This is the second part of chapter 1 of 'The Broken Boots Guide to Astlavonia':
In Astlavonia, a person’s sanity directly relates to the weight of their head. The cranium of a sane, adult male should be between four and five kilograms while the cranium of a sane, adult female should be between three and four kilograms. Children with small or large heads are carefully monitored throughout their school years and given Special Needs lessons. A popular saying is, ‘There’s no hat big enough to contain his madness’.
The purple clouds had dispersed by the time we reached Broiklarrio, allowing the morning sun to illuminate the narrow buildings. The border town was a fair distance from the drop-off point of the coach so I'd endured a thirty-minute lecture on predestination, free enterprise and Spandau Ballet. In addition, the driver had whistled the 'Careless Whisper' saxophone solo (the twelve inch version). I'd tried to sleep but failed miserably. Even worse, the bumpy ride had loosened up my bowels so I was in desperate need of a toilet.
With no gear change or apology, the taxi skidded to a halt, fifteen metres beyond a green, narrow building. Two geriatric men stood outside the green building.
'We the here, Marc Almond guy,' said the driver, bullying his door open and jumping out.
'5786,' glared the taxi-meter.
After a lot of rattling and yanking, I released the door and stepped out, smelling incense and sewerage. The driver had already reached one of the old men while the other was striding towards me. This could be Professor Augustus himself.
'Hello,' I said as he reached me.
'Hello sir, baggages please.'
Grabbing my haversack, the frail man flipped open the boot of the taxi. He was wearing an old cap with some sort of insignia.
'That's...that's okay. I'll carry the heavy one if you like,' I said, hurrying to the suitcase.
'Sir. Please, no,' he said like a fireman forbidding access to a burning vehicle.
With a muscle-twanging yank, he managed to lug the case from the car, clumping it onto the ground.
'Mark, by the way. Mark King.'
'Very...good...sir,' he said wheezing and tugging the case along the pavement in the direction of the building.
'Come on. Let me help.'
'No...no...no, sir,' he said.
I was embarrassed by such service and by the crappy tartan design of my Argos suitcase. If only I'd had a disposable income. A fresh start should involve swanky luggage. You shouldn't really embark on a life change in three-year-old trousers, should you?
Stopping, sitting on top of the suitcase, rubbing his wrists, the man had a cigarette break. Unsure of what to do, I stood next to him. He inhaled and exhaled like a heavy sleeper. Had he dropped off? His lids were drooping a bit. No, he eventually finished his fag and brushed himself down. Sighing, he wrestled with the 'baggages' until he reached the building.
The driver and the other man didn't look at each other as they spoke in Astlavonian. I passed them and followed the man, worried that he'd stagger into an angina attack. 'There...there...it is...sir,' he coughed, summoning up phlegm.
'Thanks for that.'
Was he telling me his age?
'Seventy kroopellahs,' he said, holding out a shaky hand.
'Oh, right, I see. I've only got English money I'm afraid.'
'Do not be scared. Seventy English is okay.'
There had been no moneychangers at the border. I gave the poor bloke a pound for his troubles.
'No, no, no. Seventy of this.'
'Seventy quid is way too much to...'
The other senior citizen barked at the porter who insolently saluted, spat on the floor and sauntered off. My bowels gurgled.
The driver finished speaking to the old man and said, 'Hey, Marc Almond guy, your taxi-meter so big the charging, yeah? Don't worry being happy. You can pay me later with some good favours.'
Flashing a disturbing grin, he headed off to the Lada. I didn't want to think about the nature of those 'good favours'. The car drove away, leaving the old man and myself outside the green building. I approached him.
Please click on 'asta3' for the rest of the scene.