“Hurry up!” said Doris “The sun’s shining and if we’re going to get a good spot down by the river, we’re going to have to get a move on.”
“Alright, alright, I’m coming.” Replied Jim, cursing under his breath. Where had she put those awful bloody shorts she made him wear when it was warm.
“Well, you know it’s a good half-hour the speed you plod along at. Don’t know why you don’t let me do more of the driving!”
Jim, kept quiet, he had learnt to over the years. Bit of a toss-up, though. Either he drove and had Doris squawking at him nonstop. Or, let her drive and spend the whole time holding his breath, waiting for the blue lights or the white flash from a camera, while she drove along as if they had a train to catch. And retirement was supposed to be relaxing!
“And don’t forget those nice paisley socks I bought you for your birthday!”
It was going to be one of those days, Jim knew from the start, when Doris had interrupted his reading of the paper over breakfast to announce that they were going for a picnic.
“Now the kids have gone back to school, it’ll be nice and quiet down by that stretch of river we like. No chance of a football landing in us lunch.”
Oh, gawd, Jim had thought, there’d be no chance to sit quietly and read his book, hearing aids switched off, whilst Doris marched up and down remonstrating with the parents of the playing nippers. Now, he’d have Doris warbling on to him the whole time, even checking to make sure he was switched on.
Finally, after Jim being sent back to change his T shirt (didn’t compliment his shorts), having to check all doors and windows were shut and locked and tested the security alarm, they were ready to go. Barney, the beagle, jumped into the back and settled down to snooze straight away (“Excellent dog!” thought Jim, “If only Doris would follow his example.”).
Jim had retired 5 years ago, looking forward to a chance to put his feet up. Chance would be a fine thing! After all those years as sales manager for the Northern Division when he had driven 30,000 miles or more a year, Jim saw no need to rush anywhere. So, as long you weren’t holding anyone up, he saw no point in rushing. Keeping to the speed limits was no hardship, quite relaxing in fact. He switched on the radio, to see if the cricket had started yet.
“Switch that bloody rubbish off!” Chimed in Doris, as if on cue. “Now I’ve got your attention, I need to talk to you about getting the boiler serviced.”
Jim tried to switch-off. They were on the dual carriage-way now and Jim accelerated gently up to the 70mph limit in the outside lane. Driving smoothly put far less strain on the engine and much less wear on tyres and brakes. Important now they no longer had the company car. Couldn’t afford to go throwing money around now they just had his pension.
“Look out now! Mind you don’t get stuck behind that truck, otherwise we’ll never get past him on the next stretch. For God’s sake, put yer foot down!”
She was worse than usual this morning, thought Jim. For Christ’s sake, why doesn’t she just shut up and let me get on with it! He managed to pass the remaining line of traffic in good time, before the dual stretch ran out, simply by maintaining his speed. He had known he would, just a matter of being aware and good planning and good judgement.
“Pure luck!” chimed in Doris again, “Sometimes I think you’re too slow to catch a cold!”
Jim was struggling to ignore her now. His knuckles showed white as he gripped the wheel, fighting with himself to stop himself screaming back at her. Instead, he closed his eyes for a second and shook his head in an effort to get his concentration back on the road.
In that split second, the tractor pulled out of the little lane that had been hidden by the bend. Not just a tractor, Jim saw as he opened his eyes, the tractor was towing a bloody trailer!
Hours later when the ambulance had departed and with the road still closed, the attending Road Scene Manager and Forensic Collision Investigator stood together in the middle of the road comparing their assessments of the incident.
“Bad enough we have at least one fatality, but it’s a good job the Golf driver didn’t hit that trailer,”offered the FCI, shaking his head.
“What, you mean we’d have had bacon scattered all down the road for a hundred yards!” responded the RSM who had a bit of a reputation in the force for his black sense of humour. “All those pigs would have taken a fair bit of cleaning up.”
“Naughty!“ the FCI said, as he walked towards the remains of the Golf, the near-side front end buried into the old horse chestnut that had stood by the side of the road for a century or more.
“Miracle that dog escaped without a scratch.”
“Mmmm,” the FCI continued, taking off his cap and scratching his head, “the really intriguing thing is that driver did a bloody good job to miss the tractor and the trailer. Real skill and must have had his wits about him to do that. Need to interview him when he’s been checked out in hospital, though. How did he come to hit the tree with his nearside when that farm gate was wide open? A metre more to his right and he’d have sailed straight through into the field, clean as a whistle.”