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The Road

Martin Phelps checked his appearance in the small square mirror blue-tacked to the door of his locker. He made a small adjustment to his tie, straightened his security tag, then closed his locker and marched from the room.

He stepped into the control room and nodded to his supervisor who was bellowing into the telephone. The supervisor ripped a sheet off the printer and handed it to Martin without looking at him. Martin scanned it as he walked out to his booth, then folded it up and tucked it into the breast pocket of his jacket. It was just another round of health and safety instructions, nothing of any great interest.

He opened the door of the booth and smiled at the woman currently staffing it. She slipped gratefully from her chair and stretched with a grimace. They shuffled around each other as she took her jacket from the back of the chair and edged her way out.


She shrugged. 'Is it ever?'

He watched as she walked back to the control room, then turned his attention to the road. A security vehicle was turning into the compound, its yellow light flashing eagerly. As the gate closed, all fell quiet. Nothing moved. Martin sighed and leaned back in his chair. Out of boredom he pulled up the stats on the computer screen. It made for dismal reading.

He sensed movement from the two other open booths and looked up. A small van was slowly approaching, its driver peering out of the windscreen, studying the lane indicators to see which booths were in operation.

Martin sat up straight. All three booth operators watched the van intently, willing it into their lane. At the last second, the driver pulled the steering wheel to the right and veered into the lane next to Martin. He sat back, despondent, watching the other booth operator out of the corner of his eye. Oh of course, it would be. Simon Trent. Always Simon flipping Trent. Always top of the takings list.

An hour passed.

Martin had reorganised the paper clips, the receipt file, the pen pot and had even dusted the top console. His booth was sparkling. His takings tray was empty. He stared out at the approach road.

Suddenly his eye was drawn to a piece of paper being blown by a sudden gust at the bend in the road. That could only mean one thing. Couldn't it? It has to be? Yes! A lorry! A whole lorry! Articulated at that. Martin stared, unblinking, at the driver in the cab, trying to direct him telepathically into his lane. He could see Simon Trent out of the corner of the eye. He was watching just as fiercely. Martin clenched his jaw. One lorry could make all the difference to his rating.

The driver slowed as he leaned down to fiddle with something below the dash. The lorry weaved slightly. Martin's knuckles turned white as his fists bunched into balls. At the last moment the driver looked back up, shocked to see how close he was to the booths. He yanked the wheel left and … yes! Drew the artic into Martin's lane.

Martin peered up at him. '£15 sir.'

The driver scowled. 'How much?'

'£15 sir.'

'No wonder the other road's jammed!'

'Ah, but this road is in excellent condition sir. And I guarantee no congestion.'

'Small bloody wonder!' growled the driver as he handed over the cash.

Martin hit the button to lower the bollard and gave the driver his receipt. He resisted the urge to gloat at Simon. The driver's words had rather taken the gleam off the victory. Martin knew all too well that the point was valid.

During the rest of the shift the booths allowed two buses, five cars and eleven motorcycles through. As Martin sat in a lengthy traffic jam on the way home, he found it difficult to escape the irony.


© 2013 Kay Lawrence.


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