Over the Limit

“There’s two smart looking tarts over there,” shouted a very drunk and highly excited Paul. “What are you doin’? Pull over you daft berk.”
Ricky obeyed Paul’s demands, as usual, and pushed his break pedal down hard, bringing his red Escort screeching to a halt.
“Hello darlin’.” Paul leapt out of the car and grabbed the back door handle, “Want a lift.” His attempt to look sophisticated fell flat as the catch stuck and he really had to wrench it hard to get it open.
“Careful of my motor, dickhead,” shouted Ricky, slightly less drunk than Paul, and considerably the calmer of the two eighteen year olds.
“You wouldn’t happen to be goin’ into town, would ya,” said the dark, short haired one, scantily clad in a fluorescent purple satin halter top and black skin-tight leggings that revealed her slim young figure.
“See our taxi let us down and my Dad’ll kill me if I aren’t back by twelve,” chirped in the blond with the frizzled hair and the micro mini skirt.
“Be my guest,” said Paul who could scarcely believe his luck. His eyes were leaping about, from face to face and from body to body as the two teenage girls manoeuvred themselves into the back seat of the car with as much dignity as they could muster. Paul slammed the door shut behind them but it sprung open again.
“Get your sodding seat belt out of the sodding way,” he said cheerfully as he pulled it open again only to notice the effect his language was having on the blonde.
“Sorry,” he said,” No offence intended.” He’d decided she was the most fanciable of the two.
“It’s just his way,” joined Ricky who had turned round in his seat and was trying to work out if the brunette was wearing a bra or any knickers.
“I’m already wearing the effing thing,” said the brunette, “And you can get your hands away from me you randy bastard.”
“Sorrryy, sorrryy,” he said sarcastically. ” I was only looking for the belt. Didn’t realise you was wearing it.”
He shut the door again and this time it seemed to latch satisfactorily.
“All aboard now driver. Drive on,” he shouted cheerfully. “I’m Paul and this is my chauffeur, Ricky.”
“Pleased to meet you I’m sure,” said the brunette who was obviously enjoying the banter.
“So what are your names?” asked Ricky as he pulled back onto the road.
“I’m not sure we should tell them, are you?” said the blonde to her friend.
Paul playfully pushed his seat back into the brunette’s legs.
“Tell us your names,” he said in a mock stern voice.
“That hurt, you git,” she said and gave him a hard but good-natured slap over the head.
Paul tried to turn round in his seat.
“Careful, idiot. I’m trying to drive,” said Ricky who was finding it hard to sober up and concentrate.
“I’m goin’ to get you for that,” shouted Paul as he tried to reach over the seat back, catching Ricky with his shoulder.
“Christ, Paul, leave it off will ya,” shouted Ricky as he swerved to avoid an oncoming car.
“All right then Mr Serious, I’ll bloody join them in the back seat,” retorted Paul.
“Oh for Christ sake, Paul, behave yourself,” said Ricky and added for the girl’s sake, “Two pints and he’s out of his skull.”
“Yeah behave yourself, Paul,” said the brunette.
This only seemed to wind Paul up further.
“I’m comin’ to get ya,” he shouted and wound down the front and back windows so a cold draught blew through the car.
“I’m going the outside route so I don’t upset the driver.”
He then stuck his head and shoulders out of the front passenger window and started to haul himself round the outside of the centre door pillar. The girls screamed as he appeared looming over them, his arms flailing around above them. The more conservative blonde was genuinely distressed but the brunette had been infected by Paul’s reckless mood and was enjoying herself.
Suddenly the troublesome catch gave and the back door flew open. Paul, who was pulling hard on it for the final thrust, lost his balance and his legs fell out of the front window. Ricky did an emergency stop but, if anything, this worsened Paul’s plight. One of his legs touched the road and was whipped under the back wheel, snapping the shinbone like a dry stick. His scream was short lived as his trapped leg wrenched him from the car and threw him onto the ground with some force.
“Oh, shit,” said Ricky as the car slammed to a halt, “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.”
He could see Paul in his mirror lit up by the headlights of a car passing in the opposite direction. He was lying still, spread eagled on the grass verge.
The girls went quiet. For a few moments the silence was totally overwhelming in contrast to the noise that had preceded it.
Each of them was wrapped in their own thoughts. Alice, the blonde, and Rebecca, the brunette, were wishing their taxi had turned up and were wondering how to get home. They felt trapped in a situation that was nothing to do with them.
Ricky’s mind was racing; I hope Paul’s not too badly hurt; I’ll be well over the limit if they breathalyse me; if only Paul didn’t always get so worked up; it was only a matter of time before something like this happened; if anyone stops I’ll get the blame and I was just driving home as carefully as I could; it’s not fair.
He decided to go and attend to Paul. Then he decided to back the car up closer. Paul hadn’t moved. That worried him.
Christ what if he’d dead!
Then he remembered that he was blind drunk.
Perhaps he’s just asleep.
He got out. He heard Paul moaning in an unnatural voice, quiet and almost deathly, “My head, my head. I’ve hurt my head.”
He looked but only saw blood soaked jeans and a foot that was in a funny position compared with the rest of his leg.
What do I do now?
He went back to the car. “Look,” he said, “Paul’s badly hurt. I ‘m going to find a phone box and get an ambulance. Will you stay with him?”
“We not bloody staying here in the dark with that maniac,” said the fickle Rebecca forcefully. “He deserves everything he’s got.”
Ricky was unable to persuade them to stay so he went back to move Paul further off the road. Only his good leg and right arm seemed vulnerable and Ricky just flipped those over. They moved unnaturally as if they were just skin covered bones and joints with no muscles. Paul didn’t say anything. Ricky felt nauseous with worry.
The three of them drove slowly off and before long they were out of the darkness in well-lit streets. The girls huddled together in the back of the car for comfort, looking much younger and more vulnerable than he had a few minutes earlier.
Ricky couldn’t get the image of Paul’s leg out of his mind.
It could be severed right off. Perhaps he’s hurt his head too.
The relief when they found a phone box was enormous. The girls got out of the car and stayed with him while he dialled 999 and told the ambulance where to find Paul. For some reason he refused to tell them what happened or to give his name and address. When the hospital asked he just put the phone down.
“Why did you do that?” asked Alice.
“Dunno,” he replied. “Look I’ll just drop you off and then go to the hospital. I can’t face going back to Paul.”
He suddenly felt very tired, a heavy numbing sensation he’d not felt before. Somehow he mobilised himself and drove the girls to the Mudford estate. Alice seemed to have taken to him and gave him a juicy kiss on his cheek and her phone number when he dropped her off. This really buoyed him up.
She’s smart, bloody gorgeous. What a good end to the night. She must have been impressed by how well I handled it all.
He drove cheerfully to the hospital and waited by the casualty department. He knew the place, as he’d had to take his gran there the previous month when she broke her collarbone after slipping on the ice.
When he saw the ambulance arrive with its blue light flashing his mood slipped back. But it wasn’t Paul. A second and a third ambulance came.
Christ, where is he?
He thought back over his emergency call. He was sure his directions had been explicit enough. After the fourth ambulance discharged someone other than Paul, he’d had enough.
He must have arrived while I was taking the girls home.
He drove to his own home, switched the engine off and sat quietly in the car for some time, his mind blank – as if in a trance. Then a thought struck him like a bolt of lightning, expunging all his other thoughts, Ricky may still be there. You’ve abandoned your best mate, left him badly injured by the roadside.
He started up and raced off to where he remembered it all happening. There was no trace of Paul but he parked up anyway. When he emerged from the car into the drizzle that was now falling he found with horror he was in the wrong place. There was a proper pavement in the place he thought he’d left Paul.
Shit! I must have sent the ambulance to the wrong place. Christ where is he? He must still be lying there.
He drove in panic up the road a further half-mile, passing through a small village he’d forgotten about, before seeing his friend lying there like a corpse, just as he had left him. He looked at his watch, 3.25 a.m.
We must have left the pub by 11.30. That was almost four hours ago. Where has all the time gone?
There was a phone box in the village. When he phoned up this time all the emotion bubbled up inside him and he screamed unreasonably down the phone to the operator, “Why haven’t you sent an ambulance to my friend? He’s been lying there for hours. He might be dead by now. And it’s all your fault”
He still refused to give his name. This time though he made sure he gave the correct directions and waited in his car by the phone box until he saw the ambulance drive past him.
He knew now he could never explain what happened. Who would believe him? So he went home to bed and feigned surprise when he heard that Phil was on the critical list. He didn’t even go to see him. Nor did he ever follow up the blonde either – the association with that awful night was too close.
The police are investigating the accident which they think was caused by a hit and run driver. They have started interviewing all Paul’s friends. It’ll be Ricky’s turn any day. Then he’ll probably have to go to jail. Paul’s making a ‘steady recovery’ but he can’t even recognise his own mother let alone give an account of what happened.

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