The Boys from Banff
He looks out the train window. In some streets Saltires are burning.
He opens the envelope and takes out the instructions. He will be met in Aberdeen by a car. It will take him the rest of the way.
A can of McEwans might just wash away the edge of his hangover, but the trolley is nowhere in sight. The rocking of the train makes him seasick and the bright September sunlight strobes through the windows.
One of the free papers has been slung into the luggage compartment overhead. He opens it out on the table. 80% Say No. News of the Party Leader’s death must have come too late. It would only have given them something else to crow about. He ignores the political commentary and goes to the celebrity news. There’s a soft vibration in his pocket.
Nick Edwards @LionOBar: Ha Ha You lost. No one wants to live on a rock without power #worldsbiggestparty
Wanker. He can’t be arsed rising to the bait. His head hurts too much. It’s going to be a long journey. He wads up his jacket and uses it as a pillow.
The driver looks like he can handle himself, even in the grey suit and peaked cap. The sign has his name on it. He follows to a silver Merc.
They drift through the streets. Aberdeen is calm and cool, like a Sunday morning. Leaving the city behind, they head into the countryside driving along obscure roads for over an hour. Coming round a bend they can see the sea. They cross an old bridge and pass a massive new supermarket as they enter the town of Banff. The town shares its DNA with the East coast – squat buildings made from grey stone. Out past the harbour is a terrace of low cottages at the sea’s edge.
He gets out of the car. The light is bright and he feels surrounded by too much space. He feels delicate and alone. Is this mourning or the stains of his hangover?
The door opens after his second knock. The woman leads him into the front room where the gas fire is on full burn. They do look very similar to the Leader. He can see the resemblance. He didn’t even know it was possible. After the sheep in Roslin it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.
“Who’re you?” Xander says.
“I’ve come to take you on a journey.”
“We should be in school,” Eck says.
What are they? 10? 11? “It’s okay, no one is in school today. It’s a holiday.”
“Is it Independence Day?”
“No. Not anymore.”
“Where are we going?” Xander says.
“Over the sea.”
“To Skye?” Eck says. “Will Mrs MacDonald come with us?”
“Maybe to France,” he says. “But more likely to North America.”
“Will we be coming back?” Xander says.
“One day.” He smiles. “I’m sure of it.”