7 Short Fiction Stories About Driving
This week I read stories about driving because I had a long drive of my own to do
I had an 8-hour drive this week, so I thought I’d read short stories about driving.
We don’t do Thanksgiving in Australia, but I assume a lot of Americans might have indulged in road trips this week too.
These are the stories I read this week and what I thought.
**I’m not here to criticise any writer. The fact that these writers have put themselves out there and made these stories available for me to read for free is amazing and I thank you.**
Sunday: Just Drive, She Said
Just Drive, She Said by Richard Paul Russo. Published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mid-December 1992. Reprinted in Richard Paul Russo’s collection Terminal Visions (Golden Gryphon Press, 2000). I read it on the Infinity Plus website.
“Ahead of us, the road ended at a washed-out bridge, but we were driving for it at eighty-five miles an hour. Moonlight lit the barricades, the ruins of the bridge dangling over muddy water below.”
What it’s about: Robert borrows his sister’s Mazda RX7 and is kidnapped.
Robert leads a dull, lonely life and borrows his sister’s car for a few days. He goes to the liquor store and when he returns to the car a woman is sitting in the passenger seat. She points a gun at him and tells him to drive.
This is a science fiction romance action story with a never-ending parallel universe road trip and plenty of action.
Don’t expect a complete explanation of what’s going on, but enjoy the ride.
Monday: A Lonely Ride
A Lonely Ride by Bret Harte. Available on a lot of different websites but the one I read was on the American Literature website.
“We proceeded slowly; so leisurely that, leaning from the carriage, I more than once detected the fragrant sigh of some astonished cow, whose ruminating repose upon the highway we had ruthlessly disturbed.”
What it’s about: Follows the rambling thoughts of an unnamed narrator as he travels overnight in California by horse carriage.
The narrator muses his way along the long, lonely journey, describing people and things around him and making up stories to amuse himself. We don’t know why he’s travelling late at night, alone in a public carriage, but it doesn’t really matter.
This is a classic short story, written in the late 1800s. It’s a light-hearted verbose ramble that feels like someone freewriting all their thoughts during a long trip. Hooray, though. Finally, someone mentions how uncomfortable horse carriages are, even when you’re the only one in there. Something that normally goes unremarked in western and old-timey movies.
This is quite a hard read. It’s full of big words, convoluted thoughts, and sentences almost as long as the journey itself. If I had to listen to a friend telling this story, instead of reading it, my eyes would be more glazed than a Krispy Kreme doughnut. I had to go back and reread some passages to work out what he meant, but I can forgive that because of when it was written.
Ignoring the old-fashioned language, the narrator could easily be someone in a modern-day setting, like a train or a bus. It shows that people didn’t think much differently in the 1800s as they do now.
Tuesday: Warped Drive
Warped Drive by Bob Newbell. Published on the 365tomorrows website.
“The President of the United States smiled as the press photographed and video recorded her handshake with the Un’Vidik representative.”
What it’s about: We learn what the rest of the universe thinks about humans’ driving abilities.
An alien race needs to refuel on our moon and they agree to a meeting with the American president. She learns some home truths about humans’ reputation among other races.
This is a very short science fiction story and a quick amusing read. Can’t say I disagree with the rest of the universe.
Wednesday: Driven To Distraction
Driven To Distraction by Billyyoutwo1. Published on the shortstories101 website.
“Taking a deep breath, and hoping for the best, I said, “Right, turn left”.”
What it’s about: A couple get lost driving to a holiday destination because one of them can’t read a map.
This is a contemporary short story with a twist on the stereotype of women being unable to read maps and the frustration of their male partners.
Apart from some grammar and punctuation issues, this story was another quick amusing read.
Thursday: The Attraction of Asphalt
The Attraction of Asphalt by Stefani Nellen. Published on the SmokeLong Quarterly website.
“The mother says, “If I told you to jump out of the car because we’re going to have an accident, how fast could you do it?””
What it’s about: A mother and daughter drive to a mountain spring to fetch water.
The mother drives aggressively on the mountain road and makes the daughter, who seems quite young, get ready in case she tells her to jump out of the car. Will she or won’t she have to jump? Is the mother crazy? Is there someone after them? Is there something wrong at home?
I’m not sure how to classify this story. It could be contemporary or post-apocalyptic.
It was well written and brought the daughter to life, while the mother remained a mystery.
However, even though I enjoyed the story and the anticipation of whether the girl would have to jump, it felt like something was something.
The story felt more like a prologue or an excerpt from a longer story than a complete story in itself. In an interview with the author, she says it’s about children finding out that parents are not flawless and that they have weak or dark sides to them. I get that, but I still feel unsatisfied with this story.
I did keep thinking about it long after I read it, so does that make it good? Maybe.
Friday: Men in Cars
Men in Cars by Lisa M. Bradley. Published in Lightspeed magazine, Issue 138, November 2021
“It was dusk. I’d been walking alongside the road out of town. The locals called it Bad Luck Bends, had for as long as I could remember. I looked up from my usual path and she was simply there, like she’d materialized from the fog in the forest that surrounded us.”
What it’s about: A young girl walks home along a lonely road and is joined by a woman wearing white.
The unnamed girl and the woman talk as they walk together along the road. The woman is trying to attract a lift from men who drive past. When they meet more than once in the same place, the girl assumes the woman is a prostitute, rather than a hitchhiker.
This is a horror story with a touch of crime and the supernatural. One night, the girl discovers a scrap of newsprint calling for the police to re-examine the accidents that have been occurring along this road.
This is my pick of the week. It’s well written, the pacing is nice, the style and words used are genre-appropriate, and there are enough hints along the way to give you an inkling of what’s going on.
I wanted to keep reading to learn this girl’s story.
Saturday: The Thing In The Truck
The Thing In The Truck by Darius John Granger. Published in Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy, December 1956. Available on Project Gutenberg.
“There’s nothing peculiar about a load of potatoes going to market — but we knew something was wrong when the spuds suddenly came to life!”
What it’s about: Two truck drivers agree to take a load of potatoes on a return trip. They hear a noise in the back of the truck and one of them goes to check.
The farmer that sells them the potatoes is vague about why he’s selling them so cheaply. He says something fell into the barn and that some of the potatoes may have gone bad. The truck drivers are stereotypical truckies, hardworking, no-nonsense, down-to-earth guys, and agree to buy them so they’re not returning with an empty truck.
This is a classic pulp science fiction story, with aliens and a predictable storyline.
Like all good pulp stories, a storm, complete with lightning and heavy rain, provides a creepy atmosphere to the story.
Harry’s fear builds at a steady rate, matching the pace of the story. At first, he accepts that he’s having ‘highway hallucinations’ but soon realises something else is going on.
I enjoyed the sensory details in this story, even though the through-line was predictable and Harry seemed a little too accepting of some of the weirdness.
The language, the descriptions, the similes, and the dialogue worked well to set the scenes, the mood, and the characters. Enjoy it for the pulpiness, if nothing else.
This week’s short stories about driving, in the order that I enjoyed them.
Story number 8
And one extra story if you’re interested. Here’s one of my own about driving that I wrote for a Vocal challenge: A Long Drive Home. No, I didn’t win with this one.
I’m fascinated by short fiction. I write it and I read it.
As well as reading longer-form fiction, I try to read at least one short story every day. I select out-of-the-way stories and authors I’ve never read and sometimes never heard of.
Sometimes I pick competition entries, often ones that didn’t win. Sometimes I find random personal websites where someone has published their own stories. Sometimes I seek out professionally published stories from hardcopy books or online magazines. Sometimes I look for really old stories that are out of copyright and available online.
I’m open to suggestions for genres or themes for me to read each week.