joined in.
I went to pick Jeremy up to head back out to the car park but Sarah stopped me. “Let’s let him drive with us, just to the elevator.”
We said goodbye again and called Jeremy over and with a beep he scooted to the door. As we all got in the elevator and the doors closed I picked Jeremy up.
“Well now, we’re going to have lots of adventures together now aren’t we? No more tearing up the house for you.”
Jeremy revved in approval and as I carried him to the car, I swore he felt heavier.