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What`s in a Name?

25th December 2017
(Short Story)

Alternativity SceneJoe Hinton gave his wife a gentle hug and swung his legs out of bed. He pulled his trousers on over his long johns and hitched his braces over his vest. As quietly as possible, he crept across the creaking floorboards to the bedroom door. In spite of his efforts, his wife groaned a slumbering grumble.

“It’s alright, Mary pet,” he whispered. “I’m just nipping down the shop for a paper.”
He made his way down the steep stairs and turned into the kitchen to see his sister who was sitting at the kitchen table cradling a cup of tea.
“Morning, Joe,” she said. “There’s a cuppa in the pot if you want one.”
“No thanks, Sal. I’m off out for a paper. I’ll have one when I get back.”
“You’re going out in your vest?”
“It’ll be alright under me coat.”
“Ee, our mam would turn in her grave.”
Joe dismissed her with a shake of the head.
“How was Mary last night?” asked Sal.
“Not bad. She was up and down to the toilet a lot, but she seemed to sleep between trips down the yard.”
“Aye, I was the same when I was having our Ronald.”
Joe lit up a cigarette and rested it on the edge of the kitchen sink while he retrieved his coat from a hook on the back door. He pulled on his coat and took a couple of puffs of the cigarette before pulling on his boots.
“See you in a bit,” he said before exiting into the cool July morning.

“Alright, mate,” said Joe as he entered the newsagent. “Just a morning paper please.”
“A shilling please,” said the shopkeeper. “I’ve not seen you in here before. Have you just moved in?”
“Nah, I’m staying with my sister, Sally Nixon. Just a bit of a holiday, you know?”
“Ah right. I think I saw Sal and your wife in the butcher’s. She looks ready to drop.”
“Aye and it’s not due for a couple of weeks. Actually, mate, you better give us a few sticks of that liquorice. She can’t get enough of it.” Joe flipped over the newspaper to read the back pages. “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed. “Fifty three for six against sodding Lancashire. It will take a good knock from Geoffery in the next innings to turn that round.”

On his arrival back at Sal’s cottage Joe threw the newspaper on the table and sat behind his cup of tea.
“You not reading that?” asked his sister.
“I’ve read the bit I wanted to read.”
Sal shrugged and unrolled the paper. “If you want some toast the bread’s in the larder.”
“I’m not hungry,” grumbled Joe before looking up as he heard the sound of his wife making her way down the stairs. He pulled the bag of liquorice out of his pocket and laid it on the kitchen table.
“Joe,” said Mary as she entered the kitchen. “I think the baby’s coming.”
“It can’t be. It’s too early. It must be just wind or something.”
“Joe!” she protested.
“Alright,” he replied. “Let’s not panic.”
Sal moved across the kitchen to examine Mary’s bump. “I think she’s right, Joe.”
“Right. Panic. I’ll get the car started. You grab your stuff.”
“Joe?”
Joe was confused. “You start the car and I’ll grab the stuff?”
“No, Joe,” said Sal. “You do both. I’ll help Mary to the car.”
Joe ran up the stairs to grab Mary’s bag. He searched frantically around the room. Although he located the bag in seconds, it seemed longer. Dashing back down the stairs, he slipped on the top step and travelled the full distance to the bottom bouncing on his back. As he hit the bottom he rocked back onto his feet, pretending, if only to himself, that that was his intention.

When Joe rounded the corner to the front street where his car was parked, his wife and sister were standing waiting for him.
“Do you want to get in the front?” he asked.
“No,” replied Mary and Sal in unison.
He unlocked the back door of his Hillman Minx and helped Sal ease Mary into the back seat. He then ran around the other side to open the door for his sister.
“Right, ladies,” he said. “Hang on we’ll be there in the blink of an eye.”
“Take it easy, Joe,” said Sal. “We don’t want to have an accident. I think we’ve got a little time yet.”

Joe drove out of the village and turned onto the main road.
“You're going the wrong way,” shouted Sal.
“No I’m not.”
“You are. Durham’s the other way.”
“We’re not going to Durham. We’re booked into Middlesbrough.”
“Yes, Joe. But this an emergency. We should go to the closest place.”
“I hate it when you first name me in the middle of a discussion.”
“Joe,” screamed Mary.
“Look. As you said, there’s plenty of time. Middlesbrough is not much further and my son is going to be born there.”
Joe put his foot down and the engine roared.

As they sped their way south, it wasn’t long before Joe noticed a flashing light in his rearview mirror.
“Oh no,” he said as he noticed the flashing was coming from the headlamp of a police motorcycle. He pulled over and wound down his window.
“Sterling Moss is it?” said the police officer as he reached the car.
“Sorry, officer, sergeant…”
“Constable, sir. You know there’s no excuse for those sorts of speeds. I clocked you at seventy seven miles per hour at one point.”
“I’m sorry,” said Joe. “My wife’s in the back. She’s about to have a baby.”
“Then you're heading in the wrong direction, sir. Durham hospital is closer.”
“Told you,” called Sal.
“My son must be born in Middlesbrough,” said Joe, assertively.
“Very well, sir,” said the police officer. “Follow me.”

Joe trailed the police officer along the country lanes, allowing himself a nod of self satisfaction. With a police escort, there was nothing stopping him getting to Middlesbrough in time.
“Everything alright in the back there, ladies?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied in a drone.
Joe smiled at them through the rear view mirror. On glancing back down he noticed the car’s temperature gauge.
“No, no, no,” he hollered.
“What?” screamed Mary.
“The car is starting to overheat.”
“I told you not to go too fast,” said Sal. “You must have a broken it.”
They limped into Sedgefield and Joe coasted the car to a halt before getting out to look under the bonnet.
“It’s the fan belt,” he called. “Have either of you got stockings on?”
“No,” replied Mary.
“No,” added Sal.
“Nor me, sir,” said the policeman who by now had looped around and dismounted to join Joe on his shoulder.
“Joe,” quivered Mary. “I don’t think it’s going to be much longer.”

Joe scanned the street for a solution to their predicament. He then looked back at the policeman. “Officer, do you mind leaving now?”
“Sir?”
“See that baker's van over there?”
“Yes, sir.”
“I’m going to steal it.”
“Sorry, sir, that would be illegal. I’d have to arrest you.”
“Yes. But not straight away. I’ll suffer the consequence tomorrow, mate. I’ve got to get her to the hospital.”
“What are you doing, Joe,” shouted Mary from the back of the car.
The police office creased his brow.
“Well she has got bun in the oven,” added Joe.
“One moment, sir.”
The policeman returned to his motorcycle and fished something out of panier. He returned and handed the object to Joe.
“What’s that?”
“A nice stiff screwdriver. You’ll need that to get it started.”
Joe flashed a broad smile.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Constable, what’s your first name?”
“Keith.”
“Thank you, Keith. I’m Joe.”
“Joe,” replied the policeman with a sharp nod.

Joe opened the back door of the car and poked his head inside. “Right, ladies, change of plan. We’re going to transfer to that van.”
“What?” said Sal. “Joe, let’s just call an ambulance.”
“Oh, I think it’s coming. Something's definitely having a dance in there,” said Mary, before starting to blow out short breaths of air.
“Come on,” said Joe, “no time to waste. This will be quicker. Sal, you’re in the back.”
As the set off, Mary looked across at her husband, “Joe?” she asked. “Why is there a screwdriver sticking out of where the key should be?”
“Don’t worry about that,” he replied.
“Joe,” called Sal from the back. “Have you stolen this van?”
“Oh no,” said Mary. “My baby is going to be born in jail.”
“It’s alright,” said Joe. “We haven’t stolen it. More like commandeered it. Keith seemed alright with that.”
“Who the hell is Keith?” screeched Sal.
“Him,” replied Joe, gesturing towards the policeman who had resumed his escort duty.

Twenty five minutes later, the top sections of Newport Bridge came into view. With the hospital less than a mile away from the bridge, their destination was close.
As they approached the bridge, Keith slowed his motorcycle to a stop. Joe pulled the van up beside him.
“Keith, what’s the problem, mate?”
“The bridge is up.”
“It’s never up?”
“Well it is. Maybe there’s a ship coming down from the yard.”
“You must be kidding.”
“Joe, why have we stopped?” said Mary, breathlessly.
Joe and Keith looked at each other.
“Follow me,” said Keith. “We’ll use the Transporter.”
The police officer looped around in the road and headed off in the opposite direction. Joe turned the van around in the road and followed.
“How far is it?” asked a despairing Mary. “I don’t think the baby wants to wait much longer.” She leaned back in her seat and continued her breathing exercises.
“Not long now,” replied Joe. “Hang on in there, pet.”
“Joe,” called Sal. “She’s not going to make it. We’re going to have to stop.”
“I’m not having my baby by the side of the road,” shrieked Mary.

As the Transporter Bridge came into view, it appeared they were in luck. The cradle to ferry them to the south side of the river was there. As they got closer, Joe’s heart sank. The cradle was full. He pulled up and jumped out of the van to speak to the bridge attendant.
“You’ve gotta get me on that bridge,” pleaded Joe.
The attendant looked over his shoulder at the full cradle. “We’re full, mate. You’ve have to wait until the next trip.”
“How long will that be?”
“Half an hour.”
“We can't wait that long.”
In his desperation Joe looked towards his police escort. In response, Keith, who was still sitting on his motorcycle, shrugged.
“Look,” said Joe, “my wife’s about to have a baby.”
“I’m not sure we have a procedure for that, mate,” replied the attendant.
There was then voice from the bridge. “What’s the hold up? I’ve got a timetable to keep.” It was the driver of the bus that was taking up several berths on the cradle. He had stepped down from his bus to make his way to where Joe and the bridge operator were stood.
Joe approached the bus driver. “You couldn’t back your bus off could you, mate? My missus is in that van and she’s about to have a baby.”
The busdriver screwed up his face and snorted. “Hang on,” he said, turning to return to the cradle where he tapped on the window of one of the other vehicles, a car. “You can have his bloke’s spot,” shouted the bus driver.
Joe ran to the reversing car and shouted thank you to the driver, before dashing back to the van to steer it into the vacated space. As he pulled on van’s handbrake, he let out a sigh of relief and looked towards his wife in the passenger seat.
“Joe,” said Mary. “I think my waters have broken.”
“What do you mean?”
“The baby’s coming now.”
“Joe,” said Sal. “We’re not going to make the hospital. We need to get her in the back.”
“Is everything alright?” asked Keith, who had abandoned his motorcycle to join them on the bridge. “Right,” he said calmly. “I think we need some help.”
Joe helped Mary into the back of the baker’s van and a few minutes Keith returned with two of the passengers. “What’s your wife’s name?” he asked.
“Mary.”
“Hello, Mary, there’s nothing to worry about. These two ladies have been involved in childbirth before. They are going to help you.”

As the volunteer midwives made Mary as comfortable as possible, Joe stepped back.
“She’s ready,” said one of the women.
“Mary,” said Sal. “Baby’s on the way. You need to give him a hand.”
“No,” called Joe. “It’s too soon. Another five minutes.”
“Bugger off, Joe,” replied Sal. “Push, Mary, push.”
“No,” said Joe. “Pull, pull.”
“Joe,” said Sal, firmly.
Joe stepped away and paced nervously between the vehicles parked on the bridge cradle. His head flicked from left to right as he gauged their progress against the riverbanks.
“Are you okay, son?” said Keith, who caught up to Joe after one of his nervous shuttles along the length of the cradle.
“Yeah. Does that look like halfway to you?”
“Halfway?”
“Yeah. Are we halfway way across the river yet?”
“It looks like it.”
Joe breathed a relieved sigh and walked to the barrier at the front of the cradle. He offered Keith a cigarette.
“No thanks, son,” said the policemen.
The two men stood silently watching the bridge cradle’s progress to the other side of the Tees. Joe finished his cigarette and dropped the butt, watching it as it descended into the waters below.

“Do you want to meet the new member of the family?” said Sal from behind him.
Joe turned around to see his sister cradling the tiniest of babies, swaddled in a coat.
“I don’t think we’ve got an opening batsman, though,” she added.
“What do you mean?” asked Joe.
“It’s a girl.”

“And that’s basically it,” said Freya. “My Dad’s love of cricket, specifically, Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Geoffrey Boycott OBE is how come I got lumbered with the name Geoffreya Bradman Hinton. GBH. It took me years to forgive my father for lumbering me with that. I don’t think I ever forgave my poor mother for letting him.”
“Bradman? Isn’t that the name of a cricketer too?”
“I believe so. It’s also the name of the baker whose van my dad nicked. To this day I can’t look a malted bloomer in the eye. I can only assume it was part of some sort of plea bargain.”
“I see,” said Mike. “It’s character forming I suppose.”
“Maybe. But you wanna try finding a boyfriend when your nickname is either Geoff or Grievous.”
“It’s good for me though. If you’d have been called something normal, you would have been snapped up long ago. We may never have met. Another sav cab?”
“Yes please. A large one.”

Mike returned to the table and placed their drinks on the table. “So why was it so important that you were born in Middlesbrough?”
“It wasn’t. What was important was that we crossed the River Tees. Back then it was the Yorkshire’s county boundary. And if you weren’t born in Yorkshire you couldn't play cricket for them.”

An End

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Mel Small
Mel Small
(United Kingdom)

The founder of Indipenned and the writer of some books. These include Holmes Volume 1 and the imaginatively titled follow up Holmes Volume 2. Dislikes turnip and beetroot (the Devil's fruit).


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