Good morning all. This is a rather long story, so feel free to share it amongst yourselves. Perhaps you could take a section each.
Bloody hell, what a day this was turning into, thought Harry Newberry to himself.
First he’d slept later than he had intended, and now this damned snow!
The car had to be dug-out of the drive, and to top it all he was nearly out of petrol.
That meant he would have to stand in that windy service station, probably behind some doddery old guy, who would then take twenty minutes to fill his tank.
It always happened that way whenever he was late.
Shrugging himself into his overcoat, he grabbed his briefcase and bade his wife a hasty goodbye. “See you around seven o’clock,” he shouted as he slammed the front-door behind him,
He climbed into the Mondeo and started the clattery diesel motor. Economy was one thing, but the damned racket from the engine before it warmed-up always annoyed Harry.
Slipping into first gear he carefully edged his way out of the driveway.
He had to be in Birmingham for eleven o’clock, so he had better get a move on.
He drove to the local service station, and wonder of wonders, it was empty!
Thankfully he filled his tank, and after buying a couple of packs of cigarettes he headed for the motorway.
Usually it took him two hours to reach Birmingham, but today would probably take longer due to the bad weather.
He had three appointments booked with various buyers. This would be his big day for orders, what with Xmas being almost upon everyone.
All would be eager to buy his company’s greeting cards and stationary.
There was the promise of big-bonuses for whoever met his quota this month, and Harry had promised the family a huge flat-screen TV for the sitting-room.
That would be just great for the Christmas shows.
The motorway traffic was just as he had expected, almost nose to tail, but the all-night gritters had done sterling work and the traffic was moving along quite nicely.
He settled back into his seat and lit yet another cigarette.
Turning on the local news channel he was dismayed to hear that heavy falls of snow were due around mid-day or early afternoon.
That might cause some difficulties on his return trip, he thought.
He switched to a music channel and amused himself by singing along to the latest favourite numbers.
He was quite smug about his singing voice, and he was looking forward to performing his usual couple of numbers at the New Years Eve party that they always held in his home each year.
Eventually he reached Birmingham, and looking at his watch, he was pleased to see that he had made good time.
Now all he had to do was to keep his appointments promptly.
That was when problems started to bubble to the surface.
The traffic was moving at a snail’s pace and there was nothing he could do about it. There had been a couple of accidents, but luckily the cars had been pushed out of the line of traffic, but it was still taking far too long for Harry’s peace of mind.
Damn! He was going to be late for all of his calls at this rate, and old Higgins was a stickler for punctuality.
He was the last call on Harry’s rota, so perhaps he could make-up the time by cutting short his other two calls.
He finally got to his first appointment twenty minutes late.
The buyer was still available to see him, but he made it obvious that he wasn’t pleased to be kept waiting for a mere stationary salesman.
Nevertheless Harry calmed him down, and after a coffee and a couple of cigarettes they were telling each other the latest dirty jokes.
Harry humoured the buyer as long as he dared and then started to bring the conversation to a close.
Sensing Harry’s desire to be off the buyer placed his order and shook Harry by the hand, wishing him the usual compliments of the season.
Harry left the office and hurried to his car.
Good, one down, two to go.
Having rushed his breakfast this morning, Harry decided that now would be an opportune time to take his lunch.
His next appointment was for two thirty, so he had plenty of time.
Whilst sitting in the window seat of a popular diner, Harry was dismayed to see the snow starting to fall once again.
It fell in huge fluffy flakes that lay atop of last-nights fall.
This wasn’t a welcome sight to Harry’s tired eyes. It would make driving in the dark hellish.
Never mind, only two calls and then he would be heading home again.
He couldn’t wait to get beside the warm fireside, with a steaming cup of coffee and the television entertaining him for the rest of the evening, then tomorrow, being a day-off, they would go and purchase that new flat-screen that they had promised themselves.
Ten past two. He set off to his next appointment. He made it quite easily, with minutes to spare.
The buyer was very amiable and placed an order that Harry was overjoyed to receive. His boss would definitely be pleased to see his order book when he got back to the office.
Three thirty, and he was just starting his engine to go and see old Higgins when his mobile phone started to buzz.
It was Mr. Higgins secretary, apologising on his behalf. Mr. Higgins wondered if Harry could delay his appointment until five-thirty as something unexpected had arisen and he really would be obliged if Harry could accommodate the delay.
Ever the friendly salesman, Harry agreed and assured her that it would be no problem. The secretary rang off and Harry sat there in his car, fuming!
Two hours to wait. What on earth was he going to do for two hours?
He phoned his wife and warned her that he would probably not be arriving home until about ten o’clock, but it couldn’t be helped, business was business.
He climbed back out of the car, and to avoid the now driving snow, hurried into the warmth of a huge shopping complex.
He walked slowly around the huge stores, not really interested, but happy for the warmth that they put back into his tired bones.
It was when he walked back into the huge walkway that he first saw the gaily-decorated marque.
As he approached it a young couple exited the flapping entrance.
“She was really good,” said the young girl to her escort. “So accurate.”
On closer inspection Harry smiled when he saw it was a fortune tellers stand.
He grinned as he remembered his late Mother always saying, “Never ignore a Gypsy’s warning.”
Feeling a little festive Harry entered the tent. Sitting at the table was an attractive young Gypsy girl. She smiled at him and invited him to take a seat.
Harry laughed inwardly at the display of mystery that the young woman exuded.
She first took his hand and her facial expression darkened. Quickly dropping his hand she gave him a pack of cards and asked him to shuffle them, and then to place four cards face down on the table. This he did.
She slowly turned the cards face up and her face darkened even more.
“You are a frequent traveller,” she spoke with authority.
Well, that’s a good guess thought Harry.
“You travel by train.”
Not quite right, smiled Harry to himself.
“Avoid the train travelling to the North this evening.”
Harry was slightly taken aback at this.
“Any particular destination?” he asked.
“Newcastle,” she immediately replied.
“Do not take the train to Newcastle.”
Harry was now fully convinced that this was a load of hogwash, however he was too polite to put his feelings into words, so he paid her and politely wished her a pleasant evening.
“Please heed my warning,” was her parting remark.
Harry whistled cheerfully as he headed back to his car. So much for fortune tellers!
He arrived at Mr.Higgins business premises and was warmly greeted by Mr.Higgins.
“I must apologise for delaying our meeting Harry. It was good of you to accommodate my absence.”
“Think nothing of it Mr. Higgins, always a pleasure to deal with you, no matter how late the hour,” lied Harry smoothly.
So pleased was he with Harry’s good grace that Mr. Higgins placed an order far in excess of his usual frugal requirements.
Harry was over the moon and shook Mr. Higgins warmly by the hand.
“Well Harry, don’t let me delay you any longer. I’m sure you must be longing to get home to the beautiful wife of yours.” He smiled warmly as Harry waved good-bye.
Once again Harry hurried to his waiting car. Seating himself comfortably he turned the key in the ignition.
The car started smoothly, and he pulled slowly away from the kerbside.
Driving through the town on his way to the motorway, the car’s lights started to dim.
He quickly pulled into a nearby service station and was pleased to see that the workshop was still open. He accosted a mechanic and explained his problem. The mechanic hoisted the bonnet and took a look underneath.
“The alternator is useless,” was his immediate analysis."
“Can you fit a new one?” asked Harry anxiously.
“Yes, I could, but we don’t have one, and all of the factors will be closed by now.”
“What the hell can I do now then,?” asked Harry.
“You can leave your car here in the garage. We can phone you when it’s ready to be collected,” offered the mechanic.
Hells bells!. Harry was stumped. Now he was stranded in Birmingham for the night.
“Is there a bus I can catch to York?,” he asked.
“Normally yes, but all of the buses are laid-up due to the heavy snow-fall. You could take a taxi to the station, and then a train to York. The trains are running OK,” suggested the mechanic.
Suddenly Harry had an awful feeling inside. What had the Gypsy said?. Don’t take the Newcastle train!
But he wouldn’t be. He would be taking the train to York.
He thanked the mechanic, and flagged down a passing taxi which ferried him to the railway station.
“A return to York please,” he told the ticket vendor.
“The train is due in twenty minutes,” she smiled at him.
He walked onto the draughty platform and sheltered in the doorway of a Smith’s book-store.
He lit a cigarette and patiently waited for the train.
The platform was deserted as the attendant announced the imminent arrival of his train to York.
He was dismayed as an old engine clanked to a stop at his platform.
Hailing a passing porter he enquire if this was the York train. Yes it was, he was informed.
Wearily he climbed aboard the first compartment. The train slowly chugged out of the station.
It was rather dark in this compartment, so Harry decided to walk through the train to find a better-lit compartment.
He walked the whole length of the train and was amazed when he realized he was the only passenger aboard the train.
He settled in a seat of the last compartment and idly looked out of the window.
The snow made the skyline so attractive. All white and welcoming.
He would be glad to get home and sat before the fire.
Suddenly he was gripped by a severe pain in his chest.
He attempted to rise to his feet, but succeeded only in falling to the floor.
He gasped in pain, but realised that there was no-one to hear his cries, or to offer assistance.
For a moment he blacked-out, but he sensed that the train was now slowing. Thank God! Now he would get help. They were arriving at York.
The train stopped, and after a moment or two it started to go backward.
What the hell is going on, thought Harry.
The train stopped again, and Harry realised that they had stopped in a siding.
He heard voices outside of the train and tried to shout for help, but his voice came out as a croak.
The lights in the compartment went out, and a bang on the window drew his feeble attention.
Someone had stuck a notice on the window.
“These carriages diverted to Newcastle.”
Harry once again heard his Mother’s voice. “Never ignore the Gypsy’s warning.”
This was seconds before his eyes fluttered closed for the very last time."