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Maya Williamson - About the author and her short story "The Fall & Rise of T642"

I'm Scottish born and bred and live in the wee village of Dundonald, near Troon in Ayrshire. My bread & butter money comes from my day job with an airfreight haulage contractor working out of Glasgow airport and the jam comes from the occasional sale of short stories. To date I have had work published in Sunday Post (a Scottish Sunday), Psychic News and Times of India. I have travelled around quite a bit working in the Middle East and India. T642 comes from a collection of shorts I am compiling for a book of short stories. I also have 4 completed mss and a recently completed children's story which is currently under consideration.

The Fall & Rise of T642

‘It’s a shame right enough,’ Johnnie said sadly and I remember him clapping me gently on my wheel arch as he spoke.  ‘We’ve covered a lot of miles thegither,’ he went on ‘but you’ve clocked up a million miles now and in this business that makes ye a disaster waiting tae happen.’  He climbed into my cab then and my step groaned in pain.  Johnnie is a huge guy and for ten long years I’ve suffered him hauling his enormous fat body in and out of me with not one single word of complaint.

Once he’d cleared my cab of his bedding and all the bits and pieces every driver accumulates and eventually cannot drive without, he leaned across my windscreen to remove the huge dreamcatcher hanging there.  Ugly looking thing it is too but if you look carefully at artics you’ll see the dreamcatcher is common enough.  Drivers are very bad sleepers whether it’s because of the constant shift work I don’t know but me, I don’t have these problems. Turn the key I’m awake, turn it off I’m asleep.  Simple.

He’d threatened to sell me before, about two years ago it was, while he was standing on the hard shoulder of the M1 in the pouring rain waiting for Daf Aid.  I tried to tell him then that it wasn’t my fault.  I was tired that’s all.  I was taken off the trunking work soon after, and although I don’t miss trundling up and down the motorways, I know Johnnie lost a fair bit of money.  Lucky for me he hadn’t the cash to get rid of me then so when they put me on the Aberdeen run he cursed a bit at first but like me, he got used to the 5 day week and every night at home with the sweetheart and eventually I was forgiven.  But all that changed on a frosty morning a few days ago when even the 4-hour stint from Glasgow to Aberdeen nearly did me in.  I looked at the wicked slow gradient of the road on approach to the airport as I do every day but that particular day my pistons sank at the thought of it, really they did.   I did my best though. I had to because having been demoted from the trunk I knew the next relegation would involve the scrappy.  So I turned up my revs and put my best wheel forward but the fully loaded trailer I was hauling dragged me back and it was then that I knew Johnnie was right, I no longer had the strength or stamina anymore. Frantically I turned my engine over and over, with Johnnie’s curses to spur me on, only to sputter to an exhausted, ignominious halt blocking the entire carriageway.   I was mortified. Of course, I’ve been repaired since then but even though I took extra care to be particularly well behaved, I knew Johnnie wouldn’t forget that one in a hurry.

Oh I can see it all now – the slippery slope from hauling high-value airfreight to general haulage, pulling bricks, coal, bits of wood and getting filthy in the process. I’ve gone from national and continental work to a daily trip to Dyce and from there it’s a short hop to the scrapyard which for Johnnie means a shiny new Super Space Cab, admiring looks from other drivers and plenty of debt but for me it means death. I can’t help sighing to myself and my compressor quivers making my suzies dance, what a way to reward a good and faithful servant.  After all if I was a dog I’d be allowed to spend my old age curled up by a roaring fire with a loving family, even a work horse is put out to grass but there’s no such thing as a retirement home for old trucks (I know this because I’ve asked around) unless you count the scrappy – and I’m not going there, not even my thoughts are going there.  And if you want to know how much I’m not going there I’ll tell you.  I’m not going there so much I’d drive myself off the Paisley Expressway if I thought even for a second I was being driven to – that place.

I hear Johnnie when he talks to me though and he talks to me a lot, especially when he gets bored with the radio and although I do my best to answer I know he doesn’t hear my voice above the roar of my engine.  My off-side step groans again and I know he’s coming in and I prepare myself mentally, running through all the checks before he turns the key.  How many trucks do that?  Not many, I can tell you.  He’s settling himself on my seat now and I stifle a groan as his huge lardy arse bounces around. His hands rub my steering wheel although he doesn’t turn the key.  I wait and wonder.  Finally he starts my engine.  ‘Well this is it auld yin,’ he says quietly ‘our last run.’

I prickle with fear and this causes my fuel tanks to judder and a strong smell of diesel fills the air.  Johnnie sniffs suspiciously.  ‘What’s wrang wi’ ye? Och weel, no matter.  Yer some ither mugs problem noo.’

So that’s it.  After 10 years of faithful service and this is the way he tells me.  No softening me up first, no special high-grade oil or a refreshing truck wash to sweeten the words.  No chance.  I turn my pistons over lazily as if deciding whether or not to move.  ‘Come oan,’ he groans ‘no again.  Look,’ he addresses me seriously ‘if you were a wumman ye’d be classed as ‘high maintenance’ and high maintenance is jist something Ah canny afford.  Look auld yin,’ he goes on in exasperation ‘how munny units huv a million miles on their cloaks?  How munny hiv as minny new pairts?  Jesus, ye were auld when I goat ye and yer even aulder noo.’  But I’m silent, stalling and my engine splutters angrily.  ‘Hoo munny T-reggies are still gawn aboot?  Right, that’s it!’  He hauls his massive frame out of my cab and slams my door.

It’s dark now and I hope he’ll forget it for now and in the morning I’ll be good as gold, I’ll start first time and maybe he’ll forget about getting rid of me for a while.  No luck though.  ‘Yer gawn and yer gawn the night an’ that’s definite,’ he growls, tinkering around in my engine.  Immediately he sees what I’ve done though and puts it right.  ‘Right ye auld bastard let’s see ye f**k aboot noo.’  He stamps on my step harder than usual and this time I feel the metal (its only aluminium believe it or not) bend.  He turns the key and this time I have no option but to start.  So I do.  I fire myself into life magnificently for someone of my age and immediately Johnnie is placated.  He strokes my steering wheel gently.  ‘Och ye ken Ah didny mean it,’ he says ‘come oan.  We hiv tae go.’

We’re on the motorway but we’re too late for Aberdeen and too early to go down the road so this is it.  My final drive, my swansong.  I wonder if…  I give a quick check of my components but no, everything is in good working order and there’s no way I can stall.  I think of the young ones coming up, trucks with computers implanted in them.  No way those poor buggers can scam, and they don’t even use proper mechanics anymore.  No what they do is they put us on a machine to calibrate and reset and when any part becomes worn they just throw the whole thing away and install a new one.  No make do and mend anymore.  Sad.  That’s why they don’t like working on me, see?  Too old, and no disposable components either.  I can’t have young mechanics working on me either.  Don’t know what to do you see when they can’t attach me to their computer.  Blasted computers.  Rule the world, they do.

Lost in my thoughts as I was, my engine fairly sinks when we turn into an unfamiliar yard.  Just before he switches my lights off I have a quick scan around and see this is not the scrappy's yard.  It is a yard though.  Dirty and chaotic too by the look of it.  I see pieces of bodywork lying around and old engines covered by tarpaulin.  Where are we?

Johnnie lumbers down and waves to an old guy.  He’s coming over and I wait for it.  The death knell which comes to us all, mechanical or human.  ‘Yer late,’ the old man says ‘I thought ye werny coming.’

‘Ah sed Ah’ll be here an’ Ah’m here,’ Johnnie replies.  ‘An’ here she is,’ I feel his huge ham-fist slapping the side of my cab, and I bristle in annoyance.  Here’s the thing, why do people always assume all vehicles are female?  That annoys me it really does.  There’s nothing feminine about me, I can tell you.  Still there’s nothing I can do about it and so I stand there in the drizzling rain, blind and miserable.

‘Aye weel.  Very well kept fur hur age,’ by the coming and going of his voice, I can tell the old man is walking around me, looking at me from all angles as if I were a piece of meat.  I hate that, I really do.  Now he’s rumbling about in my engine.  How would they like it, that’s what I’d like to know.

Still I endure the inspection as I’ve endured it many times during my long life.  ‘Powerful engine she has, two fuel tanks too.  How munny miles did ye say she hiz oan her?’

‘She’s din a fair few,’ Johnnie replies and my heart leaps maybe this would help decide.  I give a little shudder to see if puts the man off but of course without keys in my ignition I’m dead as a doornail to them.  ‘Ah’ll no lie tae ye, she’s din ower a million miles.’

‘Well,’ the old man replies and I think he’s impressed.  ‘A million eh?  An’ she’s still running fine, ye say?’

‘Aye.  She’s nivir missed a service neither.  Jist nae yis fur the long haul onymair. Itherwise Ah’d no be selling.’

‘Fair do’s son,’ the old man says consideringly ‘an’ since ye’ve been honest wi’ me Ah’ll tell ye that Ah’m interestit.  Aye, very interestit indeed.’

‘Ah’m sorry tae sell hur,’ Johnnie replies and I believe I hear a note of sincerity in his voice.  This warms my carburettor no end.

‘Right then,’ the old man decides ‘Ah’ll take hur.  Ah’ll gie ye yer asking price tae.  Canny say fairer than that noo.’

‘Right ye are,’ I expect they shake hands on it then because they walk away towards, I assume the office.  I wonder how far it is to the Paisley Expressway or to the nearest bridge, but without keys to power me up I’m snookered.

In the morning the old man approached me with my keys in his hand.  I thought of Johnnie and how he never even bothered to say goodbye.  The old man climbed into my cab and I noted with relief he wasn’t anywhere near as heavy as Johnnie and my step felt nothing at all.  He sat down lightly in my seat and switched me on.  Because I didn’t know what was happening, I reasoned it was better I behaved myself so I started up first time, engine purring healthily.  I could always break down later if it was warranted.  But the old man didn’t push my clutch didn’t shift me into gear only sat there.  I listened very carefully and the soft scratchings told me he was writing.  ‘T642 MGB,’ he said slowly as he wrote.  ‘A million miles on ye too.  Well yer a fine old lady an’ ye deserve an easy retirement.’  What?  I waited then for him to say some more but he never did just slid my gear stick forward and off we went.

The sun was shining when we arrived and I don’t mind admitting I’d completely lost my bearings.  Another yard but smaller and with what looked like garages all long one side.  ‘Ho Pete,’ the old man hung out my window waving madly.

‘Aw aye she’s a beaut,’ Pete ran over and I had to endure another inspection.  Pete was thorough, I’ll give him that and when he’d finally finished he rewarded my patience with an oil change.  Lovely.  And it wasn’t due for another 500 miles at least.

‘She ony yis tae ye?’

‘Oh aye, definite,’ Pete replied ‘we’ll make ye as guid as new, will we no’?’  He seemed to be addressing me directly and this made me happy and excited so I tried my best to answer and such was my exuberance that, even though the keys were nowhere near the ignition, I spluttered forward and the two men leapt quickly out of the way.  ‘Did ye no pit the hawn-brake oan?’ the old man shouted.

‘Ah’m shair Ah did,’ Pete replied and just to be certain he climbed inside me and gave my hand-brake a hefty yank. 

‘An’ how lang dae ye think it’ll take?’

Pete considered.  ‘Mibbe two weeks, three at the maist.  Then ye’ll no recognise hur.’

‘Anither notch oan yer bed post eh?’ laughed the old man and by the silent but unmistakeable sound money makes, I understood I was being sold again.

Six months later and I’m living a completely different life.  I’ve never felt better or looked better either, not even I suspect, when I was new.  Now, though I’m old I’m wearing all the new components I was so sure would never fit. Well they do fit!  I’ve been re-sprayed too and reupholstered inside.  I ignore the winking lights of a tidy jeep coming up on my near-side and she passes by, miffed.  ‘Sorry darling,’ I think ‘but if I were to react to every flash –well I’d never get any work done.’ I keep my engine purring evenly as they load the trailer at my back.  Important work this, employed by the United Nations I am, and I realise just how significant my part is when I arrive with my driver at a camp and we distribute our cargo to the desperate souls there.  You should see their faces when I pull up.  Priceless it is.  So I do my very best to get my loads to where they need to be, safely and on time.

Cold, rainy Scotland seems as far away from me now as the number of miles I have on my clock.  No doubt I’ll end my days here for the scrappy comes to us all in the end but I’m not sad about that.  I’m useful here you see, and I know I’ll carry on working until the end.  Being needed brings its own reward and how many old vehicles – or humans – are so blessed?