A very good driver

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1200 words.

Kevin had the best job in the world, at least as far as he was concerned.
Out and about every day, driving his van, and delivering goods all over the country.
Kevin loved to drive, and he was a very good driver, at least as far as he was concerned.
He had been driving for almost five years. During that time, he had never been involved in an accident, and had no convictions for anything, not even speeding. Not that he didn’t bend the rules of course. He just never got caught.

Albert had been driving for longer than he could remember. He was driving before the first motorway had been opened, and when RAC patrols used to salute you when they saw your membership badge on the front grille. He had repaired punctures, and kept cars going by using one of Bella’s stockings as a fanbelt. And in all those years, he had never been in trouble with the police, or had an accident. Bella loved to be taken out in the car. She always declared that Albert was a very good driver. At least as far as she was concerned.

Kevin checked the hand-held computer. He had almost an hour to get to his next timed drop. That should be enough, he told himself. Traffic was flowing well, and the two-lane section on his side didn’t go back down to one lane for almost three miles. He checked his mirror, nothing behind. Foot down on the accelerator, he pushed his speed up a little. As long as there were no radar traps ahead, he could risk 85, maybe even 90. He knew this stretch well, and was sure that he would make the delivery with time to spare.

Albert and Bella were going to visit Hilda, Bella’s sister. Since they had both retired, they had more chances to see family and friends, or to take small drives for pleasure. They liked to drive to the seaside occasionally. Whatever the weather, they would park with a view of the sea, enjoying their sandwiches, and tea from a flask. No need to get out of the car. They could see well enough from inside. Albert had left plenty of time to get to Hilda’s. He had never liked to rush, and always made sure to keep below the speed limit. Bella could enjoy the views as they drove along, and Albert loved to feel the wheel under his driving gloves, and to change gear at just the right time. There was nothing better than a pleasant drive in the countryside. At least as far as he was concerned.

Kevin got past the huge truck just in time. The road had just narrowed down to one lane either way, and the last thing he wanted was to be stuck behind a slow-moving lorry. Up ahead, he saw that the car in front was coming up very quickly. He had to brake hard as he got behind it, and with a steady flow coming the other way, there was no chance of overtaking. He wondered what the driver thought he was playing at. He could only have been doing 50, and this was a 70 limit. Kevin had to drop to fourth gear, and was so close to the back of the car, he could see the people inside clearly. Typical. Some bald old fart, with his blue-haired wife plonked in the passenger seat. Bloody Sunday drivers out on a busy weekday morning. They should be banned, stopped from driving once they were past sixty-five years old. At least as far as he was concerned.

At first, Albert didn’t notice the van. He had not seen the headlights flashing repeatedly, and he couldn’t hear the repeated blasts of the horn either. Bella had drawn his attention to some cows in a nearby field. They were lying down. She wondered about the old saying, for the umpteenth time. Will it rain when the cows are lying down, or when they are standing up? Albert didn’t answer. It was something they had mused upon so many times, and never really got to the bottom of. Something made him glance in the mirror. The van behind was very close. Too close, he was sure of that. He glanced at the speedometer. Almost 55, that was fast enough on this sort of road. At least as far as he was concerned.

Kevin could feel his anger building. He slammed his hands against the wheel, and checked the time again. At this rate, he might well miss the slot for the delivery. He tried flashing the lights again. Perhaps the old fool would see sense, and pull over some more, or even drive off the road into a lay-by or something. No response. He edged the front of his van out, testing his opportunity to get by. No chance. The van just wasn’t fast enough to make the gap in the oncoming traffic. He pumped the horn again. Nothing. The old geezer in front was probably deaf anyway, he was sure of that. He should be in a bloody coffin, not blocking the road for everyone else.

Albert was becoming a little afraid, but he didn’t want to worry Bella. She was a good passenger, but she wouldn’t like it if she knew about the van behind. Why didn’t the van just overtake him, or slow down a bit if he couldn’t? He had seen the attitude of drivers change over the years. These days, he often noticed them shouting at him, or making rude hand signals. He couldn’t see the point of all that bad manners or impatience. They would only get one car in front, after all. It was just unnecessary. He smiled over at Bella. Perhaps they would stop at the next services, he thought to himself. He could do with a trip to the toilet. His bladder wasn’t as strong as it had once been.

Kevin estimated the distance to the tractors coming the other way. Bloody farm traffic was holding everything up behind it, but it gave him the change to get past this old fool, at long last. He dropped a gear, and pushed the pedal as hard as his size ten could manage. The van responded, and he drove out into the opposite lane, the engine screaming as he strained every ounce of power from it. He kept the low gear, hoping to maintain the acceleration. As he crept past the car, he bellowed at the driver, venting his rage in those few seconds of passing. Looking up, Kevin suddenly realised he wasn’t going to make it. The huge tractor with its trailer load of hay was not moving out of the way, and the old boy in the car was keeping up his average speed. Even as he hit the brakes, Kevin knew it was too late.

Albert didn’t hear the crash, but he saw the impact in his mirror. Clouds of dust and steam, pieces of metal flying into the air. He accelerated a little, reaching close to 60 as he drove away from the scene. Bella checked her watch. At this rate, they would arrive nice and early. Hilda would be pleased about that. She saw some more cows over to the left. They were standing up.

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15 thoughts on “A very good driver

  1. “At least as far as he was concerned.” This little formula, used five times by my count, was very effective. You did an excellent job of building the suspense. Some readers might assume that details (e.g., the cows) detract from the main story, but, in fact, they help build suspense because they push back the ending further, thereby stoking impatience in the reader as well as a heightened feeling of impending doom.

    Another thing I really liked about this story was how the two drivers viewed each other in light of the fact that they are on the road for vastly different reasons.

    This story was well developed, well told, and ranks among your best. Kudos!

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    1. Thanks very much, David. The cow thing is very English, but also a distraction in the story to show that Bella is oblivious to the events. The repetition of the phrase was structural, and intended to reinforce certain parts. As usual, you seem to have got the point completely, which is very pleasing to me.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Up until April this year I was out on the road everyday driving long distances to appointments I didn”t want to be late for, but on the one track roads through Cumbria, tractors and older folks quite often slowed me down. I learned very quickly to let go of the frustration, sing along to the radio and only overtake when there’s no car coming in the distance, live to drive another day!
    Great story Pete and a tricksy ending, (I thought Bert & Bella would cop it too!). 🙂

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  3. Great observation Pete written as only you can. I’m all to familiar with this kind of situation here in Poland were they top the European road death leader board. I’m all too often overtaken by people who need to be somewhere 20 seconds sooner than they would have been if they had stayed behind me! Happy to hear that Albert and Bella made it in good time, there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in traffic caused by an accident!

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