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The hitch-hiker

Roald Dahl

I was taking the car along slowly now, at no more ten forty miles an hour, to make quite sure I wasn't stopped again. We had come on the main London-Oxfort road and were running down the hill towards Denham.

Suddenly, my passenger was holding up a black leather belt in his hand. “Ever seen this before?” he asked. The belt had a brass buckle of unusual design.

“Hey!” I said. “That's mine, isn't it? It is mine! Where did you get it?”

He grinned and waved the belt gently from side to side.

“Where d'you think I got it?” he said. “Off the top of your trousers, of course.”

I reached down and felt for my belt. It was gone.

“You mean you took it off me while we've been driving along?” I asked, flabbergasted.

He nodded, watching me all the time with those little black ratty eyes.

“That's impossible,” I said. “You'd have had to undo the buckle and slide the whole thing out though the loops all the way round. I'd have seen you doing it. And ever if I hadn't seen you, I'd have felt it.”

“Ah, but you didn't, did you?” he said, triumphant. He dropped the belt on his lap, and now all at once there was a brown shoelace dangling from his fingers. “And what about this, then?” he exclaimed, waving he shoelace.

“What about it?” I said.

“Anyone around ‘ere missin' a shoelace?” he asked, grinning.

I glanced down at my shoes. The lace of one of them was missing. “Good grief!” I said. “how did you do that? I never saw you bending down.”

“You never saw nothin',” he said proudly. “You never ever saw me move an inch. And you know why?

“Yes,” I said. “Because you've got fantastic fingers.”

“Exactly right!” he cried. “You catch on pretty quick, don't you?” He sat back and sucked away at his home-made cigarette, blowing the smoke out in a thin stream against the windshield. He knew he had impressed me greatly with those two tricks, and this made him very happy. “I don't want to be late,” he said. “What's time is it?”

“There's a clock in front of you,” I told him.

“I don't trust car clock,” he said. “What does your watch say?”

I hitched up my sleeve to look at the watch on my wrist. It wasn't there. I looked at the man. He looked back at me, grinning.

“You've taken that, too,” I said.

He held out his hand and there was my watch lying in his palm. “Nice bit of stuff, this,” he said. “Superior quality. Eighteen-carat gold. Easy to flog, too. It's never any trouble getting' rid of quality goods.”

“I'd like it back, if you don't mind,” I said, rather huffily.

He placed the watch carefully on the leather tray in front of him. I wouldn't nick anything from you, guv'nor',” he said. “You're my pal. You're giving me a lift.”

“I'm glad to hear it,” I said.

“All I'm doing is answerin' your questions,” he went on. “You asked my what I did for livin' and I'm showin' you.”

“What else you got of mine?”

Traduït per Quim Monzó
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