I am disappointed to see that it contains the occasional correct word in the right place.
“Marmalade, dear?” Geoffrey Thompson, a mild-mannered bank-clerk, aged forty-seven, a little bit bald, and a bit fat, said to his wife Mabel who was forty-two and had hair died silver with purple highlights.
Mabel didn’t much like marmalade and was annoyed that her husband Geoffrey had asked her. Why would he do that? She preferred jam with her breakfast toast.
“I think I would prefer jam, Geoffrey,” Mabel said testily. She stared across the table at her husband feeling really annoyed and angry.
“Jam it is, then!” Geoffrey said cheerily, and went to get the jam. In the cupboard they had strawberry jam, raspberry jam and a jar of lemon curd. There was also some black-currant jelly but the jar looked very old and past it’s sell-by date.
“There’s strawberry jam, raspberry jam and a jar of lemon curd, Mabel” Geoffrey quipped. “Oh and there’s some blackcurrant jelly but the jar looks very old and past it’s sell-by date!” he added mischievously.
“I’m not sure about the blackcurrant jelly, Geoffrey,” Mabel answered hesitatingly. “I think I’ll have some strawberry jam, pleas. Thank-you.”
“Strawberry jam it is, then!” Geoffrey popped out. He got the strawberry jam jar out of the cupboard, took off the top, scooped some jam into a dish and then took it to Mabel. “Here you are, Mabel!” he said brightly. Then he sat down.
Mr and Mrs Thompson were eating their breakfast before setting off on the annual holiday they had every year in Swanage in Dorset. Geoffrey Thompson had insisted on a large, hearty, filling breakfast before they set off to go to Swanage. Swanage was a long way away. The trip to Swanage was over two hundred miles and with all the holiday traffic and inevitable hold-ups they could easily be on the road for a whole day.
“We must eat well before we set off, Mabel, “ Geoffrey advised sternly. “We’ve a long way to go and there are bound to be hold-ups on the way,” he explained.
After they had finished their breakfast, Mabel and Geoffrey washed the dishes. Mabel had wanted to leave the dishes in the sink but Geoffrey had said they should be washed (otherwise the egg would have congealed and hardened by the time they got back and the plates would be very hard to get clean. “Mabel, let’s clean the dishes now,” he had said sensibly when they finished breakfast. “It won’t take all that long, only a few minutes, well, not more than five, eh? If we leave the dishes on the draining board, or leave them in the dishwasher, the food on the plates will be rock-solid, won’t it, by the time we get back. Imagine how difficult it will be then to get them really clean.”
So Mabel washed the dishes. While Mabel was drying the dishes, Geoffrey went upstairs to get the suitcases. Their were two suitcases. One each. The cases were very heavy, and as their were two Geoffrey struggled to carry them down the steep stairs, then along the hall and then out through the front door and down the path to the car, a little Morris 1000 Geoffrey had bought new in 1961 from a local dealer just down the road in the village.
By the time Geoffrey had loaded the two very heavy suitcases, Mabel had finished the drying up. “I’ve finished the dishes, Geoffrey!” she chirped from the kitchen. She was sounding happy. “I’ll just pop upstairs and powder my nose!” she added. “I won’t be long!” she also added.
Geoffrey waited downstairs while Mabel was upstairs, “powdering her nose!” he was very impatient and was annoyed because he had to wait. “Where IS she?” he wondered grumpily out loud. Slowly he got more angry and frustrated. He felt sure his face was getting red.
Eventually, Mabel had finished “powdering her nose” and she came skipping down the stairs. “ARE YOU READY NOW!!?” Geoffrey said, very huffily. He was barely keeping his frustrated anger covered up. Mary became annoyed at Geoffrey’s impatience which was very unreasonable. “Yes, I’m ready!” Mabel retorted with obvious sarcasm in the way she said it. She was quite angry.
They went out to there old Morris 1000 car. It was a really nice sunny day and the sun was very bright. Birds were singing and they were looking forward to their holiday. Above them sol, that great orb shone down on them, warming them and making them feel good. It was hard to remember, reflected Geoffrey, that the sun was really a star and it’s incandescence resulted from nuclear fusion and fission over ninety-three million miles away across the immense, unimaginable distances of space.
They got in the car and Geoffrey started it. “Good, old car,” he cried. He backed the Morris 1000 Traveller in reverse out of the drive outside there house, driving it slowly backwards until they were off the drive and onto the road. Then he put the handbrake on, changed into a forward gear (first), let the handbrake off and started to go forward.
The Thompsons lived in a small semi-detached house on the outskirts of Nottingham, England, which was actually quite a nice place. But now they were off on there yearly annual holiday and cheerful and excited. Geoffrey started driving carefully and quite slow, really. He turned left at the end of there cul-de-sac, into Inkerman Way, and then at the end of Inkerman Way he turned right at a T-Junction and then went for a bit until the road turned into a dual-carriageway which went all the way to the M1 Motorway.
They went along this road for a bit. Then Mabel in the passenger seat saw the exit road off the dual carriageway which led to the M1 Motorway. She exclaimed, “Geoffrey, here is the exit for the M1 Motorway. Turn off here or you’ll miss you’re turning.”
“OK, OK!” Geoffrey said resignedly. His voice sounded flat and sad.
He turned his left indicator switch. The indicator came on straight away so other drivers knew Geoffrey was turning left. Geoffrey carefully steered the Morris 1000 down the exit road and approached the motorway. Ahead, Geoffrey and Mabel could make out the enigmatic presence of a person, a man, a hitch-hiker, hitching with his thumb out hoping someone would stop his car and offer to give him a ride.
“There’s a hitch-hiker, trying to hitch a lift, Mabel,” Geoffrey pointed out to Mabel.
“I know, Geoffrey,” Mabel replied quickly. She was just switching on the radio.
Attention! Attention! This is an urgent newsflash about something important. We are sorry to interrupt your programme but an important announcement must now be made immediately. A prisoner has escaped from Nottingham prison and the escapee is now on the run. He is believed to be heading for Swanage in Dorset and may be attempting to hitch-hike down the M1 Motorway. The escaped prisoner who broke out of the geol is John Thomas (“the axeman”) Gremlin and was serving a life-sentence for strangling fourteen nuns in mini-bus. While escaping from the prison, Gremlin killed two prison warders and an innocent passer-by. He did, however spare the innocent passer-by’s pet poodle. This stern warning is to explain that though John Thomas Gremlin is known to like animals, he is extremely dangerous and might resort to violence if provoked by anyone attacking him.
Geoffrey was concentrating on his driving so didn’t take much notice of the urgent news flash. “Shall we give that young man a lift, Mabel?” he said kindily to his wife. “Apart from the scars on his face and his piercing, merciless eyes, he seems quite nice, and that blood-stained beg he’s carrying looks really heavy.” Then he saw the board the man was holding up. “Oh he’s carrying a board, “ he said, somewhat surprised. “Can you see what it says, Mabel?”
Mabel looked at the board the enigmatic hitch-hiker was carrying and she read it, then told Geoffrey what it said.
“The board the man is carrying says, Swanage, Dorset, please. “ Mabel said helpfully. “What a polite young man!”
Geoffrey now realized the enigmatic stranger had TWO boards.
“Oh look!” he laughed, “the hitch-hiker has two boards. What does the other board, say, Mabel? Not the Swanage please board, the other one.”
“You are curious, aren’t you, Geofrrey?” Mabel teased.
“I confess I am,” admitted Geoffrey with a little laugh.
“Let me see,” whispered Mabel. By now Geoffrey had stopped the car right next to the hitch-hiker, with the strange, enigmatic, deathly but somehow inviting eyes. “Ah, yes. Oh, very interesting. It says, can you guess what I have in my bag?”
“Oh, I love game!” Geoffrey giggled excitedly to Mabel. “Let’s give this strange young man a lift. Why, look, he’s going to Swanage, Dorset just like we are. We could offer to take him all the way to Swanage as he’s going to the same place as us.”
Mabel suddenly thought about the urgent news flash.
“You don’t think it’s dangerous, do you?” she nervously asked.
“Of course, not, silly!” Geoffrey answered in reply.
The hitch-hiker got in the back of the car. He thought it a nice car, really, if a bit small. Thinking about a poem by Rilke, he opened his bag, took out a blood-stained axe and began to pick his nails.
“Oh, no!” Mabel gurgled, realizing her mistake, too late, too late! Suddenly she thought this scar-faced man might be a blood-crazed multiple dog-loving killer. She screamed.
“Arrrrgggggghhhh!!!” she wailed, disturbing Geoffrey’s concentration.
“Oh dear!” muttered the enigmatic young man with the scarred face and the cold, merciless eyes. “You quite frightened me then, and you distracted the driver.”
By this time Geoffrey was traveling at 110 miles an hour down the hard shoulder of th motorway. He was becoming concerned. But, then, unexpectedly, the enigmatic scar-faced hitch-hiker pulled out a wicked, curve-bladed gleaming sharp knife and pushed it into his neck. “Oh shit!” said Geoffrey to no-one in particular. Then he died.
But now the car had no control. It skidded across the motorway and a petrol tanker braked to try and avoid it, flipped over and burst into flames. A school bus hurtled into the conflagration and all aboard were consumed except for a girl called Alice who was thrown clear. It was a miracle some said. Twelve more cars, a van and another lorry zoomed helplessly into the crash as well, but just when Mabel thought her end had come, the little Morris Traveller, as if guided by God himself, left the road, flew slowly through the air and landed.
The car landed in a ditch, but luckily the ditch was filled with bales of straw from recent harvesting. There was a bit of a bang, but then Mabel realized she was STILL ALIVE!!! For a brief moment, she almost thought of her husband who was sat in a pool of blood, but then she remembered the enigmatic scar-faced hitch-hiker who she was now convinced was up to no good.
She looked up at the rear-view mirror, and THERE HE WAS! Staring, mercilessly!
But she needn’t have worried. The hitch-hiker said he was really sorry about her husband an’all. Then he said he’d have to be getting on, because it was a long way to Swanage, and with holiday traffic and hold-ups, he could take all day to get there.
My, was Mabel relieved.
First Published to great critical acclaim (cough) in Southern Ocean Review