He was jolted by the slamming of the cab door. A few minutes silence and then there was a massive rumble and a vibration as the engine started up. He noticed rain was hammering in from the side, freezing cold, straight under the truck.
The driver, unaware of his extra passenger clinging beneath the lorry, lit his second fag of the day and put the radio on. The weather man announced in a cheery voice that it was going to rain all day, so remember to take an umbrella. What the hell, when you’re in a nice warm cab it didn’t matter. The roads across the fens ran long and straight as a dye, and his first trip was to Birmingham, eighty miles or so, to deliver the lettuces and carrots that had been loaded late last night. The immigrant workers worked hard, he had great respect for them, bent over those fields all day. It was now five o’clock, the veg would still be fresh as a daisy when it hit the supermarket shelves. He switched the wipers on and watched them slap the water off the sodden windscreen, back and forth in big arcs, then he flipped the light switch and shoved the gear stick into first. The truck sighed and ground its way out of the yard and onto the main road.
He shouldn’t have done it. Shouldn’t have crawled in here. He was small and space was adequate, and he could easily fit underneath, but the vibration and movement of the truck made things far more dangerous than he’d realised. He stared down at the tarmac flying past below as the truck picked up speed, and hung on for grim death. He’d wanted change, he was sick to death of lettuces, and the same old routine, he wanted adventure! Now he had it, but it would be short-lived if he fell off.
An hour up the road and the weather worsened. The truck tyres picked up standing water and mud and spewed it up at the stowaway, showering him in a filthy concoction. He hung on desperately, eyeing the lethally spinning tyres just a foot away.
At 07.30 the driver pulled into a truck-stop. A full English breakfast was in order. He hopped down out of the cab and made his was into the café.
Under the truck the stowaway tried to clean the mud from his eyes, then he peered down onto the gravel and considered slipping off here while the truck was still. But then he saw it, the hedgehog. He shrank back, terrified, and gripped even more tightly to the metal. The hedgehog wandered about, snuffling, searching for breakfast, and after a while disappeared into the far hedge. He had to make a break for it. Had to do it now. Summoning all his courage he slipped out scanning around for danger, moving cautiously forwards. The door handle of the truck felt cold to his touch.
The slam of the café door signalled the sudden return of the driver who had forgotten his cigarettes. He walked over to his cab door and stared up at it, a look of disgust suddenly flashing across his face as he took in the silver trail up the door and the large spotted leopard slug on the door handle. He found a stick, balanced the slug on the end of it and twanged it over the hedge.
The stowaway flew through the air and landed with a splat in the garden next door. After a few minutes he unfurled his eyes. He was looking down a long row of lettuces.