That’s my cat fast asleep on her pillow on the bed. She is now in her eighteenth year. It’s amazing, given the traffic that passes the gate on our country road, that she has survived all those years. She crosses the road frequently while going hunting across the fields in search of a rabbit or a field mouse, or crossing the road to take a shortcut to the neighbour’s half a mile away to visit their cat. This is the fifth cat the neighbours have had in the years we’ve had our cat, and they’ve had so many cats for reasons I’ve hinted at above.
But now our cat is safely asleep on the bed, which seems to be her favourite sleeping spot these days.
One of the things about this country road is that it is used by massive logging trucks and trailers. There seems to be some forestry going on somewhere down the road. At first we thought it was going to be temporary, but the logging trucks have gone back and forth all these years and they never seem to run out of logs to cart. You can hear a truck coming for miles – such is the quietness of our rural setting. In fact, I can hear one approaching now.
These logging trucks zoom around the corner right next to our gate. I swear they don’t slow down one iota as they make their sudden appearance at our blind corner. Goodness knows what would happen if there was something on the road – like someone’s car broke down with a puncture or something. Or even a cow or a horse that had escaped its field.
That logging truck is approaching. You can tell from the sound that it’s speeding and huge. One good thing about them not slowing down is that we don’t get those noisy air-brakes (or power brakes or whatever they’re called) all day outside our gate. Imagine if we had to put up with that all the time!
Here it is now! Oops! The driver applied those noisy brakes as the truck came around the corner. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that in all these years. I wonder why that was. These ruthless truck drivers never brake.
Anyway, it’s time to feed the cat. There she is, as nearly always these days, still fast asleep on the bed.
Klaus was a farmer in Austria. Every autumn he would move his flock of sheep down from the mountains where they had been grazing over summer. It was always a task he dreaded because part of the way down to winter shelter involved taking his two hundred or so sheep along a public road. Not that the road was busy, but he nonetheless got his wife and children to help – someone at the front, someone at the back, someone at the side – to warn any approaching vehicles that a flock of sheep was “just around the corner”.
The worst bit was the intersection. It was a crossroads with four roads heading north, south, east, and west. He had to get his flock of sheep to turn left. After that it was easy-peasy.
All went well until he reached the crossroads. The sheep were calm, and the kindly driver of a large, old truck had stopped at the intersection to let the sheep pass. It would be foolish not to presume that the sheep had right-of-way.
The sheep had just arrived at the very cross of the crossroads. They were about to turn left. That was when the truck back-fired.
It had been an inconvenience. Owing to the huge amount of looting going on during the week that the government banned all cigarettes – just for the week mind you – it was dangerous to venture outside from early dusk to late dawn. “Stay inside” was the government’s cry. It was both a command and a warning. Those seen venturing out after six in the evening would be shot.
The curfew had at least one good thing coming out of it; there were no traffic accidents between dusk and dawn. For the whole week there were no deaths on the roads. Those whose lives had been spared because of the curfew naturally had no idea that their lives had been spared. If there had been no curfew they would be dead.
Of course, being a writer gives one a bird’s-eye view. We know who was spared and who was not. I’m telling you now: Elwin Frisby was spared. He had sat at home in a bad mood. Here he was nineteen years old, and locked up at his parents’ home on a Saturday night. A Saturday night! What a difference it may have made to his mood if he had been able to be told that if it wasn’t for the curfew he would be in a body bag lying on a shelf in a morgue somewhere.
There are other things we writers glean from our bird’s-eye view. Elwin Frisby eventually married Anita and they had three children. One of them was Cornelius. Cornelius became the greatest tyrant in the history of the country. Thousands died at his hand. He was a raging megalomaniac.
How much better it would have been if years earlier there had been no curfew and his father had been killed off in a car accident. But who was to know?
Mrs Mallard Duck had found the perfect place for a nest. It was not too far from the stream where she could go to stretch her legs, and it was close enough (although a good way back) from the road to give some interest and variation to an otherwise monotonous twenty-eight days of sitting on the eggs to keep them warm.
Mr Mallard Duck wasn’t a great deal of help, although he did offer a bit of company occasionally when Mrs Duck went swimming and feeding in the stream. But goodness me! Twenty-eight days is four weeks, and four weeks can feel like four months (in fact four years) when there’s little else to do than count the cars and trucks that whizz by on the road.
But it was all worth it! After those exasperating four weeks all nine eggs hatched. And what pretty babies they were! Mrs Mallard Duck would soon take them to the stream for their first swim. But first, she must show off her brood by waddling them slap-bang down the middle of the road.
Miranda had a premonition that she was going to die in a road accident – and that very day. The only thing for it was not to go out in her car, but she had arranged to pick up the cat deworming pills from the vet’s that afternoon, and they were long overdue.
“Don’t be silly,” thought Miranda. “I can’t let these silly feelings dictate my life, otherwise nothing would ever get done. I shall go into town and pick up the cat’s pills, but be careful nonetheless.”
On the way back home from town, Miranda spotted a large concrete mixer truck approaching on the other side of the road. Miranda almost froze. This was it. It was part of her premonition. The concrete mixer truck would be the instrument of her death. She tried to slow down but instead she froze.
The concrete mixer truck came nearer. And nearer. It passed! Miranda was free! Saved! The premonition was a silly notion after all. “Thank goodness!” thought Miranda.
In her relief she missed the corner, ploughed into a bank, and was killed.
Jane and David had a small lifestyle farm next to a going-nowhere, country road. Chickens would not infrequently get run over while dust-bathing in the unkempt, pot-holed road. One day, their favourite little black hen was run over, leaving seven babies motherless.
Frustrated and angry, Jane and David placed a letter in every neighbour’s mailbox. Can’t you drive with more care? Can’t you slow down? We have chickens that use that road. Our favourite chicken was run over…
“Did you get the complaining letter in your mailbox?” asked Farmer Eric of Farmer Phil.
“Yeah,” said Farmer Phil. “It kind of killed my fun.”
Rachel decided to drive her mother to visit her mother’s widowed brother-in-law. It was a three hour drive. They hadn’t seen each other for several years.
Uncle Herbert had prepared lunch for his sister-in-law, Maureen, and his niece Rachel. They had a lovely time chatting away and catching up. Then it was time to drive home. Uncle Herbert said, “Goodness me, that’s not the quick way home. Turn off down the road at Harrisville and you’ll cut a good half hour off the journey. After turning, just follow the road.”
So Rachel and her mother turned off at Harrisville.
“I never realised where this shortcut was, but I’ve always heard people talk about it,” said Maureen.
On they drove. Four hours later Rachel declared “We seem at last to be getting somewhere”. And they were! One last turn in the road, and lo!