I slip out of the hearse and my feet land softly on damp tarmac. It’s about 2am, and pitch black apart from the lights of the car, which illuminate three faces. We blink dimly at the driver, trying to keep our eyes open “well, best of luck!” he booms.
Minutes later, I’m sitting contentedly on the floor of Manchester Services, gulping coffee and chain-eating jelly beans. Through the sliding glass doors, I can hear Loren talking to a couple “we’re
hitch-hiking from Land’s End to…” They march off. “Hello Sir…” and again. And again.
The rustle of a Nike tracksuit catches my attention, and I leap up “are you driving north?” Ignoring Grace’s violent head shaking, I smile expectantly at the man in a white baseball cap. He studies me carefully, then swivels round to face a crowd of slick teenagers “oi! Josh!” A boy squints at us. “Got space for this lot?”
Soon, we’re crammed in the back of a Ford Fiesta, hurtling towards Carlisle. Drum and bass thumps from colossal speakers, while Loren yells his political views at the driver, who’s quenching his thirst with Buckfast. What have I let us in for? I sink back in my seat and stare out at the empty road, following the orange lamps as they pass above us. A tap on my shoulder. “NO HEADLIGHTS” reads the message on Grace’s phone. I attempt to look relaxed, but instead contort my face into an agonised grimace.
In the next hour we endure a blur of beery bravado and slurred jokes, until a thunderous Mancunian accent announces “Ere, listen up”. Silence. The voice continues soberly “take them drifting”.
The effect is immediate. I’m thrust backwards as the driver hammers the accelerator. I suppress the urge to scream. We’re swerving madly, looping all over the road. I remember our lift in the hearse, and consider texting my parents his number. Finally, the screech of brakes. We heave a collective sigh of relief, then burst out giggling.