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McCARTHY, Tom

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Another bottle was brought out and poured into the reservoir. Once more I climbed inside the car and pressed the spurter button. Once more nothing happened--and once more, when we looked inside the reservoir, we found it empty. "Two litres!" I said. "Where has it all gone?" They'd vaporized, evaporated. And do you know what? It felt wonderful. Don't ask me why: it just did. It was as though I'd just witnessed a miracle: matter--these two litres of liquid--becoming un-matter--not surplus matter, mess or clutter, but pure, bodiless blueness. Transubstantiated. I looked up at the sky: it was blue and endless. I looked back at the boy. His overalls and face were covered in smears. He'd taken on these smears so that the miracle could happen, like a Christian martyr being flagellated, crucified, scrawled over with stigmata. I felt elated--elated and inspired. "If only..." I started, but paused. "What?" he asked. "If only everything could..." I trailed off. I knew what I meant. I stood there looking at his grubby face and told him: "Thank you." Then I got into the car and turned the ignition key in its slot. The engine caught--and as it did, a torrent of blue liquid burst out of the dashboard and cascaded down. It gushed from the radio, the heating panel, the hazard-lights switch and the speedometer and mileage counter. It gushed all over me: my shirt, my legs, my groin.

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