Thursday, 18 September 2014

A path less straight (pt. 5)

Around the bend

The sun was up at some unearthly hour. Eventually I stopped cursing its brightness and decided I might as well join it, with no cloud in the sky there was little chance of anything beating it.

I found myself alone in the cabin with no note explaining this occurrence. It crossed my mind that I might have been marooned here by the pair of odd brothers, but the keys to the hire car were still hanging on a hook. I had got as far as filling the kettle and lighting the gas before an aquatic commotion down on the lake shore disgorged Bracken onto the beach.

“Morning,” he said leaving a sodden trail on his path through the cabin. “Let me get some clothes on and I’ll make a start on breakfast.”

Some clothes turned out to be a pair of baggy shorts and a t-shirt bearing the legend ‘Atlantis 2008 – still soggy’, he had towelled his hair until it was a damp mess and left it like that.

“Now, my lady,” he said, taking a bow. “Wouldst thou liketh a cup of tea?”

He busied himself around the kitchen area, emptying most of the contents of the fridge into a large frying pan and sourcing some clean cups. With a steaming mug of tea in my hand, I asked him where Egg was.

“He’s gone for a walk to clear his head, poor little fellow was up all night trying to divine the future in the entrails of goats,” he replied. “Plus we might have decided to finish off that bottle of whisky.”

“Goats?” I asked.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Bracken answered. “Nowadays we use computer simulated goats, it's just as accurate but there’s far less bleating.”

He lit the grill, cut the remains of a loaf of bread into thick slices, fussed over seasoning and then broke the remaining supply of eggs into the pan.

“I’ve been recalled, so we might as well use everything up,” he explained. “Roll-mop herring?”

I looked into the proffered jar and declined.

“I was going to set the little blighters free, but it looks like they’re too far gone for that.” He took one himself and chewed it slowly and noisily, a look of bliss on his face. “How burnt do you like your toast?”

Egg arrived just as Bracken was serving up, pale faced and sunken eyed.. The meal looked just like randomly fried leftovers, but smelled divine. We ate in silence. The toast was only very lightly burnt.

“So what now?” I asked, a second mug of builders-strength tea in my hands.

“Bracken’s contact says Mother flew to Florence, which means she is probably visiting an old friend who has a villa not too far from there,” Egg answered. “I’ve booked a flight and hotel there, or you can return home with Bracken, if you want.”

I cancelled thoughts of shoe boutiques and chic little restaurants and replaced them with spaghetti trees and olive-throwing competitions, still it appealed, so I agreed to a little Italian adventure.

“And the goat entrails?” I enquired.

“You learn to ignore anything my brother says eventually,” Egg replied. “Everything’s done on spreadsheets now. The best I can scry is that you should save your work often. Something’s not right.”

I drove the hire car while Egg dozed in the back seat. Bracken was navigating, although somewhat randomly, insisting that we stick to the gravel back roads that wound through the forests and calling turnings according to his whim. He cautioned me to watch out for the locals who all thought they were rally drivers.

“Admit it,” I said. “You have no idea where we are and we are going to miss our flights.”

“Nonsense, my dear lady,” he replied. “Has Egg ever explained to you about following roads where they want to take you, rather than forcing them?”

“I think he mentioned it once,” I said. “It didn’t make any sense then either, the quickest route is the shortest one, any navigation app will tell you that.”

I pulled the car over to the side of the trail and came to a halt. My phone woke at my touch, I flicked across to the appropriate icon, launched the program and held the device in front of Bracken’s face.

“See!” I told him.

“Yes,” he said. “Not far to go now.”

He tilted the phone so that I could see the screen clearly, the arrow indicated we were only a few miles from the airport. I tapped at the screen like it was a faulty dial, but the situation did not change.

“But, that’s not...” My words faded off. “But, look, we’re facing the wrong direction, right now you’re taking us further away.”

“I tell you what, how about a little bet?” He said. “Loser buys the winner a drink. We have to join the main road anyway, so you turn the car around and follow the map to here.” He indicated a spot close to the airport. “I’ll continue straight on and meet you there. I warn you though, I’m going to jog.”

“You’re on.” I told the maniac.

Once Bracken had closed his door, I turned the car quickly and set off with vigour, imagining I was one of those rally driving locals. Trees dashed by and stones rattled against the underside of the car. Coming around a corner it slid slightly so I reigned it in. A left turn took me onto a metalled road and I increased my speed.

The phone chimed and told me I should make a right turn, I slowed down as this was our finish line. Bracken was impossibly sat by the side of the road, a wild flower in his hand, he looked like he had not even broke into a sweat.

“You owe me a drink,” he said as he settled back into the passenger seat and threaded the flower into my hair.

As we parted in the airport, Egg urged Bracken to patch things up with Huggy, while Bracken urged Egg to grow a moustache. Bracken went down on one knee to kiss my hand and then flounced off to flirt with the girl at the check-in desk. Egg smiled and shook his head.

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