As I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was not quite over. Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene. In the ditch beside the road, right side up, but violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby’s drive not two minutes before. The sharp jut of a wall accounted for the detachment of the wheel, which was now getting considerable attention from half a dozen curious chauffeurs. However, as they had left their cars blocking the road, a harsh, discordant din from those in the rear had been audible for some time, and added to the already violent confusion of the scene.
A man in a long duster had dismounted from the wreck and now stood in the middle of the road, looking from the car to the tire and from the tire to the observers in a pleasant, puzzled way.
“Did you run into the wall?” “Don’t ask me,” said Owl Eyes, washing his hands of the whole matter. “I know very little about driving—next to nothing. It happened, and that’s all I know.”
“Well, if you’re a poor driver you oughtn’t to try driving at night.”
“But I wasn’t even trying,” he explained indignantly, “I wasn’t even trying.”
“You don’t understand,” explained the criminal. “I wasn’t driving. There’s another man in the car.”
The shock that followed this declaration found voice in a sustained “Ah-h-h!” as the door of the coupe swung slowly open. The crowd—it was now a crowd—stepped back involuntarily, and when the door had opened wide there was a ghostly pause. Then, very gradually, part by part, a pale, dangling individual stepped out of the wreck, pawing tentatively at the ground with a large uncertain dancing shoe.
Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by the incessant groaning of the horns, the apparition stood swaying for a moment before he perceived the man in the duster.
“Wha’s matter?” he inquired calmly. “Did we run outa gas?”
Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel—he stared at it for a moment, and then looked upward as though he suspected that it had dropped from the sky.
“It came off,” some one explained.
A pause. Then, taking a long breath and straightening his shoulders, he remarked in a determined voice:
“Wonder’ff tell me where there’s a gas’line station?”
At least a dozen men, some of them little better off than he was, explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physical bond.
“Back out,” he suggested after a moment. “Put her in reverse.”
“But the WHEEL’S off!”
“No harm in trying,” he said.
The caterwauling horns had reached a crescendo and I turned away and cut across the lawn toward home.
From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald