Eight

After two hours sat watching cars fly past me on the A64, I was getting bored. Bored, twitchy, and drunk. Bored, twitchy, drunk, and hungry. I was also getting frustrated because the heavy rain meant that I couldn’t see much. As the sunlight further declined, so did my ability to watch the traffic. Cars, vans and lorries became indistinguishable; their hulking metal bodies reduced to brightly shining lights which roared past in the dark.

I’d had two false starts. The first was a white Volkswagen Golf which sped past me at such speed as to rock my entire car, and in the millisecond that our windows lined up I was able to see the driver’s face illuminated in blue, lit up by the mobile phone he was holding to his ear.

“MOTHER-FUCKER!” I’d shouted as my car suspension creaked and moaned in the wake of the rocketing Golf.

I paused for a second to make sure there was nothing following him, no other vehicles to stand between me and my victim, then I sprayed mud and gravel into the air behind me like a fat man visiting a curry house bogs, as I frenziedly revved the engine and dropped the clutch, pulling my balaclava into place as I did so.

The problem with my little one-litre four-cylinder engine is that it has fuck-all power, and reaching sixty takes almost twenty seconds, which is why, despite the commendable collective efforts of engine, clutch, and gearbox, the Golf was little more than a red blip on the horizon by the time I’d reached second gear. By third gear, it was gone.

‘Lucky bastard doesn’t know how close he came’, I thought to myself, but quickly conceded to myself that that wasn’t true. I never existed in that guy’s world, and I probably never will. It was a fleeting set of circumstances that almost came together perfectly but never did, like two perfectly matched single lovers that miss each other by a matter of seconds due to a lackadaisical bus driver, or are seated rows apart watching a film they both admire due to the badly-written algorithms applied by the seating allocation rules of a cinema ticketing website. In my case it wasn’t quite so romantic; a wanker had just avoided a kicking due to my car being shit. I circled back and reclaimed my rectangle of dry earth and tarmac, marked out clearly by the falling rain.

My second false start was a huge lorry which had blared it’s horn as it passed me. In my vodka-befuddled brain I couldn’t fathom whether the driver had actually done anything wrong. Maybe he was just demonstrating his opposition to my choice of parking spot? I was parked partly-obstructing a fast road, in the dark, in the wet, so if that was his beef… well he had a very fair point. But fuck being empathetic though – I was fully committed, balls-deep, and I’ll be fucked if I was going to sit around listening to tearfully recounted mitigating tales before choosing whether or not to perpetuate my onslaught. Each case evaluated on its own merits? Fuck off.

I followed that huge metal bastard for the next quarter of an hour, unable to quite muster the speed to pass him. My reinforced frontage would be of no use here, not against a lorry, but as I swerved around behind him, looking for a downhill stretch of road for overtaking, I decided that my plan would be to get ahead and then brake. Stop him in his tracks, and then take my hammer for a little chat with him. Or her. I don’t discriminate – I’ll fucking dive on anyone.

As it transpired, I chose to pussy out. The lorry was getting closer and closer to Scarborough, and soon we’d be in an area crawling with CCTV cameras and witnesses. The fields on either side of our chase became houses, and then shops, and eventually, upon seeing Scarborough train station, I made the decision to cut my losses and I peeled off, heading back towards my unlucky spot by the Ganton Greyhound and it’s tubby, ageless barman.

This is fucking bollacks. I need a rethink.

It was getting late, but I wasn’t quite ready to head home yet. I turned the engine off and sat for a further twenty or thirty minutes in silence; drinking my cheap vodka, listening to the rain, contemplating my next move and watching the now-thinning traffic as it rolled by into the night.

I need a faster car. That’s the answer! I need a faster car!

Music, maestro!

I scrabbled around under my seat and pulled out a fist full of CDs. None of them were in cases, and half of them were scratched to shit from living amongst the dirt and grit on my car floor.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. YES!

Despite a few wasted hours, I was now feeling elated. You have to go through these motions before you find your groove, and I was getting nearer to mine, one lesson at a time. I smiled to myself – not just because I’d got some new ideas, or because I was tipsy from the booze, but rather I was smiling at the sheer absurdity of the whole thing. When did my life become less about nights out chasing good drugs and sex, and more about pink balaclavas and welding rigs?

I spun the car around and started my journey home, high on possibilities, windows rolled down, and slurring along to The Best Of Abba as I leisurely swerved and weaved my way back along the A64 towards the M1.

“Daaancing queeeeeen ooonly seeveenteeeen…” I screeched into the cold night air as I whizzed past fields and through small villages.

I hit my vocal stride mid-way through Waterloo (the song, not the place) whilst barrelling towards Tadcaster, one hand on the steering wheel, the other unscrewing the top of the vodka bottle. Opening bottles with one hand was something I’d become quite adept at over the last year or so, the secret being to hold the bottle steady between your palm and your little finger, and then to unscrew the top with your thumb and forefinger. It was one of those skills that you’re secretly proud of, but would never share for fear of reprisals. I’d had the same conundrum when I realised that shitting was a lot more efficient with your back straight and your feet held a few inches off the ground, or when I discovered that spit was good for holding rogue moustache hairs in place, or that I could pick my nose in a much more satisfying manner if I grew the nail long on my little finger and used it as a kind of  mini-shovel. All great skills to have, but not the sort of thing I’d want to share with the nation via a Simon Cowell fronted television talent show, or even with the lads at work. Unlike Cunty Terry, who shares fucking everything:

‘Had a great wank last night lads, was thinkin’ abart your lass’s tits Jonno’

‘Get in there quickly boys if you don’t want to miss t’smell of four scotch eggs comin’ out of my arse hole’

‘Lads check out this rash between mi balls an’ mi leg. If you rub it t’skin comes off a bit an’ it smells a bit like cheese’

BLIP

My wandering mind was brought back into focus by the dazzling, flickering lights of a car coming towards me.

BLIP BLIP

And again. I slowed down, lowered the music, and tried to think straight through the confusion and fog that comes with hunger, tiredness, and booze. The car travelling towards me slowed to a crawl, and with its window down the driver, an old balding man with glasses, shouted into my car “LIGHTS!” as he drifted past.

Fuck. I needed to be more careful, lest I wanted to bring forwards my looming audience with PCs Grogan and Gaye.

I switched from Abba to the Dirty Dancing movie soundtrack as I joined the M1, lights now fully ON, and I settled at a steady seventy miles per hour. My car was slow, that was a fact, but it was feeling even slower these days, and that became even more apparent when I tried to accelerate on a quiet stretch of motorway. Only then did it hit me that this was probably the extra weight which I’d added; the metal plates hidden behind the panels, and the steel-reinforced bumper filled with sand. I bet it was the equivalent of carrying a couple of extra fat bastards around with me. It was another reason to get a faster car, something more powerful.

Terry had mentioned the extra weight, so it wasn’t a complete surprise, rather I’d just forgotten. He’d explained it as a pay-off between acceleration and handling:

‘The fing is Gav’, he’d said, ‘Is that your little cunt-mobile is a front wheel drive cunt-mobile, and that’s where we’re stacking t’fuckin’ weight Gav – reet on top o’ where t’fuckin’ power is. It’ll be a bit slower pullin’ away. Probly a bit slower stoppin’ too mate, bur it’ll ‘andle like a reet cunt’.

I’d taken this as a good thing. Sometimes with Terry he’d use reet cunt to indicate good things, for example:

‘Watched that new Batman last night Gav, that one wi’ Christopher Bale. Ee’s a proper suave mad bastard in’t e. Love that fucker. Reet cunt. I reckon I could be a super ‘ero called Shatman. I’d fuckin’ wear a brown suit an’ fuckin’ shit everywhere’.

Or sometimes it would be used to indicate bad things:

‘Took a prozzie ‘ome on Friday night Gav. Fuckin’ dirty as owt she were, she fuckin’ pulled ‘er minge out in’t back at ‘taxi an’ started pissin’ on t’fuckin’ floor. Turned out to be a proper fuckin’ fruit loop mate. She fuckin’ snorted all me fuckin’ charlie in’t bogs then went mental. Started screamin’ at me an’ smashin’ up me DVDs. Ad to gie her a tenner for a taxi an’ kick the cunt out before she woke fuckin’ landlady. She were a reet cunt’.

In the case of the car, judging by Terry’s wide eyes and excited grin, I’d taken reet cunt to be a good thing.

“Iiiiiii’ve haaaad, the tiiime of my liiii-iiiiiiiiiife, no I neeeever feeelt this way be-fooore, yes I sweeear…”

I sang loudly and badly as I pootled along in the slow lane of the M1. My vodka was running low, and I was ready for bed, but I felt good. The music was helping my mood. Music was always therapeutic in my world, it was always there when I was growing up, like an ever-present comfort blanket, a reason to sing and dance and be happy, and right now my therapists were Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley.

I didn’t have many memories left of my early childhood, I doubt anyone really does, but I always remember sitting on the kitchen worktop with my little legs dangling over the side, watching my mum chop carrots as she prepared a Sunday roast whilst my dad and my sister rolled around on the carpet in the hallway, my sister squealing and giggling as my dad chased her around on his hands and knees. ‘The tickle monster’s coming to get yooooooou!’. The house was warm and cosy, and I remember the smell of gravy and Yorkshire puddings wafting around the kitchen as The Bangles hit ‘Manic Monday’ played on the little radio that was next to me on the kitchen top. My mum always had music playing, and she had a lovely singing voice too. I always thought she’d end up on the stage one day, and that her secretary job was just to tide us over until she was discovered by some huge American record company. ‘Come on, join in with me Gavin!’ she’d say as she passed me a carrot to sing into, and we’d perform the most wonderful duet together to the backdrop of giggles and applause from my dad and my sister.

A  metallic blue bolt caught my eye as it shot up my left side and swerved in front of me, causing my right foot to instinctively jump into position over the brake pedal. No indication. No concern for the lane it was joining.

“You little fucking blue bastard. You little mother fucking blue bastard,” I spat, a wry jokers-smile crawling across my face.

At that point I felt like I was in a film. I was the main character, downtrodden but with the entire audience rooting for me, and it was the final act. It was my time to shine.

I dropped into third gear and pushed my foot hard into the accelerator, and as the tyres squealed and the engine whined I slowly turned my head to look into the camera.  On the huge cinema screen my head was the size of a garage door, my pupils the size of footballs, and with those footballs I stared directly at every single one of those movie fans in the packed-to-the-rafters cinema, all on the edge of their seats, mouths agog and popcorn cascading like snow in a slow-motion blizzard. The 3D was fantastic as I leaned closer in, the audience instinctively pulling back from my huge face, my moustache hairs sprouting out amongst the bedazzled punters like branches reaching for the sun from an unkempt shrubbery. I drew a slow, long breath, the audience now itching to know what I was about to say.

“NOBODY…”

My voice sounded low and gravely and very cool, but also ridiculously loud over the cinema’s huge speaker system. The bass in my voice resonated with various items in the auditorium, causing the wall fixings to buzz and vibrate.

“NOBODY…” I repeated, as the camera moved up to focus on just my eyes, slowly moving closer as I spoke, and turning my pupils from footballs into beach balls, and then into huge round tractor tyres.

“NOBODY… puts Baby in the corner…”

The cinema erupted with delight, popcorn being thrown into the air and strangers hugging and laughing as a marching band entered the room, blasting out the most jubilant of brass music. My poor tired delirious mind.

I pulled my balaclava into place, and shot off into the night. A red rocket chasing a blue shooting star.

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