When The Rubber Hits The Road
by Lee Nash
Everything conspired against him: the wind, first stealing the flames he’d kindled and torching his thatched cottage, then tearing away the corrugated iron roof of the home he’d built in its place; the Amazonian climate that finished his mother and sister; the mosquitoes and sandflies, maddening and everywhere. Everything and everyone: his business partner who walked; his long-suffering wife who at last set sail for Blighty, never to see him again, leaving Henry to his new conflict, a chain of coral islands off the coast of New Guinea; Queen Victoria and her version of justice. Still, he managed to pack those 70,000 seeds into the Amazonas, safely tucked between banana leaves, and now the wind was with him. Fast forward to the flames that clear the land in Malaysia and Myanmar, China and Cambodia, making room for neat rows of Hevea brasiliensis, to the demands of industry, the elastic bands and erasers, the half of all our tyres, engine belts, gloves, electrical wiring, emulsion paints and condoms – rubber smoothing and cooling us all the way. Fast forward once more to the infamous bio-warrior, carrying spores of South American leaf blight; with a nod to Mr Wickham he’s brought an ample supply and under a dubious guise. As the aircraft touches down, he bites on a rubber bullet, thinks of the Indian slaves castrated by the barons, the cash-rich labourers’ lust for cars, and welcomes the chaos that will ensue. With a measured pace, he walks his infested Wellington boots over the ripe plantations, clipboard in hand, while latex drips from the spiral scores into the waiting cups. The scarred trees recede in every direction; he flexes his leg muscles, still stiff from the flight, and starts to relax. The wind will do the rest.