placed a hand on Jeremy‟s forehead and with great authority held it there and considered. Then he put a hand across the back of Annie‟s neck and again held it still.
“You had a brush with death,” he said. “You‟re both very lucky.” Then he offered his hand to Bill, and when Bill took it, he eased him up out of the car. “This is sure as sunlight your lucky day, but we gotta move this car to keep it that way. And since I‟m light and in no rush, y‟all get behind me and give me a push.” He climbed into the driving seat, put the clutch in, and checked that the handbrake was off.
The three stood gaping. Annie said, “I need to ring my insurance company. I‟m not sure we should move anything before they tell us to. Maybe we should call the police. I‟ve never been in an accident before.”
“We don‟t call them accidents,” Bill said in a thin, weak voice. “Accident implies no blame. As if it‟s fate. Road users must take responsibility. We call them collisions.”
“Attaboy, now we‟re talking!" said the man at the wheel of his car. “But no one‟s collided with anyone. And nobody‟s hurt. But they might be if we don‟t get this load off the road, so get behind me here. Then I‟ll make a nice cup of tea for you three, and you can work on the text for what comes next.”
They did as he asked, and with some effort pushed Bill‟s Jazz up to the camper van, and safely off the road. The man in the driver‟s seat pulled on the handbrake and said, “This is a nice old man‟s car. And I‟m a nice old man. Harold‟s the name, and helping‟s my game. Pleased to meet y‟ all.”
Like sheep, they followed him and piled into his van: Annie sat next to Bill on one narrow bench and Jeremy sat opposite, facing them across a narrow, Formica-topped table. Harold lit the gas under a kettle in the kitchen section behind them and put three mugs on the table, each containing a teabag, then a small carton of milk, and a bowl containing sugar lumps wrapped in two‟s and bearing the logo Café Dudley.
Annie noticed for the first time that Jeremy had beautiful, large blue eyes. And then she felt her hands shake uncontrollably, and sat on them. Jeremy‟s were shaking too, barely visibly, and she realised with the certainty of her years in the Girl Guides that his pupils were dilated because of a rush of adrenaline – that they were both in delayed shock.
Jeremy fidgeted to camouflage his shakes. He‟d had a brush with death, the man said. It would read well on his blog, especially from a third party.
“So my friends -- let us relax after all this excitement. Let us put it in the grand perspective of our prospective. Tell me what you are all about.” Harold poured water into the mugs.
Nobody said anything. “Okay, then. Tell me where y‟all were going.”