All Along the Road

An excerpt from something unfinished… A different sort of story from the ones I usually write. The main character is unnamed – only because I can’t think of her name for the moment, I didn’t decide to have her anonymous – something I first noticed in Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ but there are other nameless protagonists:

  • Roxana – Daniel Defoe
  • The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Aspern Papers – Henry James
  • Boys and Girls – Alice Munro
  • The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
  • Blindness – José Saramago
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Surfacing – Margaret Atwood
  • Hideous Kinky – Esther Freud
  • Everyman – Philip Roth
  • Cockroach – Rawi Hage

Anyway… here is an excerpt from a story I may finish next year, it may be called ‘Dancing in the Road’ or ‘All Along the Road’… The main character had an unexpected romantic interlude with a younger man who she met doing a gig in her local pub. She’s on the way to pick up her son from the station:

It was a vile night to be driving to Strand at nearly midnight; the rain was coming down in torrents and she just hoped that Danny was waiting inside the station for her. He had missed the connection and then gone for a drink thinking there was another bus he could catch to Easthope but had missed that too… it was no use getting cross or annoyed, she reflected. It was just as well that she hadn’t had anything to drink and could drive over to collect him.
She had just passed the caravan park when her lights swept over someone struggling along the road, head bowed into the wind. She pulled into the layby where the burger van usually was and swung round and headed back towards Easthope. The man stuck his thumb out in a desperate and rather hopeless way and she pulled over beside him.
He opened the car looking in and then grinned.
“This is good luck,” he said getting in beside her. “I am sorry that I am so very wet.”
He pulled his hood back and despite it his hair was sodden and before the interior light died she saw its blond was darkened with wet.
“I can give you a lift but only if you don’t mind going back to Strand, I have to pick up my son from the bus station.”
He was struggling to organize his guitar case between his knees then fumbling with the seat belt, and no he didn’t mind.
”I have missed seeing you,” he said his unidentifiable accent seemed stronger than she remembered.
His coat was rather smelly, wet wool, old dog and weed, but she actually didn’t mind. She was excited like a teenager who unexpectedly has the guy she really fancies sitting next to her on the school bus.
“You had a gig? How did it go?”
“Ja, I did but it was not so good… they didn’t like me, they didn’t like my songs… no, it was better where you were.”
She commiserated, he sounded sad in his low-voiced mumbly way and she asked him where he had been playing and if he had many gigs.
“I did go to that pub in Easthope but you were not there,” he said, he sniffed but it was with the water dribbling down his face.
His English was very good but she couldn’t get the inflection to know whether  he meant he had just been there or he had gone there to see her.
“Your son, he is how old?”
Daniel was nineteen, she told him, and she had a daughter, Clare who was twenty-five… she wondered how old he was.
“My son he is nine… I do not see him for four years…” his quiet voice drifted away and when she glanced at him he was staring out of the side window, streaked with a fold of rain. What a vile night.
“That’s sad… what’s his name?”
He said a name which sounded like Tice, not a name she knew but then he said it was Dutch. His face was still turned away. So was he Dutch?
The rain came down in such an onslaught now, the wipers hardly coping with it that she had to peer through the windscreen which was misting up despite the heater being on full. His coat was really beginning to smell now, or maybe it was him. She didn’t think he was very clean, but somehow that didn’t matter, it seemed dangerous and daring to be with a younger and rather grubby man.
It was busy round the station, even so late at night, taxis and cars picking up people, a lot of young people she noticed, and parents like her, rescuing their children. She had to drive round twice and was just beginning to think she would have to park up and struggle through the rain to find Daniel when she saw his lanky form waving at her… she somehow always forgot how tall he had grown, somehow she was always looking for a fourteen year-old.
She managed to pull over not far from him, in front of a man struggling to get his daughter’s mountain of bags into a light coloured Clio.
Daniel wrenched the back door open, hurled in his backpack and clambered in greeting her as enthusiastically as he always did.
“Hello, baby, this is Theo, Theo this is my son Daniel.”


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