Look Both Ways

The Art of TYing Knots The Art of TYing Knots

Look Both Ways – in The Art of Tying Knots (Flax Books 2007)

Everyone deserves an interesting exit. Better than that bare-gums, blurred eyes, roped fingers clutching nothing, wondering why no-one looks like your children drift down into the void. That’s what decides me. Filling the tank with unleaded, calmed at last by the clicking of the litre-counter. I shake the drops off the nozzle and head out faster than the five miles per hour I’m supposed to stick to.

I slow up on the sliproad. Stop and let him in, ignore it when he says Birmingham. Later, when it’s too late, I wonder whether that is what he said.

‘Yeah’, I say, not taking my eye off the white line pulling me back onto the motorway. ‘I hate the M6’.

‘Thanks for picking me up.’

‘Yeah.’

‘I’d only been there five minutes. Hadn’t even finished my sign.’

He waggles a strip of corrugated card. In the rear view mirror I catch a smear of reversed letters. Not enough for Bristol, let alone Birmingham. That early into the trip, I don’t care.

‘Yeah.’

‘My lucky day.’

His face is Big Issue thin; beard the regulation tugged-at wisps. Voice incongruously polite.

‘Downwardly mobile?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Should have said what. Posh. Trying to hide it.’

‘What?’

‘That’s better. Get an accent. Your camouflage isn’t working. I can see you a mile off.’

He sits quietly while I tailgate four drivers hogging the middle lane at exactly seventy miles an hour. One by one they obey my flashing headlights and huddle back into the inside lane.

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