The Traveller's Tale

by Albert Semple, 2003

  1. When Sunday drivers head for bed,
  2. And caravans drive home instead;
  3. When people mourn the dead weekend,
  4. And holidays come to an end;
  5. When drivers fill the motorway,
  6. And dread the coming working day;
  7. On such night will our tale begin:
  8. A rusty car; a man within.

  9. A Sunday night of driving rain.
  10. Five hundred miles of bleak terrain.
  11. Alone without a single friend,
  12. And nowhere near my journey's end.
  13. The lorries cast up murky spray
  14. Which turns the headlight beams to grey,
  15. But still with speed I Northwards head:
  16. In three more hours I'll be in bed.

  17. And with that thought I start to dream,
  18. Still focussed on the headlamp beam:
  19. The car becomes my trusty stead
  20. Who trots along with steady speed;
  21. No need to steer, she knows the way
  22. And from the path she will not stray;
  23. A faithful friend, she carries me;
  24. Tonight my only company…

  25. But stop! I startle from my sleep,
  26. So grateful it was not too deep.
  27. No wonder I can't stay awake,
  28. It's been five hours since my last break!
  29. And so before my eyelids drop
  30. I pull in to a truckers' stop,
  31. Resolved to rest and have a meal
  32. To stop me sleeping at the wheel.

  33. The café sat well out the way,
  34. Well shielded from the carriageway.
  35. I dipped the lights, approaching slow
  36. And halting in the cabin's glow
  37. I see it's filled with steam and light,
  38. Although it's late on Sunday night,
  39. And so the chances look quite good
  40. Of getting rest and wholesome food.

  41. I kill the engine, lock the door,
  42. And back on steady ground once more
  43. I take a while to stretch my legs
  44. And think of gammon, chips, fried eggs.
  45. So with my hunger to subdue
  46. Take one deep breath and step into
  47. The portakabin, which does greet
  48. Me with it's steam, and noise, and heat.

  49. Beside the counter, near the door,
  50. The gaffer stood upon the floor:
  51. A fat man with a shaven head
  52. Sweat pouring off his face so red
  53. And acres of his oily skin
  54. Were stretched below his triple chin,
  55. Like Buddha, less the friendly face.
  56. It looks as though he owns the place.

  57. The empty car park did suggest
  58. That I would be the only guest,
  59. Yet fellow drivers filled the place
  60. Each jostling for eating space.
  61. They yelled and laughed, they fought and swore,
  62. I guess they'd eaten there before
  63. For Buddha seemed to know them all
  64. And waited on their beck and call.

  65. But Buddha did not work alone,
  66. He had a maid to call his own,
  67. And there she stood, to my surprise,
  68. An angel with the kindest eyes
  69. Set within her face so fair
  70. Surrounded by her golden hair.
  71. She had the fullest, reddest lips,
  72. A slender waist, and perfect hips.

  73. She didn't look like she'd belong,
  74. She didn't laugh, or join in song.
  75. And drivers, when they saw her pass
  76. Would grab her waist and pinch her ass,
  77. But she'd just blush, and then retreat
  78. And keep on staring at her feet
  79. And though I watched for quite a while,
  80. Not once did I observe her smile.

  81. I found a table by the wall
  82. While trying to ignore them all,
  83. And at the risk of being rude,
  84. I concentrated on my food.
  85. The menu had the usual nosh,
  86. Twas not pretending to be posh,
  87. With pies and beans or chips or peas,
  88. And soup, and macaroni cheese.

  89. Before I'd done selecting food,
  90. The waitress at my table stood.
  91. I looked up but she did not smile:
  92. She only stood and stared a while;
  93. And always holding eye contact
  94. As if we shared some secret pact.
  95. Unconsciously came from my lips:
  96. "I'll have the gammon, with the chips."

  97. She turned and left, and as before,
  98. She went on staring at the floor.
  99. But I had glimpsed behind her eyes
  100. The sadness of a thousand sighs,
  101. Her eyes appeared to speak to me,
  102. They shouted out, "Please, rescue me."
  103. And then I knew that I did face
  104. A prisoner within this place.

  105. Then as she went to fetch my meal
  106. She slipped on a potato peel,
  107. And on the kitchen floor she crashed
  108. A single dirty plate she smashed.
  109. The customers, they did not care
  110. About her safety or welfare,
  111. They simply cheered, and loudly mocked,
  112. And of her tender rump they talked.

  113. But Buddha, to the scene did race
  114. And slapped the waitress in the face
  115. And standing o'er her helpless frame
  116. He called her every vulgar name.
  117. The cheering from the other men
  118. Encouraged him to strike again:
  119. He punched much harder than before
  120. But still the diners called for more.

  121. But what was I supposed to do?
  122. I really didn't have a clue.
  123. I was no shining armoured knight,
  124. My trusty stead was rusty shite,
  125. I didn't have the fearlessness
  126. To rescue damsels in distress
  127. Or slay such beasts. A child could see
  128. He weighed three times as much as me.

  129. And finally the beating stopped,
  130. The crumpled form lay where it dropped,
  131. The diners, back to normal went,
  132. Their moment of excitement spent.
  133. Buddha spread his shoulders broad
  134. Unlike the peaceful Buddhist God.
  135. So not like him, I have to tell,
  136. He seemed more like the Beast from Hell!

  137. The waitress, looking bruised and sore,
  138. She picked herself up off the floor,
  139. And tidied up the scattered mess,
  140. While swiftly straightening her dress.
  141. The whole act done so fluently,
  142. As if this happened frequently,
  143. But I was sickened to the bone
  144. And swore I'd rescue her alone.

  145. But how was I to get her out?
  146. And how, while Satan charged about
  147. With all his ghoulish cronies there?
  148. Stand up to him? I wouldn't dare.
  149. But it was time to take a stand
  150. and take this matter in to hand,
  151. For if I just ignored her plight
  152. My guilt would plague me every night.

  153. So when she came to bring my steak,
  154. I reached out and her hand did take
  155. And so that no-one else could see
  156. Into her hand I placed the key
  157. To my old faithful, rusty car
  158. In which we could escape, a-far,
  159. She squeezed my hand, as if to say
  160. "I understand you, all the way".

  161. So back she went to grease and grime
  162. And waited for the perfect time
  163. When Satan faced the other way
  164. Then out she slipped, without delay.
  165. I waited to make sure she'd gone
  166. And just about to follow on
  167. When Satan yelled, "Hold on a sec,
  168. Where is that girl? I'll wring her neck!"

  169. And at that moment, I just froze.
  170. He turns to me and then he knows.
  171. "You think you've worked it out so well?
  172. You think you can escape from Hell?
  173. Well, better men have come and tried
  174. And every single one has died.
  175. Your silly plan you can forget
  176. For you'll be here a long time yet."

  177. So I was trapped in Satan's den,
  178. And never to be free again.
  179. He blocked the exit to the door,
  180. A headbutt knocked me to the floor,
  181. And as he reached my neck to squeeze
  182. I quickly ducked between his knees
  183. Escaping from the devil's lair
  184. Into the rain and nighttime air.

  185. But just as I raced out the door,
  186. I heard my own car's engine roar.
  187. The lights did glare, the tyres did squeal,
  188. The gravel flew from every wheel,
  189. And off she sped, into the night:
  190. The captive bird had taken flight.
  191. Abandoned, facing him alone,
  192. I'd have to fight him on my own.

  193. And all this time, the demons chased,
  194. And out into the dark we raced,
  195. But when I saw my car was gone
  196. I knew I'd have to take them on
  197. So halted, and I turned around
  198. To face the ghouls, but then I found
  199. That there were hundreds, many more
  200. Than had been sat inside before.

  201. And some held burning torches high,
  202. The flames flew up and licked the sky,
  203. Just like a Wild-West lynching mob,
  204. Intent upon the self-same job.
  205. Surrounding me, they hemmed me in
  206. And formed a ring with me within
  207. And kept me there 'til Satan came
  208. So out of breath, so fat and lame.

  209. "Escape so close, and yet so far.
  210. So nearly free, but no cigar.
  211. And now a slow and painful death."
  212. Satan paused to catch his breath.
  213. "I'll give you praise where praise is due:
  214. No man has got as far as you.
  215. You almost slipped right through our hands
  216. But your eternal torment stands."

  217. And so I faced eternity
  218. In Hell, my final destiny.
  219. But though I thought all hope was gone
  220. My brave accomplice battled on,
  221. For while it seemed she stole my car
  222. She didn't mean to take it far,
  223. In fact, she merely turned it round
  224. And raced to where I stood my ground.

  225. She ploughed the car straight through the crowd
  226. The ghouls were scattered, wailing loud,
  227. Their limbs and bodies everywhere,
  228. A sight no man should have to bear.
  229. And halting with a handbrake slide
  230. She stopped it inches from my side.
  231. The nearside door was left ajar
  232. And so I leapt inside the car.

  233. And off towards the road we raced
  234. While Satan and his demons chased
  235. And for a while they stayed quite near
  236. And kept me looking back in fear,
  237. But as we neared the motorway
  238. The gruesome figures slipped away.
  239. Both car and driver had done well
  240. To save us form the gates of Hell!

by Albert Semple
240 lines over 30 stanzas.