A FREE short story by Colin Devonshire

Thumbs Up

“Christ Almighty, look at this rain, it hasn’t stopped since I left Bangkok, and it’s getting worse,” said Arpa to the mirror. She grabbed the steering wheel tighter as the truck behind her flashed its lights.

“What’s up with you?” She screamed as the vehicle sped past, hitting a deep puddle overloading the hire car wipers. 

Calming down, she flashed at a car coming towards her, “Bloody idiot, turn your lights on.”

At four pm and dark already, the cloudburst followed her. Other drivers had slowed, and their headlights were on. She felt better.

She had driven for ninety minutes, on a dry day she would have made the distance in sixty. 

“No problem, no rush.”

She was keen to show off her degree papers to her parents. The flight from Heathrow was painless, it was only when she arrived in Thailand; the weather changed. A tropical monsoon downpour, she did not miss them. London’s rain was bad enough.

“At least the rain here is warm,” she laughed to herself.

“What the…”

She tooted the horn and pulled across to the dark shadow with his thumb out.

Her mother’s warning flashed across her mind, “Don’t stop for strangers, at home or in England.” She remembered promising she would take care.

Then she recalled the local Abbot saying, “We must take care of those less fortunate.”

She opened the door.

“Get in quick,” she called.

“Oh, great, you can speak English.”

“I know that in England you ‘thumb a lift,’ but it won’t work here,” Arpa said, smiling.

“Ah, that explains it. I’ve been walking for hours,” the man answered.

“You are soaked, why not take your jacket off? I’ll turn the heater on to dry it.”

The man attempted to wriggle out of the sleeves. It was then Arpa realised how big the man was. He was built like a bodybuilder, his arm muscles restricted shaking loose his jacket.

“Why are you walking? No one except monks walk in Thailand,” she asked.

He grunted himself free and settled, looking straight ahead.

“Where are you going?” Arpa asked.

“South,” he replied.

“South can be a long way, all the way to Singapore.”

“Prachuab… somewhere or other,” he said.

“Prachuabkhirikhan, you mean, lovely part of the world,” she smiled at him. Noticing he had a facial tattoo and many piercings. 

“Can I ask again, why are you walking? We have plenty of buses and even frequent trains travel south.”

“… Eh, my bag was stolen. Money, passport the lot all gone.”

“You have an Embassy in Bangkok, why not tell them?” she asked.

The splatter of rain was the only answer she got.

He stretched his arms out, hands resting on his knees, she glimpsed, ‘LOVE and HATE’ inked across his knuckles.

She felt under the dashboard, for a second she had forgotten this was not her car. Her BMW stored a ladylike pistol. This rental had no such thing. 

“Where are you heading?” He said, facing her for the first time. She gasped, one fluorescent sky blue eye and one green cat’s eye peered at her. His lips parted enough to reveal pointed teeth, and the incisors boasted diamond chips.

“I’m going to my parents’ home, sorry, but not as far as Prachuabkhirikhan, I’ll have to drop you off soon.”

“Has anybody told you, you are beautiful?”

She tried to cover her knees with her skirt. The cotton didn’t stretch. His eyes did. His smile widened.

Arpa’s mind was spinning, how to get rid of this freak? ‘Why didn’t I listen to mum?’ she thought.

“The rain is easing,” she said.

“Are you trying to throw me out of your car?”

“No, it’s not that, I need to stop for petrol, I’ll buy you a coffee and give you enough cash for the bus which can pick you up at the station?”

“I can see you have half a tank of fuel. Are there no more stations?”

“It, it, it’s not that, I like the convenience store at the next petrol station,” she mumbled.

“How about we keep moving, also, let go of your skirt too. I prefer it when you have two hands on the wheel. Much safer, don’t you agree?”

She did as ordered. A tense silence filled the car, he stared at her legs; she wondered how to press the alarm signal on her phone. ‘I never needed it in London, back home the first person I meet and I am desperate to try it out.’ Her mind in a twirl.

“The turning for my home is coming up. You’ll have to get out soon.”

“What if I ask you to take me all the way?” he said, smirking at his poor joke.

“Sorry, that is not possible.”

He turned awkwardly to face her. “I think it is.”

She realised how huge his shoulders were.

A thought from nowhere nudged her overactive mind. 

“What work do you do?”

“Are you offering me a job?”

“Are you in the movies?” she asked.

A weird sound spluttered out like a dog caught under a bus. 

“Whatever made you ask that. Of course, I’m not a film star,” he said 

“Would you like to be one?”

“I’ve never thought about it. I’m a bouncer in a nightclub if you must know.”

Silence returned. Both were deep in thought. He was dreaming of flirting with instant fame. She dreamt of escape.

“My father is a movie producer,” she said.


“He could find you a role, maybe a hero, or even as a villain?”

“I can’t speak Thai, it would have to be a non-speaking part.”

“No problem, my dad will know a way around that little problem,” Arpa said, feeling more at ease.

She started rooting in her bag.

“Oy, what do you think you’re doing?”

“I looking for my phone, I need to tell my dad you’re coming.”

“Okay, but speak in English, I don’t want you tricking me.”

“Dad’s English is good enough, but he’ll think it odd for us not to speak Thai.”

“Just make it quick.”

She tapped in a number.

“Hi dad, it’s me, I’m nearly home. I have the next star for your movie with me now.”

The mobile went back to her bag.

The rain stopped as they left the main road, turning left onto a winding offshoot lane. Passing pineapple fields, then mango orchards, on through farmland. Ahead was a huge property, three-metre-high walls surrounded it. Automatic gates opened and closed behind them as they swept across the gravel driveway.

Dogs were barking.

“Don’t worry, they are in cages,” said Arpa. “I don’t even know your name.”

The huge teak front door opened back. 

“My name is Philip.”

A whistling sound was heard for a second before the crossbow bolt buried itself into Philip’s heart.

“Great shot dad,” she called as she ran to cuddle her father.

“What a fantastic specimen, a good job I stocked up with formaldehyde, but I’m not sure I have a glass cylinder big enough,” Arpa’s father laughed.