A Sense of Relief


Story cover design Matt Law

Max is panting on the back seat, unsettled by the speed at which His Master is driving. The needle on the speedometer is vibrating at 90 mph, and my right foot on the accelerator is pressed firmly to the floor. I stare ahead, clutching the steering wheel tight. My knuckles are white, and the back of my shirt is soaked in sweat. I turn off the blithering idiot DJ on the radio. I must focus all my energy on the task to avoid disaster.

The city of London sits on the horizon like pieces of Lego. The sky above is milky grey and filled with dark clouds pregnant with rain, which isn’t helping my current predicament. I take Exit 2 off the M25 and then a sharp left off the roundabout onto the A2. Max slides across the back seat and then quickly regains his posture. He releases a frustrated, high-pitched bark in displeasure. I look in the rearview mirror and see his ears pinned back, legs shaking and tail between legs.

“Sorry, old chap. Not long now.”

I switch to the fast lane. The leather upholstery squeaks as I twitch in the seat. I am in trouble if I don’t find somewhere soon. There is no plan B.

“Come on, come on, where are you?” At last, the sign I have been waiting for.


Max barks again, this time in approval at the slower speed as we pull into the station forecourt, and then starts to whimper expectantly.

“Sorry, Max. Not walkie’s, I’m afraid. Just a quick pitstop.”

I clamber out of the car and shut the door on a confused and disappointed Max, muting his protests. It’s not a proper services, just a petrol station with a forecourt. I make my way towards the kiosk. The man behind the plastic glass stares at me blankly.

“Can you point me in the direction of the loo?”

The man shakes his head and then points at a sign. It reads NO TOILETS. I laugh. No toilet is not an option.

“You see, um…do you have a staff toilet I can use? I’m quite desperate.”

The man shakes his head.

“Not for customers.”


“Company policy.”

Christ! Just my luck to get a jobsworth.

“You sure you can’t bend the rules?”
The jobsworth shakes his head. He has the beginning of a stupid smirk on his lips. I don’t have time for a sword fight. I decide to surrender my dignity.

“Please, I’m begging you.”

“Don’t have a key.”

He lifts his eyebrows as if to say touché.

I scan the station forecourt. There are no bushes, no discreet places one might relieve oneself. I’m not sure what to do. A queue has formed behind me. A woman behind me listening in has overhead my plight.

“Is it number ones or number twos dear?”

I am no longer sure which one is which.

“There’s a pub you can dash into just after Blackwall tunnel…5 minutes…”

I nod gravely. Five minutes is an eternity in my current situation, but I have no alternative. I tip-toe back to the car, feeling like I have swallowed a time bomb. The car windows have steamed up – poor Max. I open the car door as a very excited golden retriever tries to escape.

“No! No, Max, not now!”

I grab his collar and avoid the double disaster of having a full bladder coupled with a stray dog on the motorway. Max returns to the back seat disgruntled.

“Sorry, Max, you will have to be patient. Not long now.”

I start the engine and pull out back onto the A2. The slightest motion might cause a major flood, but as I drive over the brow of the hill, a worst-case scenario appears – a long traffic tailback.

“Oh God no, please no.”

The traffic had ground to a halt. I pull up behind the car in front of me. I am officially in a crisis. There is no way I can hold on. And there is no hard shoulder to pull up on. I have reached the point of no return – the dam is about to break. My only option is an empty Lucozade bottle rolling about on the floor of the passenger seat.

I reach over, grab it, and throw it on the passenger seat. The traffic starts to inch forward, and with my free hand, I unbuckle my belt and slide my jeans and pants around my knees. I reason there will be some spillage. Max woofs; this is not normal behaviour. The traffic begins to slow but annoyingly does not come to a complete halt. We creep along at a snail’s pace, which requires constant attention and continual gear changes requiring both feet and both hands. Ideally, a complete stop would give me a much-needed window of opportunity.

Eventually, the traffic grinds to a halt. I edge myself forward on my seat to get into position. I just need to relax, but paradoxically, that requires total concentration. An angry horn blast lets me know the sodding traffic has started up again. There is no way I can simultaneously drive and relieve myself. There are too many moving parts. I must watch the traffic, change gear, ride the accelerator, brake and clutch. But I am on the point of a potential explosion. Mercifully, the traffic slows to a stop again, and I seize my opportunity. Within seconds, the floodgates open, and I feel glorious relief as a violent jet of hot piss starts filling up the Lucozade bottom. Oh, mummy!

A horn blasts again, but I haven’t finished. I crunch the gears, ease my foot down on the accelerator gingerly and begin to move forward with the bottle between my knees. It is a tricky manoeuvre. I need three hands: one for the steering wheel, one for the gear stick and one to ensure my aim is true. I also need to keep an eye on the traffic and the bottle simultaneously, especially as the bottle is already three-quarters full and I am still on full gush.

The traffic is beginning to move faster. I shift to second gear, but the bottle between my knees is nearing the brim. I either need to close the dam or summon another Lucozade bottle out of thin air. Neither of these are currently an option. I am momentarily distracted, not realising the car in front has flashed its brake lights. There is a loud crash, and I jerk forward. Max flies between the driver and passenger seat. Disaster! I have hit the car in front.

There is a moment of ominous silence as the overflowing Lucozade bottle drops to the floor. I still can’t turn off the hose which is now soaking me, the dashboard and the interior.

“Oh, Christ.”

The car in front is a sports car. I’m not good with the makes of vehicles, a BMW or a Porsche – something very expensive. The driver gets out immediately and slams his door shut. He is in his mid-twenties and has muscular arms adorned with tattoos. His face reminds me of a Rottweiler -crossed with a psychopath.

He marches towards me baring his teeth with uncontrolled fury on his face. I really am in the shit. Or the piss. This is it, how my story ends. I should at least lock the doors or pull my trousers up, but I am paralysed by fear. Plus, I am still urinating, now directly on to the car’s floor.

My life flashes before me. A happy childhood and loving parents. As a kid, I liked dogs, Liverpool FC (then Spurs), spaghetti bolognese, Carry On films and playing kiss-chase with Selina Valentine. I had high hopes for the future, that one day, I might be successful in music or comedy. I’d get married, have kids, grandkids and end my days pottering about a sunny garden with a sleepy cat, buzzy bees and pretty flowers. But now I could see the newspaper headlines.


Any second now, the Rottweiler psychopath is going to open my door and see a pathetic wretch of a man with his trousers and pants around his ankles, widdling himself before dragging him out onto the hard shoulder and beating him to a pulp.

“Goodbye, Max. It was lovely knowing you.”

The Rottweiler stops and looks at the rear of his sports car to survey the damage. The moment goes on forever. And then, to my astonishment, his face breaks into a big smile, followed by the raising of his hand into a thumbs-up sign. He is mouthing something, so I roll down my window and stick my head out.

“You’re alright, mate,” he says cheerily. “No damage. That’s what bumpers are for, yes?”

I nod and smile and return a thumbs-up sign. I then mouth a sorry, and a thank you.

The man is not a Rottweiler at all. He is a waggy-tailed golden retriever, just like Max. He returns to his Porsche, laughing as my grip loosens on the steering wheel and the fountain of urine splutters to a stop. I pull up my trousers, start the engine and drive.

The traffic is moving , and as we enter the Blackwell tunnel I try to collect my thoughts. I had just had the luckiest of lucky escapes. I had got away with it by the seat of my pants, which were now soaked. Never again would I take anything for granted. From now on, I would seize the day. Count my blessings and my lucky stars. I would love and live every second – appreciate the little things in life – the colours of spring, the smile of a friend, the sound of music, the wag of a dog’s tail. I look in the rearview mirror.

“How are you doing, Max, my furry friend!”

Max wags his tail and gives me a look to say can we hurry up now.

My bladder is empty, life is full of possibilities and I have learnt an important life lesson – never drive anywhere with less than two empty Lucozade bottles.

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