The drifter had hitched a lift in a beat up old Transit van to the layby on the A68 about twenty miles east of Carlisle in the North East of England. As they had pulled into the layby an A board lit up in the headlights, advertising John David’s Bar. Underneath the lines, Dirty Glasses, Poor Food, Slow Service, Expensive, Rude Staff, English Humour. The English humour immediately obvious as they passed a small dirty trailer van, greasy spoon with the blue smoke of burning grease billowing from the blackened exhaust chimney at the back of the filthy trailer. The dash clock said twenty three fifteen.
The Transit driver parked and they walked back to the greasy spoon trailer, the drifter saying, “I’ll just carry on hitching, I can’t afford to buy food tonight”. The van driver looked at him sideways, knowing he was lying through his gap-toothed discoloured teeth and said he would buy him a sausage roll and a cup of tea.
Ten minutes later the drifter is walking along a line of trucks in the layby, asking each driver “where is this truck going”
The fourth response was a gruff “North” from a very large, long haired bearded driver with a huge beer belly trapped below the steering wheel, which he held loosely with the biggest hands the drifter had ever seen. Asking if he could have a lift got him an abrupt “get in laddie” in a gruff Northern Scottish accent.
They pull out onto the A68 heading east, the road ahead dark with no traffic at that time of night, the only lighting in the dark cab the reflection of the truck’s headlights from the cats eyes down the middle of the road.
With the regular flashing from each cat’s eye and the low monotonous rumble from the big diesel engine, the drifter fell asleep.
Waking up with no idea of how long he had been asleep he realises that the road in front is no longer wide enough to be the A68. There are no cat’s eyes, just a luminous white line down both side of a road with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other.
“How come we are not on the A68 or A1 North” he asks, “It’s a short cut laddie” comes the abrupt reply.
The drifter looks around to see if he can get any idea of where he is from the landscape but all he can see id the narrow road and some of the grass verge in the headlights of the truck. A pang of worry flows through him when he sees the moon on the right hand side of the truck meaning they are travelling south into the North Pennines wilderness.
“This is not North” he shouts. The driver looks at him, slams on the brakes pulling the truck over onto the grass verge. He reaches under his seat, pulls out a huge Bowie Knife and with a lascivious grin snarls, “It’s time to pay your fare Laddie”