Cross-Town Traffic

Shaun hung up the phone and stepped out of the phone box. His fiancée, Angharrad had said she would try to get him picked up from the station but seemed to have forgotten.

He huffed. By the time Angharrad did arrange for a lift for him it would be dark, probably raining.

Shaun arranged his bag on his back so he had his right arm free. A few respectable looking cars passed him by. He stuck out his thumb and they, being respectable, kept on going.

The road had fallen quiet now. There was no traffic to be seen as he walked underneath a huge road sign, which read 'A13'. He had always been warned at school that walking under road signs was bad luck and here he was walking under one with the number thirteen on it. He was just asking for trouble wasn't he?

He heard a car approaching him from behind and held out his arm, thumb flexed, without even turning around. He was going to Hitchhike all they way to Angharrad's house to meet her family and he hoped that they were all worth this.

He yawned as he heard the car roaring up behind him, he didn't see the car whiz by him though. The loud revving of the engine was still behind him, intermingled with Jimi Hendrix wailing 'All Along the Watchtower', and Shaun turned to see a beaten-up sky blue Ford Anglia crawling along the kerb behind him.

He stopped, so did the car, and squinted through the windscreen at the driver and his passenger. A pair of old stoners with glazed eyes and Hendrix playing ear-bleedingly loud in the background, probably to keep the driver from falling asleep at the wheel Shaun assumed, were his only hope of getting to Angharrad any time soon.

Shaun approached the car and bent over to talk to the woman in the passenger seat. She struggled to make eye contact with him before giving up and glazing over again. Her brown eyes were half closed and her mousy wavy hair veiled her head and shoulders, a tattoo of a grey dove on her shoulder was barely visible through it, she wore a strappy purple top that looked as if had been lived in for thirty years with a wispy long skirt that went all the way down to her bare feet. Something about her reminded him of Janis Joplin.

Shaun thanked her and climbed inside. His posterior landed upon the cracked upholstery and he felt the vibrations of Hendrix through his bones and in his brain. He felt as if his eyeballs were shaking as the driver stomped on the accelerator and the car launched back onto the road.

"I'm going to Westcliff." Shaun shouted as he fought the G-forces to lean forward to speak to the driver.

Neither the driver nor his companion acknowledged that he had spoken.

Shaun sat back in his seat with some degree of resignation. Who wants to talk to a total stranger they've just picked up from the roadside? He wouldn't. This fellow had picked him up though. Sure he was stoned out of his mind but still, Shaun was grateful.

He watched the man drive for a while. Scruffy hair that rested messily upon his shoulders blew in the wind from the open windows. It was red like fresh rust. His skin was pale, apart from the freckles all over his arms, but he wore a black t-shirt that washed his complexion out a whole lot more. There was a print on the front of the t-shirt but Shaun couldn't see it from where he was. He did see that the old hippy had a bit of a paunch, however.

Jimi Hendrix began to fade-out and Shaun took the opportunity to make himself heard,

"I wonder if..."

A sound wave hit him full in the face as Voodoo Child kicked in, almost knocking him back into the boot of the car. Her struggled to holler over the music but there was no chance.

Janis looked over her shoulder and smiled lazily at him before turning back and leaning forward to open the glove compartment. Inside was a battered tobacco tin, almost in a worse state than the car, and a brown paper bag. Tucking her hair behind her ears Janis opened the tobacco tin and began to fumble around inside.

The paper bag was un-crumpled and Janis began to load up her joint to be with the precision of an artist. Shaun watched her and soon became mesmerised by the movement of her thumb and forefinger over the papers. The vibrations of the car, the pounding of the music and the regularity and repetition of the woman's movements as she completed the fat joint were kind of comforting in a way.

Shaun noticed that the rusty-haired stoner was watching him in the rear view mirror. Rusty looked back at the road ahead as if remembering that he should be showing it more than just a passing interest.

Shaun took a deep breath and started to relax in his seat. Janis lifted the joint to her lips and licked along the paper to put the final seal on her masterpiece. She lowered her hand and pushed in the lighter button. Voodoo Child had ended now. Shaun knew it was pointless to try to start saying anything to either of them so he simply waited for the next song to begin.

As the wind began to cry Mary, a police car began to cry out behind them, it's siren wailing into life. Rusty's first instinct seemed to be to look at the car stereo with some confusion. Moving faster than her previous form had led Shaun to believe was possible, Janis stuffed the joint into her cleavage and kicked the glove compartment closed.

The police car was alongside them now, the officer signalling that they were to pull over. Shaun didn't know if he could get into trouble for this. How will he explain to Angharrad that he needed to be bailed out of an Essex police station with Sgt and Mrs Pepper?

They pulled over and the car rumbled away as they waited for the officer to join them. The officer leaned in at the Janis's open window and looked at the scene inside the car. He took a breath and began to shout over the music.

The three in the car all looked up at the officer; Janis seemed to tilt her head in a way that suggested she was asking for him to repeat himself.

The officer straightened up and pointed at the stereo and mouthed the words 'Turn it down'.

Rusty looked at the radio with mild surprise; almost as if he hadn't been aware it was even on. Janis picked up a small black dial from the ashtray and tried to jam it back onto the volume control. She looked back up at the officer and shrugged. The officer was going an inhuman shade in the cheeks.

The officer bent down to lean in at the window again and hollered, the words were inaudible. Janis looked again at the dial in her hand. The officer swallowed a mouthful of rage and straightened up. He composed himself, looked back into the car, and mimed the turning of the ignition key. Rusty watched this mime and blinked. He seemed to be suffering a time delay with his thoughts and, after staring at the police officer blankly for a second or two longer than was comfortable, looked at the key and turned it slowly.

The car shuddered, Jimi was silenced, and everything was still.

The police officer took another deep breath in to compose himself before trying once again to communicate with them.

"Right. Are you aware that all you're lights are out at the back?"

Rusty and Janis slowly turned to look out of the back window then back at the officer again.

"Every light at the back of your car is smashed," the officer explained.

Again, they looked over their shoulders to the back of the car.

The officer said, hanging on to the last of his patience.

"You will have to get that fixed."

Shaun shifted in his seat as the officer, Janis and Rusty stared at each other for a moment.

"Do you understand?" the officer pressed.

Rusty turned his head back to the back of the car, pushing his fiery coloured fringe from his eyes.

"No, stop doing that, " the officer said, having finally had enough of this, "you can't see from inside the car."

Shaun felt obliged to get involved since he was the only passenger in the Ford Anglia capable of speech at the moment.

"I'll see that they fix it."

A wave of relief washed over the officer, as if the sound of another human voice was something he never thought he'd hear again.

"Thank you sir. Are you going far?"

"Westcliff" Shaun said, looking to Rusty to check that he understood that as well as the officer.

The driver gave a single nod and pointed at the road ahead.

The officer relaxed some more and took a step back from the car before catching Janis's eye. Janis took this to be a request for the little black dial again and held it up to show the officer. The police officer flinched before muttering something to himself and walking back to his car without a word.

Rusty turned the key in the ignition and the car roared back into life, resurrecting Jimi Hendrix with it. Shaun looked from Janis to Rusty and back again. Janis turned to Shaun and smiled, not a vague smile this time, but a knowing smile with a wink. She eased the black dial gently onto the stereo and turned the volume up higher before pulling it back off and tossing it into the ashtray where she obviously felt it belonged. The lighter popped back out and the woman retrieved the large, and now partially crumpled joint, from her cleavage.

After a patch-up job on the spliff Janis lit it and took a deep inhalation before holding it before Rusty who did the same while, thankfully, keeping his hands on the wheel. Janis shifted in her seat and held the joint out to Shaun with another warm smile. Rusty glanced at Shaun again in his rear view mirror and was smiling himself now. Something about that made Shaun sure that he would get exactly where he needed to go.

The battered old Ford Anglia with its strange little party of misfits thundered onward toward Westcliff and Angharrad, Shaun's bride to be.

The car pulled up outside a rickety old cottage and Shaun wondered how Rusty knew where exactly in Westcliff he needed to be. The engine shuddered to a halt and Janis and Rusty climbed out just as the door to the cottage opened and Angharrad Weasley came running out, beaming.

"Oh thanks dad, and you picked him upthe muggle way just like I asked you as well!" she hugged Rusty who smiled and shrugged.

Janis opened the door for Shaun and he almost fell out with shock. Angharrad flung herself into his arms and squealed.

"I missed you so much! Come inside and meet the rest of the family, they've all been looking forward to meeting you!"

"Ang, what's going on?" he managed to ask as she guided him inside while Janis took his bags inside for him.

He is eyes were wide as he noticed Rusty open the bonnet and pull out a huge wooden trunk from the empty cavity where the car's engine should have been.

"My mum and dad just wanted to meet you on their own terms before you found out…what kind of people we are?"

He paused on the doorstep.

"Listen babe, I didn't expect them to be a pair of hippy stoners but I wouldn't judge you because of anything they did."

Angharrad stared at him and blinked.

"I have no idea what you're talking about Shaun," she looked a little guilty though, "Come inside…I've got a lot of explaining to do."

This journey would lead to one of Shaun's favourite anecdotes in years to come.

"Did I ever tell you how I met my in-laws?"


A/N I know some of you are going to absolutely loathe this but I just found this idea really funny!

After a lot of my regular reviewers commented on dialogue being my greatest strength I decided to try and write something with the bare minimum as a sort of challenge to myself. Am I getting better or doI still need to work on it?

Any other challenges or questions should be directed to my forum. Click on my profile and there's a link to it there.

Thanks to all who review!