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A Journey, a Breakdown - Despair until Closure: A Short Story

Updated on February 22, 2019
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David writes a short story here about a young man who's vehicle breaks down while travelling and what he encounters at this time.

On Holiday At Last!

The season of spring has arrived, the weather is warming slightly - it is a good time of the year to take a holiday. Josh, being a bit of a loner decides to travel on his own to Cape Town, South Africa for a week to have a break from the routine of his office job.

It is in the late 1980’s; Josh has a panel van that he can travel as well sleep in. It’s not that comfortable, but good enough to serve as a roof over his head when he goes away.

Josh, in his early thirties, lives in a small town, he was transferred there by his work; most week-ends he travels an hour and a half to his home city. He’s trying to get a transfer back home but has not been able to yet.

After spending a few days at his home base Josh packs and sets off on the relatively long drive to the city of Cape Town, a place he knows quite well. His car is getting a tad old but has been running well; he has it serviced regularly. He plans to stop over at a caravan park along the way to spend a night in one of the many small coastal towns along the way.

All Goes Well Until...

The sun is shining, all goes well; by mid-afternoon Josh starts to think of a place where he can stop for the night. He’s on the highway approaching the town of Mossel Bay when he hears a thudding sound coming from underneath the van. He manages to turn into the off-ramp that leads to the town but his car is slowing down and he has to pull over to the side of the road.

A myriad of thoughts run through his head as he switches the engine off and realises he won’t be going anywhere further in his car today. He sees a garage in the distance but with trepidation thinks he might not be able to afford repairs if the damage to his van is major. Josh sits there not knowing what to do just yet, anxiety and frustration overwhelm him as he ponders the reality of his situation.

He gets out and looks underneath the panel van but cannot ascertain what the problem is. He gets back in and decides he will try to get the van to the garage that he spotted earlier, that the mechanics there can assess the damage.

Just then a dilapidated vehicle approaches and parks behind him.

Now I'm probably going get robbed as well as being stuck, he thinks to himself.

Two men approach his vehicle, they reach his window and one of them quips “Yes, Yes, how are you sir, what seems to be the problem?”

“Hi there, I have a problem with my van, there was a thumping noise coming from underneath and I can only drive very slowly now” says Josh.

“Oh heck that does sound like a problem, okay; we’ll have a look underneath and see what’s going on there. Just a sec sir.”

The man gets on his back underneath the van and spends some time inspecting it. Josh is just thankful that they didn’t come to harm him but to help him, despite their rather rough appearance.

The man appears at Josh’s window again “your drive-shaft is broken sir, you won’t be able to go any further but we can help you out if you want.”

Mossel Bay


A Decision Must Be Made

Josh is in two minds as to what to do, on the one hand he could get the car to the garage and get it fixed but more than likely he won’t be able to afford the repairs; a driveshaft could be a costly item. He doesn’t own a credit card and his income is not that great. On the other hand he could accept their offer for help but does not know what to expect, the men look a bit rough and tough – he suspects they may have been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smelling it on their breath when they first arrived.

In his confused, anxious state of mind Josh decides to accept their offer of help but first finds out what their ‘help’ entails.

“We’ll tow your car to our house and see if we can get a second hand drive-shaft to replace the broken one.”

“Okay, thank you very much, do you perhaps know what a drive-shaft will cost?” asks Josh.

“We will look around and see if we can get a good deal for you sir, don’t worry.”

The man then introduces himself as Gerrie and his companion is Jan, they are from a community that sits on the outskirts of Mossel Bay. It’s a beautiful little town next to the sea, a lot of fishing takes place there. They connect their tow rope to their car and to Josh’s van and proceed to take him to their home. Gerrie lives in a little house with his mother and other family members.

Josh wonders what he has let himself in for but it’s too late to try to back out now. They arrive at the house and park his car in the front yard, it has no fence. He is introduced to the family and they sit in the lounge; Gerrie opens a quart of beer, Josh has a glass but no more. He doesn’t drink much these days, sometimes he has a few.

Safe But Confused

So much for his holiday to Cape Town, he wonders if he’ll get there at all. The family is friendly but Gerrie obviously likes his beer and indulges in it quite a lot without getting really drunk though, just happy, most of the time. Every now and then Gerrie gets in his car and drives off somewhere, to where Josh doesn’t have a clue. Josh is grateful for the help but at the same time feels a bit confused about the situation; he does not know when they will help him with his van.

That night they have fried fish for supper, it was caught by some friends of Gerrie who are fishermen. Their hospitality is commendable, Josh feels safe in their hands despite the misgivings he experienced earlier.

Josh shares a room with two of the younger sons and is given a bed of his own to sleep in. The following day he speaks to Gerrie about acquiring a drive-shaft; Gerrie is still asking around in the community about the matter. The day passes but no solution is found, they visit friends nearby and drive down to the sea. Only the following day does Gerrie inform him that they must travel to nearby Riversdale where they will be able to purchase a second-hand drive-shaft.

Later in the day some friends of Gerry arrive in a 1960’s Chrysler Valiant, they set off for Riversdale. One of the occupants of the car asks Josh if he will give him a lift to Cape Town when his van has been sorted. Josh’s gut feeling tells him not to trust this man, he has an idea that the man will try to steal his car from him. Josh doesn’t give him a definite answer.

'64 Valiant


A Hair Raising Experience - Then Relief

The journey to Riversdale is hair-raising, the driver goes at a furious speed, when they go around corners Josh feels as if they are going to skid, slide off the road, crash and all be killed or badly injured. However they make it to their destination in one piece and find the place where the drive-shaft is. They examine it and come to the conclusion that it’s not quite the correct one for his van but it will work once they have secured it. The price is not too steep but he can just cover it.

After an equally scary return trip they arrive back at Mossel Bay and go to a friend who spot welds the drive-shaft onto his van. They say he must have it properly welded when he gets to Cape Town. This is not exactly what he was hoping for but there isn’t much Josh can do, he just hopes and prays the weld won’t break on the next part of his journey. He gives them a few items of clothing and some money for their assistance in getting him back on the road again.

The man who asked him for a lift earlier asks Josh to collect him at the local filling station that night when he sets off for Cape Town. He says goodbye to Gerrie and the family, thanking them profusely for their kindness, then he quietly drives through the town; when he reaches the filling station where the man is going to wait for him, he does not stop, he continues past it feeling that it would be too much of a risk to give the man a lift, something didn’t feel right about him.

Josh’s panel van now makes a bit of a noise, the drive-shaft is not quite the right fit; a bit laughable really; the journey is proving to be an adventure, a scary one at times. Gratefully he makes it to Cape Town and immediately finds a welding firm who secure the shaft properly for him.

Josh finally feels relieved; he has actually made it to his destination despite the setbacks. He spends his first night at a youth hostel but leaves it the following day and finds a caravan park as a base for his stay in the city. Josh visits some friends, unfortunately their house if full so he’s unable to stay there. Thereafter he enjoys the beaches, shopping malls and nature areas in and around the city.

After a week of travel and adventure Josh returns home none too worse for the wear, he breathes a sigh of relief as he turns in for good night’s sleep at home, in his own bed.

Cape Town


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 David Edward Lynch


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