Wednesday 5 August 2020

The Hard Shoulder

by Henry Lewi

double macchiato 

   Stranded on the hard shoulder at 9 o’clock on a deserted motorway is one of the loneliest places on the planet he thought. Moments earlier he’d suffered a rear blowout of his tyre. Swerving across the three lanes of the road he’d managed to bring the car under control, and although it sounded awful, he’d coasted the car onto the hard shoulder, put on the hazards, and quickly got out of the car. Shaking and with his pulse racing he tried to think what to do next.

Right get the mobile phone, get the cigarettes, get help in that order. The first two were on the nearside passenger seat so he retrieved them promptly and lit up a cigarette gradually calming his nerves. Well he’d survived so far. He convinced himself to look at the rear tyre. 

“Bloody hell” he said to no-one in particular, the tyre was completely shredded, and the Alloy wheel was sitting directly on the ground. OK so what next? who to call? For a start there was no spare tyre, the new Mercedes SL used run-flats only. 

“Pity they didn’t prevent complete blowouts”, he muttered to himself. So, he needed an emergency breakdown and  recovery service but definitely not the police -  stay behind the barrier for safety. 

“Bugger it,” there was no service on his phone on this part of the deserted motorway. 

“Ok where’s the emergency telephone, there must be one either up ahead, or behind, I really don’t want the police involved”, he thought.

 “Right, so let’s get to the phone and call for an emergency recovery and get them to transport me and the car home, at least then I can sort this mess out.”

   There was little traffic around, but he really envied those driving past, snug and warm in their heated cars, listening to the radio, they really didn’t know how lucky they were. He walked forward to the emergency phone, carefully keeping close to the barrier, he really didn’t want to end up as another statistic of motorway fatalities. 

 There, about 200 yards ahead was one of the emergency phones, alone and isolated it was an orange beacon, beckoning him closer.  Arriving he picked up the phone and was quickly put through to an operator. He quickly outlined his problem, emphasizing that the car was undriveable and  requested an emergency recovery, agreed the price it was going to cost him and carefully detailed the make, model and registration of the car. He gave the operator the location number of the emergency phone making sure he emphasised that the car was parked a few hundred yards behind the phone. 

“I’m sorry Sir but could we have some credit card details for the emergency breakdown service,” said the operator.”

“No problem,” he replied, pulling out the wallet from the pocket of his jeans, and read out the long number, security code and expiry date, giving his name exactly as it was printed on the front of the card. 

 “Righto sir,” replied the operator, “I’ll have an emergency recovery truck with you in the next hour. Please return to the car but don’t sit in it and remain behind the barrier at all times.”

He suddenly felt a lot calmer and thought “It’s all going to be OK.”
He walked back to the car and was astounded to see two police cars parked slantwise behind the car with the police closing off the inner lane and diverting the traffic.
  “Good evening Sir,” said one of the police officers. “Can we be of help”.
“No, no its OK. I’ve organized an emergency recovery which'll be here very soon.  There’s no need to worry. I’m perfectly safe and there’s really no need for any fuss.”  He could hardly speak as his mouth was now so very, very, dry.

“Would you mind unlocking the car Sir,” said a second policeman.  “I’m sure everything is in order, we just need to see your insurance, and driving license.”
“They’re all at home I’m afraid.  I’ll drop them into the nearest police station tomorrow, if that’s OK,” he replied.
  “Could you step round to the boot Sir?” requested the first officer, as he opened the trunk. They all stared at the unconscious bound figure lying there.  “Our Assistant Chief Constable does love his new Mercedes Sir.”

About the author

Henry has retired from the NHS after many years. He now writes short stories and a monthly column for a local magazine. He is a member of the Canvey Writers Group.

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