What Colour Is The Wind? by Brian A Skinner

“It was nice of Sam, you know, to take me to the coast.” I mean he didn’t have to. I was sorry he was one of those drivers who never speaks until they have parked up, but he is deaf and that does limit conversation when driving especially when his only passenger is blind. Despite that I wasn’t lonely. 

I like to have a window open, not much you understand, but enough so that I can hear what is going on outside the confines of the car. Sam, he doesn’t mind at all, as long as it’s not too draughty. 

The traffic is really noisy in town with all the different types of engine. Mind you some are quiet and I can imagine that type of car being driven by elderly, sorry, more mature people. The ones that rev up all the time or the motor bikes that roar past us, well they are the youngsters of the world always rushing from place to place doing what they now consider to be important things that probably in a few years’ time, will have little or no meaning for them. Then there are the other noisy cars, the ones with dodgy engines and faulty exhausts. Apart from the very distinctive sounds they make there is also the pungent aroma of carbon dioxide fumes, or is it monoxide? I can never remember. 

We were stationary for a while, at a crossing. I know that because I could hear the bleeping sound that is made when the lights are on Go for pedestrians. I could also hear the sounds of people walking too. Some were shufflers, some were confident striders and at least one had metal studs on the soles. They sounded like my brother used to sound. He was a soldier. 

We passed a coal lorry. You can always tell coal. It has a very distinctive smell, sort of soft and dusty, unlike petrol which smells sharp and clean. 

Slowly we passed out of town and ventured into the countryside, although maybe countryside is the wrong word to use when you are speeding along a main road or a motorway that is full of other vehicles all rushing to get past you. We got stuck in the inevitable traffic jam and came to a halt. The fumes were really bad and I had to shut the window until we were on the move again. This may sound strange to you but I often wonder what a traffic jam looks like. 

Sam doesn’t like too much traffic, thank goodness. He told me once that he never felt in control when everyone else was flying about, so I wasn’t surprised at all when we turned off and went by what he called ‘the back roads.’ We were going a lot slower now but I could hear the mournful sound of cows and the sharp complaining voices of sheep. I thought I heard a chicken too but it was rather distant so I could have been mistaken. 

We followed a tractor towing a trailer full of manure. No chance of me being wrong there. I didn’t close the window this time though. It’s a proper countryside smell is manure. We waited at a level crossing until a small train went roaring through, hooter blowing. They’re all diesel engines now of course and they don’t sound very interesting at all. When I was a child they were all steam engines with high-pitched whistles. Even though I never saw one I could feel the power by the sounds they made. 

The journey via the back roads was very interesting. I could feel the sun hot on my skin as it shone down through the windscreen. Sam must have felt it too because I could hear him opening the sunroof. It didn’t make that much difference really because the draft was angled towards the rear seats but the rushing sound of the air seemed to make it cooler. He had also opened the window on his side and every time a vehicle came the other way there was a ‘whoosh’ sound as it passed us. I knew we were approaching the sea before Sam. The bird song I could hear changed for one thing and I could smell the salty tang of the sea on the breeze. 

When we had parked up Sam helped me out of the car and linking arms we strolled down to the beach. The tide was in and the waves crashed on the shore. The water ran up the beach laughing as it did so and then seemed to hiss in annoyance as it was pulled back again. 

“Tell me what the sea sounds like Tony,” Sam asked. But how do you describe sound to a deaf man? 

“You tell me what colour the wind is first,” I replied. We both laughed and walked on.

Published in Issue #16

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