Accepting a lift from a Service Station led the driver through anxious suspense to satisfaction.A jouney from hell to bliss.
Tell our Sisters
Neil set the windscreen wipers to a more frequent thrust as he left the Moto service
station. The fine drizzle was going to damped his next leg of his journey home but it
would not diminish his enthusiasm for the day.
He had been to Milton Keynes to collect 200 copies of his first novel from his
publisher. He could not wait to get back home to introduce his work to the local
press, sell a few copies at a book signing venue and in common with all first time authors,
his thoughts turned to the ‘what if’ scenario. What if it became a best seller? What if film rights were in demand? Or perhaps what if he never had to work again for a living?
These feelings of wellbeing undoubtedly contributed to his decision to slow down at
the slip-way exit and make a sudden decision to stop, be a Good Samaritan and give a lift
to the dejected youth whose thumb up stance was at odds with his downtrodden look.
He lowered his passenger’s window but was not the first to talk.
‘Where are you going?’ the youth asked.
‘That’ll do fine’ he said, opening the front door and throwing a plastic bag on to the
back seat. Neil checked his mirror, accelerated and joined the busy motorway traffic.
‘Andy’s my name’ said the damp passenger.
‘Oh, mine’s Neil. Been on the road long?’
Andy must have heard the question but he did not reply. Neil wondered what state of
mind was possessing the youth now sitting beside him and he was angry with himself for being forced to reveal where he was going before he could ascertain where the passenger wished to go. This was the very situation that had made him ignore so many hitchhikers in the past.
‘I guess you’re a man of few words then?’ he ventured as he indicated to overtake a Curries lorry in the second lane.
‘So would you if you had my life.’
‘Not in work, then?’
‘No. Not yet.’
‘So what’s the attraction of Wigan?’
‘Don’t know. You tell me what its like?’
‘Hang on a minute. I stop to give you a lift, feeling sorry for you. You ask me where I’m going and I tell you I’m going to Wigan. So you tell me that’s where you are going. So now I ask why Wigan and you tell me you don’t know! That’s crazy. I might as well have said Timbuktu! ’
‘In Mali in West Africa……but hang on a minute,…. Let’s get back to Wigan.’
‘Yeah that’s where we’re going.’
‘Okay, okay. So we’re going to Wigan. I’m going there because I live there. So, why are you going to Wigan?’
‘Are you kidding? You must know. You said you were going to Wigan.’
‘No I didn’t. I said ‘that’ll do fine’, so I did!’
‘Fine for what?’ Andy did not reply.
Neil looked at the passing road sign ‘Services 2 miles and 26 miles’. He wondered if he should make a comfort stop in two miles and offload this awkward customer. No, that would arouse his suspicion. He would head for 26 miles and hope each mile would be less frustrating than the last.
‘So what do you do?’
‘I’m an author. See these boxes in the back seat? They are copies of my book.’
‘An author?’ he showed a spark of interest. ‘Well, you are in luck.’
‘In what way, Andy?’
‘Meeting me.’ Andy turned towards Neil whose eyes momentarily left the road to focus on his smiling face.
‘Know me and you’ve got a best seller. I’ve been in a children’s home, fostered, prison, I could tell you a few things.’
Neil felt the jigsaw was beginning to take shape but these were the corner pieces. He wanted to know why he was in each place. ‘How did you get there, I mean I guess you’ve had a hard life?’
‘You might think so, but I don’t. If your father was a drunkard and your mother didn’t care too much either, a children’s home ain’t that bad. Then they try and give you a real family, a foster family. That was cool but it meant living further away and I didn’t settle. When I was sixteen no body took responsibility and I left. I tried to earn a little but it was soon easier to supply drugs to make a living. That, and some other things, got me prison.’
‘That must have been tough?’
‘Yeah, there are some tough people there but it was good too.’
‘Well, you’d get three meals a day, a bed and a roof over your head’ Neil said warming to this individual’s plight but being conscious not to raise his hackles.
‘More than that. I got some good classes. Not just the usual classes but the art classes. I did some good work there. They said I had some talent.’
‘They say we are all good at something Andy. Guess its artwork for you. Books for me.
Want a biscuit? There’s one in the glove box if you like.’ Andy reached to open the glove box. He took out a chocolate biscuit and as he did so, he noticed a penknife. He took the penknife out and Neil’s heart began to thump. What on earth made him invite this self confessed criminal to open the glove box where he always kept a penknife just in case, as gadget men do. Andy had the blade open and began cutting the chocolate biscuit wrapper. He lay the knife on his lap as he crunched the chocolate orange biscuit. Neil kept one eye on the road and one on the knife. This was doing his blood pressure little good.
Andy finished his biscuit and folded the wrapper neatly, placing it back in the glove box. Then he took the knife and examined it closely. Neil felt uneasy and knew Andy was aware he had the knife.
‘You like the penknife?’ Neil asked in as nonchalant a manner as possible.
‘Yeah. It’s cool.’
‘You can have it, if you want.’
‘That would be illegal. You know, carrying an offensive weapon.’
‘Ah, of course, so it would’ Neil felt silly for suggesting it in the first place. Especially as he was fond of it. Things were getting out of control and he knew it but he must not show any fear.
‘ I could make good use of it’ suggested Andy.
Neil hesitated to think just what use he had in mind.
‘You know real artists. They use proper paints. They could use a knife like this on their pallet.’
‘Well, you’re an artist Andy. If you fold it away and keep it out of sight, then whose to know you’ve got a penknife. After all it’s only a penknife. It’s not a switchblade or a cutlass!’
‘You’re right. Okay, I’ll take it thanks.’
The monotony of the road ate up a few more miles but not as many as Neil had wished. How could he have been so unguarded on the slip-way? But it was too late to undo the journey. He had to make the best of a bad job and hope, just hope this journey was going to end satisfactorily for both of them. Such a solution was at present no where near.
With five miles short of the next service station, Neil decided he needed to have a face to face assessment of his passenger. He thought through his plan then put it to action.
‘Andy, we’ll stop at the next service station. I need a break and let’s have a coffee.’ He waited anxiously for his response.
‘Yeah, I need a break too.’
There was no more conversation before the car indicated to leave the motorway and made its way to a parking place near the Service entrance. Neil clicked his fob securing his books and Andy’s plastic bag in the back seat of the car.
They emerged together from the men’s room and made for the coffee shop.
‘What do you want then Andy?’
‘I’ll have a Capuchino’
‘And anything to eat?’ Andy looked along the glass ledge and settled on ‘a muffin’.
‘One Capuchino, a Latte and two blueberry buns, please.’
They made their way to a table by the window. Neil could see his car. Why oh why he wondered had this all come about. He had no intention of a further stop before he got home but this youth had begun to determine his moves. He was no longer in control. They sipped their coffees and un-wrapped their buns. Then Andy began to unzip his jacket. Inside was a jotter which he took carefully from his damp clothing and laid it carefully on the table.
‘I was keeping it dry’ Andy said needlessly but Neil recognised this was something he was protecting. Something he was pleased to produce in front of him. ‘So what’s this then?’
‘Here, have a look.’
Neil stretched his hand over and lifted the exercise book from the table. He found it easier to leaf through the book from the back. What he saw interested him. There were drawings of countryside and of farm animals. Then pages of drawings of motor cars, motorbikes and planes. Each carefully sketched in detail, with great accuracy. He smiled as he viewed his work.
‘Did you do all of these drawings Andy?’
‘Yes. It’s all my own work. I like to draw.’
Neil returned his eyes to the exercise book. He was eager to see what the next page would present. A building, then on the next page, was a prison scene. It seemed he could turn his hand to anything and create a picture in great detail. He sipped his coffee and finished his muffin before completing his inspection of this folio.
‘You draw very well indeed.’ Andy smiled.
Neil flipped slowly through to the start of the book. He eventually turned to the fist page. As he did so, a shudder took hold of him. He had focussed on the artist’s name. It was a name that rang a bell in his mind. An alarm bell to be precise. Andy noticed his reaction.
Neil could not have hid his astonishment at reading his name. He had to come clean.
‘Andrew Hunt. That’s a name I know. It’s all coming back to me. Hey it was not just drugs you were inside for was it Andy? ’
‘How do you know so much about me?’
‘Because I remember, yes, I remember. It must be some four or five years ago by now. You stole a car, a blue car, and you crashed it. You ran away. I remember the Police put out an appeal stating they went on the hunt for a car thief. The irony of your name stuck. And it struck too because it was my sister’s car! She was very upset at the time.’
‘I don’t deny it but I did not know it was her car.’
‘That does not make it right. But anyway, I’m not going to rake over old ground especially as you did time for that.’
They finished their coffees but Neil was not leaving just yet.
‘Andy, before we go to the car, tell me just where are you going? Where do you want me to drop you? Is that clear?’
‘Okay. I’m going to Eccleston. That’s where my sister is.’
‘So you’ve got a sister too?’
‘Yeah, she says I can stay there and get a job. She says I can get one at the service station near by. I’d like that.’
They returned to the car. Neil felt there was a better understanding between them and with less than thirty miles to go, his ordeal would soon be over.
‘Your art work Andy, how long does it take to do one of your drawings?’
‘Not so long. I get it fixed in my mind and then concentrate and finish it always in one go.’
‘Tell me. Can you draw a sheep dog?’
‘Of course I can. Why?’
‘I mean not just a sheepdog sitting, but one running, jumping, guarding, playing with a child, rounding up sheep. All the things a sheep dog does. Can you do that?
‘Yes of course but why?’
‘Because Andy. I am an author. My next book is almost completed. It is a children’s book. It’s called ‘The Adventures of Tache’.
‘What’s Tache?’ It’s the name of my collie dog. He has a white stain on his rump. He’s had it since he was a pup. So we called him stain or mark but in French. That’s une tache. So he’s Tache and he’s the subject of my children’s book. But what I need is a graphic artist to illustrate the book and I think you’d be good at that. Are you interested?’
‘That’s brilliant. Yeah, let me do it.’
‘Ok Then let me drive you to your sister’s house in Eccleston. It’s not far out of my way. Give me her address and I will send you a copy of the script and mark where I want you to place your drawings. Tomorrow I’ll let my publisher know you are doing the artwork.’
‘You seriously giving me work?’
‘Yes. Can’t say how much money this will bring at this stage so go for the Service job in the meantime.’
‘Yeah. I will honestly, I will, honest.’
‘Yes, I think we can do business Andy.’
Neil offered his hand and Andy shook it firmly.
‘I guess we’ve got something to tell our sisters!’
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|Reviewed by Lee Garrett
|An interesting write. I like the fact that this wasn't the typical guy-picks-up-serial-killer-and-gets-stabbed story. These are scary times, but not all good deeds get punished. Characters were solid. Plot was well developed, and absorbing. Great job.|