Mary Ellen Hayward lives in Co. Derry. She started writing to help fill the gap after her youngest child left home for university. Inspired by the landscape and the people around her, she writes poetry and flash fiction. Her first collection of short stories, ‘From Glen to Glen’ was published in 2010. Some of her poems have been published in anthologies within Ireland and UK .
A Change of Direction
By Mary Ellen Hayward
With one eye on the road and the other on the speedometer, I overtake a truck. The driver toots his horn, speeds up, tailgating me. I slow down, let him pass.
‘Bastard! Shouldn’t be allowed on the road driving like that!’ I wipe the sweat from my brow. Only fifteen minutes to get there. I just can’t be late again. Not today. Bloody young whippersnappers barking at my heels, just waiting to take my place. Think they know everything with their degrees, their diplomas and courses! It’s alright for them with nothing on their minds apart from promotion. The traffic is moving well now. With a bit of luck I might just make it in time today.
Oh my God! God Almighty! I slam on the brakes. There’s a terrible bang. A car spins. Round and round. Bits of metal flying everywhere. A car has driven straight out in front of the truck. Everything stops. A crowd swarms around the car. A man reaches in through the broken window. He withdraws an arm streaked with blood. He shakes his head. The driver emerges from the truck which is now lying sideways in the ditch. He staggers right out into the middle of the road, hands clasped tightly over his head. Pulling myself together I go to him.
‘They drove straight out. I slammed on the brakes as soon as I saw it. I swear to God they drove straight out! ‘
‘I know. I know. I saw it. Not your fault. Take slow deep breaths. That’s it. Easy now. Easy. It wasn’t your fault. It could well have been me.’
‘They drove straight out.’
Sirens scream down the road. After giving details to the police, I sit shaking in the car staring at a telegraph wire heavy with birds getting ready to fly off for winter feeding grounds. To hell with work! I’ve always hated it. I’m needed elsewhere. To hell with the carers. Sometimes they don’t even show. When they do they’re late. They plonk her in front of the telly. Cartoons all day, every day. She never did like telly. Radio was her thing. I’m working my ass off just to pay for them. They use her phone. Eat her food. Snoop. Gossip…. I slowly turn the car round and carefully drive back home.
‘Hiya. It’s me. I’m going to be looking after you from now on. ‘