A Fork on the Road

The night he had a blazing row with his Missus, Tommy Harrison made a reckless decision. He hijacked a beat-up Toyota left unattended outside the Ball and Chain pub on Newbury Street. He did not know that his choice of vehicle was a bad one. Not yet.

Sidling along the side of the station wagon in the dark unlit car park, Tommy Harrison hadn’t noticed the plastic crates in the rear. This fact would have consequences, but Tommy did not know that. Not yet.

He opened the unlocked door of the station wagon, scrambled into the driver’s seat, and hot-wired the ignition. A trio outside the pub, leaning on a bench supping pints, paused as the Toyota roared into life. Engaging the clutch, Tommy yanked the gear stick into reverse.

‘Ain’t that your ride, Harry?’ said the short one, Davy.

‘Shit.’

Tommy glanced over his shoulder. A burly bloke ran towards him, waving his arms and yelling. Tommy reversed and sped away.

‘Sucker,’ Tommy sniggered.

‘You want to give chase, Harry? My Ute’d catch that old banger in no time.’ Davy asked Harry.

Marv chipped in, sniggering, ‘Sure would. How long you had that hunk of junk?’

‘Just picked it up today.’

‘Whatever you paid for it, they must have seen you coming, mate.’ Marv laughed.

‘Nah, they didn’t. I nicked it for a job I had on. You hear about the missing crates of snakes from that zoo place?’

‘Yeah, it’s all over the news.’

‘That was me that nicked them.’

‘What the fuck you want with snakes?’ Merv slammed his pint on the bench.

‘I had a deal with that fuckin’ toe-rag crook, Simon Shoester. Talking like some fuckin’ professor, he says he wanted to put the frighteners on an adversary. The money was good, so I agreed. Now that it’s all over the fuckin’ news, the bastard ain’t going to pay me a cent. Told me to dump them. Just have to chalk this one up to experience, right lads?’

‘That jack-ass hijacker has done you a favour then.’

‘Me and, inadvertently, Shoester. You can guess where I planned to dump them snakes, right?’

The three clinked their glasses and drank up.

Driving on the motorway, Tommy wanted to get as far away from his miserable, venomous wife as possible and to never come back. As he lent over to switch on the radio, the car swerved. Tommy swung the steering wheel sharply, careering over the centre line. An oncoming vehicle tooted. Turning the wheel again, he hit the gravel, and the car bumped along the verge until he came to a stop. He heard a popping sound at the rear of the vehicle.

Shaking in his seat, he listened. A swish, a hiss. He turned his head and saw the slithering thing slide over the back seat. Tommy rubbed his eyes. Panicked, he yanked on the door handle, but it didn’t open. Turning his head back again, a forked tongue flickered inches from Tommy’s face.

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