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Friday, 23 May 2014

Saturday Story - 'Lucky with cars'

This is a humorous short story for the anthology. The idea was to write a short story featuring a ladder, a key, a park bench and a petrol station, as well as an emergency exit. It was fun in the writing, hope you have fun reading it!


Nik Morton

Twenty miles after I’d left home, the petrol gauge needle was hovering over the red. My green Ford Escort was just running on the fumes in the tank when I breasted the hill. Yes! My luck was still holding. At the bottom of the slope was a garage. I coasted down and turned in to the forecourt, a smug grin on my face. My wife Maureen was forever telling me off for letting the tank get too low. ‘One of these days, you’ll get stranded! And I don’t want to be sitting here with you when it happens!’

            She wasn’t, fortunately, or else I’d have received an ear-pounding for the last five miles or so.  Still, I got to the petrol station, didn’t I?  I had never cut it so fine, though.

            I recalled that time when my old Austin’s accelerator pedal jammed. That was scary!  I’d take it out of gear and brake but the engine continued to rev. Deafening.  As I was driving through country lanes, I didn’t want to risk switching off the engine.  So I revved on till I found a garage. I received a few weird looks as I pulled in. The owner lifted the bonnet and used his air hose to clean the gubbins inside. ‘Clogged with dirt,’ he said. Sorted. Nice bloke.

            I ignored the knocking near the rear axle.

            And one Saturday, when my exhaust fell off, I kept going. The Noise Abatement Society didn’t exist then. Maybe I was the reason they started up.  Anyway, I found one of the few garages open and they had a suitable exhaust. Lucky with cars, that’s me.

            But not this time.

            As I braked alongside the pumps, I realised that the garage was closed.

My heart sank. 

I wasn’t a member of any motoring organisation; I thought that with my good luck, I didn’t need one. My mate Alan said they didn’t take too kindly to people running out of petrol, anyway.

            Nothing for it, then. I would have to telephone Alan.   

            But the telephone kiosk had been vandalised. It was times like this when I wished I could afford a mobile phone.  Maureen said we should both get one. Keep in touch. I’d probably let the battery run down and it would cut out at a vital part of a conversation.

            I left a note in the car’s windscreen to explain that there was no need to worry, I wasn’t a terrorist or anything. Then I started walking back towards town.

            At least it was a summer evening. As dusk fell, I could see clearly where I was going. I tried thumbing a lift a couple of times, but nobody stopped. I wouldn’t have, either. Not these days. You don’t know who you’ll pick up.

            According to the road-signs and my aching feet, I must have walked twelve miles. Here, on the outskirts of town was a park named after some Marxist African, complete with benches and roses and trees.  The roses reminded me of Maureen – not their scent but the thorn in my side. The park bench was most welcome as I sat down to rest my feet.  Only a minute or two then I would get going again, crack the final eight miles.

            I must have slept and woke an hour later, shivering with dew on my face. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been walking the streets at such an unsocial hour.  Maureen would have been livid, if she’d known.

            Two hours later I got to our street and quickened my pace and opened the front gate. It creaked. Maureen was always on to me to get it oiled. As I stood in the porch and fished in my pockets, I realised that I had dropped my keys somewhere. Probably in the park when I was asleep. 

            What a night this was turning out to be!

            Walking round the side of our house, I scuffled past the wheely-bin and reached up over the edge of the wood-panelled gate. Hanging on a piece of string was the key. I opened the gate. I hadn’t fancied climbing over. The way things had been going tonight, I’d probably have slipped and broken my neck. Serves you right, Maureen would have said.

            At the bottom of the garden was my shed, my final refuge from Maureen, and screwed above the door was an old sign I had pinched from a demolished building: EMERGENCY EXIT. Maureen never got the joke.  My ladder hung on the side of the shed; I never bothered to padlock it though Maureen reckoned I should have, otherwise I was making it easy for burglars.  Now, I was glad I hadn’t listened to her.

            Lifting the ladder to the back of our house, I rested it against the wall.

            Our bathroom window was always left open. Maureen liked the fresh air. Even in the height of winter. I just shivered and kept quiet.

            As I struggled to get my thin body through the window, I swore a few times. I’d wanted to leave a spare key under the gnome but Maureen had vetoed that.

            Finally, after jamming my left foot in the lavatory pan and barking my shin on the bidet - Maureen again, she wanted it to match our Jacuzzi – I was inside my home at last.

            Limping downstairs, I left a wet footprint as I went.  My spare car keys were in the lounge bureau and I found Maureen’s keys in the kitchen drawers, suitably labelled: ‘My keys. Do not use!’

            Sorry, old girl, I thought, needs must.

            Our lockup was at the end of the street and her Morris 1000 was in pristine condition, a collector’s item. It should be, she got me to polish it twice a week. She drove it only on Sundays, to visit her sister.

            I quite enjoyed driving it. Devilment almost tempted me to nudge the odd bollard here and there.

            By now I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open. Mustn’t wander across the road. Have an accident. Not now. 

It was amazing how quickly I got back to the garage. 

            As I pulled in behind my car I popped the boot of the Morris.

            I got out and unlocked my Escort’s boot.  I’d transfer Maureen to the Morris. Quicker. I lifted the boot and stared.

It was empty.

            ‘Having a problem, sir?’

            I swung round and two policemen were standing on the forecourt. One of them switched on a torch and shone the beam in my eyes.

            ‘No, officer,’ I said, which was quite untrue.

            When did she get out?  I’d heard her knocking as I reached the brow of the hill...

            ‘If you’re looking for your wife, sir, she’s quite safe in the hospital,’ said the policeman with the torch.  ‘While on patrol we saw your car stranded here and stopped to investigate.’

I listened, quite numb.

He went on, ‘We read your note and were about to leave when your wife’s knocking against the boot alerted us.’ He shrugged. ‘I think you can help us with our enquiries, sir.’

If only I had listened to Maureen and made sure that I’d had a full tank!


Previously published in 39 Emergency Exits, published by Fygleaves, 2006.
Copyright Nik Morton, 2014

My collection of crime tales, Spanish Eye, published by Crooked Cat, features 22 cases from Leon Cazador, private eye. He is also featured in the story ‘Processionary Penitents’ in the anthology, Crooked Cats’ Tales.

Spanish Eye, released by Crooked Cat Publishing is available as a paperback for £4.99 ($6.99) and much less for the e-book versions – UK or COM.

Paperback - Amazon UK
Paperback - Amazon COM
E-book - Amazon UK
E-book - Amazon COM
Crooked Cats' Tales - UK  and COM

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