Meredith began the shlep to Crickhowell by leaving Llangynidr on Cyffredyn Lane, which at this point was wide enough for traffic to flow easily in both directions. The road was bounded by high hedge on both sides, with a decent verge. A little further on one of the verges petered out and the other narrowed. People travelling the road began to feel hemmed in as trees grew up behind the hedge on one side and the river narrowed; traffic still flowed in both directions but two large things, such as a bus and a lorry had a ticklish time passing.
Meredith groaned. The sub-routine had indeed developed proto-sentience and had started referring to itself as Bunter for some reason. Words would be had with the mission controllers and with the AI programmers when all this was over… Still (groan) Bunter was doing a decent enough job. Whilst the road was not perfect for pedestrians, Bunter advised that the verge on this side did not get narrow; stay on this road, it becomes Cwm Crawnon Road; up head there is a bridge over a small stream, the road kinks, but there is a footpath. Hang on…recalculating…find a break in the hedge on the left, the stream is the other side and the footpath will be there…
The intermittant sounds of sporadic traffic were dulled by the shielding vegetation. Meredith made reasonably good progress along the foot path and the traffic noises were muted still further as the stream parted company with the road for a while. It was surprisingly reassuring when the noise of these backward vehicles increased again: still on track. The two finally came together at the thing that Bunter had described as a kink. Here, for some reason, the road crossed over the river on a small, rather primitive stone bridge. The path by the river continued under the bridge and Meredith was confronted by a choice: stay on the path beside the river and head further into the countryside, or stay closer to the road on an uncertain verge. The river path was certainly the more scenic, and would perhaps provide better cover- the moment of indecision was ended by a large green car pulling over. Meredith thought the driver looked a bit too young to be allowed out, but he was leaning out of the window and shouting something. Meredith couldn’t quite make out what it was, but a (thankfully) non-sentient routine picked up the sound and ran a translation.
“Bore da! Going to Crickhowell are you? Need a lift?
The Land Rover was a long-wheel base Series I dating from 1957 – late in the production run, but one of the first to be fitted with a diesel engine. Mostly loving care over the last 62 years meant that it was in surprisingly good condition. Owain had found it after a relatively brief period of neglect. A farmer had died, his feckless son had come home from his towny job and tried to make a go of it, but really hadn’t had the first clue about farming. In then end he’d sold the farm to one of his neighbours for, if not a fraction of its real worth then certainly not full whack. The neighbour had then proceeded to make quite a lot of that money back by selling off the ancient farmhouse and a small parcel of land to Owain and his family. They’d moved in when Owain was fifteen, and he’d quickly found the vehicle, quietly mouldering in one of the barns.
His first emotion had been one of delight, and then he’d wondered where the keys might be. They’d found them a couple of days later when sorting through various detritus clogging up a lovely antique oak dresser in the kitchen. His da had let him try the engine which spluttered in a rather sick way, but did start, albeit with various unhealthy sounds as the engine cycled. They’d turned it off again, but both had been caught by the dream: despite the inevitable tensions that arise between a teenager and their parents, they commited to the joint project of restoring it. Neither had any previous experience in this regard, but YouTube had been a great teacher. On and off it had taken the best part of two years to get it back up and running smoothly. It had been left muddy in the damp shed and this had done the body no good at all. It had been left standing for several years and the tyres had perished.
The final job had been to repaint the Land Rover: everyone else in the family had felt they had the right to a say in what colour it should be. Ma said Canary Yellow; Nerys, two years younger, and drifting towards becoming a goth wanted black; Esther, his youngest sister, pink; even Dylan, the youngest and shyest of the siblings, put forward an opinion – Dragon Red. Owain and his da refused to listen though, united in a belief that there was only one colour suitable for a car – British Racing Green (although they’d never call it that in front of the neighbours).
Owain spent many happy hours learning to drive in the Land Rover: because he had access to the farmyard, and permission from Mr Kendrick, the farmer who had sold them the farmhouse to use his land, Owain was ready to take his test on his 17th birthday – which he passed with three minor faults. When he returned home the house was festooned with streamers and balloons and there was a big party. Afterwards, when his friends had gone home, his da took him aside and had handed him the keys to the Landie.
“It’s yours,” he said, simply, “you’ve earned it. Now, we’ll have to think about what we can do for your sister.”
Crickhowell was a small town as such conurbations go, but decidedly larger than Llangynidr, and indeed one of the larger communities within the boundaries of the Brecon National Park. It was something of a focus for tourists, despite the less than imppresive remains of a castle. There were excellent B&Bs and other hostelries. Owain was headed that way to pick up Nerys who had been at a sleep over, and since he was going Esther tagged along to go to the book shop (although truth be told she needed little excuse to tag along with Owain, especially if a drive in the Landie was on offer). Ma, too, had pressed a shopping list into his hand as he picked up the keys, ‘since you’re going, love’.
Esther was carefully pecking out a message to Nerys on Owain’s mobile, to let her know they were coming, when they spotted the strange figure at the side of the road.
“That poor soul looks lost, Owain.”
“Yeah…shall offer him a lift?”
“I’m not sure what Ma would think” Esther said doubtfully, “but they’re only little!”
They pulled over.
© David Jesson, 2019
During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.
The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning. All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story. Every month there is a poll on some feature or another. Last month’s did not come to a clear decision, but I promise coffee features in the future, I just got a bit carried away with the back story to the random encounter.
Moving on; this moths poll:
Option 1: Aliens love coffee! Who knew?
Option 2: Coffee does not love aliens – ew!
Option 3: What is all this caffeine nonsense anyway?
Also, if you’re in favour of coffee, let me know what you think Meredith should try in the comments.
I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time. Feel free to expand on the options in the comments! I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!
See you next month!