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16 October 2014
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Jonathan Traynor

As 40 pushes ever closer to the bodily time clock, it's finally time to stop pecking at the keyboard as a wage slave and enjoy some writing for me! Journalism for six years taught me that creative writing is everywhere and not just the headlines, and with 10 years in PR, I've found out even more about it. Hope you enjoy the tale, but do tell if you don't - Jonathan Traynor, Greenisland.

Traffic and Travel by Jonathan Traynor

1

“Another arse numbing half an hour hanging around on the West Link,” he muttered to himself, fingers tapping on the steering wheel, eyes scanning the stationary metal snake that made up the A12. Someday they’ll finally get the underpass started, he thought looking around the cars bracketed around him.

To his left, sitting in a Ford Focus, a gaunt man eagerly picked his nose, almost screwing his finger up the knuckle in his left nostril, before slowly drawing it out and absent-mindedly wiping it on the rolled up sleeve of his striped shirt. To his right, trying to nose a car into a three feet space in front of his Audi – when the traffic finally moved another inch or so – were a twentysomething couple in a VW Beetle. The hold-up had not deterred their ardour. The man rested his tattooed left arm on the window while stretching the rest of his body to neck his partner. She giggled and playfully pushed away a hand that had been hidden from his voyeuristic glances. Behind him he could see in his mirror a black-haired woman talking quickly into her mobile. Her swift moving lips and creased forehead suggested she was less than happy to be stuck on this road to nowhere. Her black BMW inched closer to his bumper before she stopped, perhaps realising that there was nowhere to go. Or perhaps her foot had slipped a little off the Beamer’s brake while she issued instructions into her phone. Or perhaps she was just telling her lover that tonight’s passion was going to be put on hold for a wee while.

“Who knew a traffic jam could be a spectator sport?” he said to the empty interior of his Audi.

As his gaze flicked around the cars beside him he turned off the CD to tune into the news. The vapid headlines of non-stories gave way to the traffic and travel.

“Severe delays are expected this evening,” said the decorous voice. “An accident between at the Greencastle junction of the M2 and a broken-down lorry at the junction of the West Link and the Grosvenor Road are causing tailbacks. A major accident at Templepatrick is also causing tailbacks. The M1 at the Saintfield Road is closed to country bound…”

“Ah frig,” he thought. “If I’d listened to this earlier I could have gone down the Lisburn Road.”

The Royal Victoria Hospital’s mish mash of buildings were a strange counterpoint to this tiring journey, while advertising hoardings on his right urged another consumer splurge of things he neither wanted nor thought he could ever need.

The jam relented for a couple of feet and he waved the Beetle forward. The tattooed arm reached out of the window in a casual acknowledgement. Or maybe it was just to flick the ash of a cigarette. The black-haired woman in the Beamer was not impressed by his gesture as she lifted her hand off the steering wheel and frowned, without missing a beat in her telephone patter.

The cars all moved forward another few inches.

2

“Listen Rab, it’s a done deal; we’ve got it in the bag!”

Samantha was bouncing as they walked out of the Hillsborough hotel’s conference room towards the bar.

“They loved it! They loved you! That bit about ‘we hope that whether you decide to go with us or another provider, your project is a success’ that was pure genius waffle.”

She clapped him on the back as they settled down to a seat in the bar.

He flushed slightly. Sam was two years his junior, but the first boss that had given him free reign. If he hadn’t have been married with three sprogs he might have…but then she was in a heavy relationship too.

“Have a pint on me Rab!”

“Thanks Sam, just hope they bite.”

“They will big lad, they will, now settle down and enjoy the moment!”

She sauntered off to the bar, her step bouncing, despite the two-inch heels and the businesswoman’s standard issue severe trousers and jacket while he ceremonially lowered his tie to the official post-presentation half mast position.

The sales presentation had went better than he could have hoped. The pitch had been worked out for a month now, but the details on laying the pipe had only come together three days ago.

“Drink up! We should celebrate!”

“Sam, It’s not in the bag yet, fer frig sake I know they liked it,” he said. “But they haven’t bought it yet!”

They analysed the presentation over and over again, noting their potential customer’s reactions, noting when they’d took a drink, when Sam had called a break at three and returned with a waiter to take an order for pints and wine.

“Wanna another one?”

“Aww Sam, I’ve already had a couple.”

“Go on Rab, you’ll’ve soaked that up with that feed you swallowed at lunch.”

“Okay, but I really gotta go after this one, we’re on the first flight out of here for sun, sangria and doing sod all for a fortnight!”

“With your lot, not a chance.”

3.

The West Link traffic jam eased a little. Well truth be told it was a very little but Rab was desperate for a piss and desperate for a sign that the growing pressure on his bladder would soon be eased before he doubled up behind the wheel.

The black haired woman in the black BMW eased ever closer, almost as if her German made metal had crept into his Audi’s boot, while he’d inadvertently edged so close to the Beetle that it’s diminutive boot had been swallowed up by the front of his car.

The visual distortions caused him to rub his eyes.

“Shit, I haven’t had that much to drink,” he thought. “A pint before lunch, a good meal, a pint at three and two before we left. If I’m over the limit, it’s just by a wee bit; I can handle a wee drop.”

But then again he’d been working on this presentation for too long and the last three nights had been fairly late, as he’d honed the PowerPoint down to what Sam had commended last night as being “tight as a shark’s arse big lad”. Last night! He was knackered. It had been three in the morning before he and Sam had finished the rehearsals and when he finally crawled into his bed Katherine’s voice had just slurred out of sleepiness that she’d packed his bag, the kid’s suitcases and organised the doggie hotel for their Labrador.

He felt tired behind the wheel, but removed from the cars surrounding him.

3.

“The broken down lorry at Grosvenor Road has now been removed, and traffic on the A12 West Link heading out of Belfast is easing slightly,” the announcer said. “But severe delays remain on the M2 at Greencastle and Templepatrick…”

He’d less than an hour to get to the airport before Katherine. He wanted the car parked and to be settled at the bar before Katherine and the girls arrived.

4.

“A major accident has closed part of the road at Templepatrick tonight. Motorists heading for the international airport are advised to exit at the Sandyknowes roundabout…”

5.

“Sam, I really gotta go,” he said. “I need to get there before Katherine and the girls. I’ve got the passports and the tickets in the car.”

“Okay, but are you sure you don’t want a wee short before you go?”

“No.”

“C’mon, you’ve been working flat out for the past month. You deserve to chill before you head for the beach, and we can go over the shit you’ve no doubt left for me while you head to sunny Spain.”

“Okay boss, you’re da boss, but I really got to go soon.”

He accepted the Jack Daniels and sipped it slowly, thinking that he wouldn’t finish it or the pint before hitting the road for the airport.

6.

He accelerated past a lorry, shifting back up the gears as he cruised towards Sandyknowes roundabout. His relief that the Templepatrick junction was now open meant he could cut a few minutes off his time. He’d less than 20 minutes to get to the airport.

The Audi slipped smoothly between the lanes as he eased the car up to 80. The pressure on his bladder was still there, but he at least felt an end was in sight as he again edged the accelerator.

A bus had pulled out to overtake a Mini and he was forced to settle behind its sedate progress before it pulled in, and he could power forward. The car reacted well, pushing forward.

He dialled Katherine’s number on the hands free kit.

“Hi love.”

“You better have your ‘hi love’ ready Rab,” she said. “We’re not too far away and you better be there waiting with those tickets.”

“No problemo, almost there. If you get there first, set them up!”

“Aye, right! See ya soon.”

One touch and the call was disconnected, and he saw the exit ahead. He was still in the outside lane. He urged the German engine a little further on, cutting ahead of a Nissan to make the exit. He eased back a little, seeing the speedometer reluctantly cutting back from 70 to 60 to 50. He came off the exit ramp at 45, and as soon as he saw the dual carriageway Rab dropped from third to second gears, determined to make the bar early. The Audi’s front leapt at the sudden gearshift, pulling his attention with it. He tried to shift up, but a flash caught his eye. He was on the carriageway already.

The blue Citroen – his wife’s blue Citroen - tried to stop.

It didn’t.

The Audi took the impact just at his offside rear wheel. The car spun. The airbag smashed into Rab’s face. The side of the car crumpled into a hedge. The sudden stop snapped his neck. His breathing stopped too.

7.

Katherine saw Rab’s Audi. The Citroen was less than 20 yards away.

She couldn’t stop in that space.

His car span in front of her before she realised there had been an impact. The steering wheel pulled out of her grip. She stood on the brake, watching Rab’s car spin. The Ford behind her couldn’t stop. The impact killed Katherine and the girls before the Citroen turned over on its side.

8.

“Another arse killing half an hour hanging around on the West Link,” he muttered to himself, fingers tapping on the steering wheel, eyes scanning the cars jammed into the stationary metal snake that made up the A12. Someday they’ll finally get the underpass started, he thought scanning the cars bracketed around him.

9.

But then again since he killed Katherine and the girls he’d been wondering about this road every time he replayed that day.


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