The Hitch-Hiker (short story)

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"The Hitch Hiker"
Author Roald Dahl
Country England
Language English
Series The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More Roald Dahl's Ten Short Stories
Genre(s) Short story
Published in 1977
Publication type Print (Paperback)
Publication date 2014
Published in English 1977
Preceded by "The Boy Who Talked With Animals"
Followed by "The Mildenhall Treasure"

"The Hitch-Hiker" is a short story by Welsh author Roald Dahl that was originally published in the July 1977 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, and later included in Dahl's short story collection The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. The story features a man who picks up a hitch-hiker whilst driving to London. The pick-pocketing of a policeman's notebook during a traffic stop closely follows "Hitch-Hike", a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents based on a short story by Ed Lacy.

Plot summary[edit]

The narrator is driving to London in his new BMW when he picks up a hitchhiker. The man, who looks rather like a rat, mentions that he's going to the horse races, but not to bet or work the ticket machines. The narrator is intrigued and says that he's a writer. They get to talking about the car, and the narrator proudly states that it can hit one hundred and twenty-nine miles per hour. The hitchhiker doubts that, so once they hit a straight patch of road, the narrator steps on the gas. They're almost there when a policeman on a motorcycle zooms past and signals them to stop. The cop is a bit of a bully and threatens to have the narrator thrown in prison. He takes down his address and also the address of the hitchhiker. Then he gives them a ticket and leaves and they continue on their way. The narrator is worried about the ticket, but the hitchhiker says it will be fine. They begin talking about their careers again, and eventually the hitchhiker announces that he is a "fingersmith". He is so skilled with his hands that he even manages to remove the narrator's belt without him noticing. He attends the races and steals money from the winners. "That policeman's going to check up on you pretty thoroughly", the narrator says. "Doesn't that worry you a bit?" The hitchhiker responds that no one will be checking up on him, as policemen have notoriously bad memories. "What's memory got to do with it?" the narrator asks. "It's written down in his book, isn't it?" The hitchhiker proudly announces that he's stolen both books from the policeman. "Easiest job I ever done." They pull off the road to burn the books.