road trip

Waiting for Drain-O

a flash-fiction piece

“The restroom’s round the back, ma’am, but I’m afraid it’s blocked. If you can wait thirty more minutes, there’s the bus due in from Phillipsville.”

She gave the proprietor a quizzical look, so he continued,

“It’ll have Drain-O, I put in an order with the groceries. See, we keep all sorts here but there ain’t much call for Drain-O. Can I interest you in a cup of coffee, ma’am?”

“Isn’t it diuretic?”

“Don’t think so, ma’am. It’s just the catering brand; comes in a can without no fancy label, just “Coffee” writ on it. Want some pie?”

She gave the pie a glance, enough to confirm her suspicions.

“I’ll pass,” she said. “Say, seeing as there’s no neighbours, how about I go find a quiet corner out back?”

He leant towards her, conspiratorially.

“Ma’am, normally, I’d say, ‘go right ahead’ but,” he said, pausing momentarily then, “the Deputy over there has had a peaceful week and is itching for someone to book. Best you wait half an hour for the Drain-O.”

She took in the figure of the Deputy at the furthest end, slouched behind a plate of crumbs suggesting he wasn’t as discerning about pie as she was. And he did look in need of something to do. Then she wondered how far away the jailhouse could be; was she that desperate?

“How ‘bout a Lotto card, ma’am?” the proprietor said, smiling, “Take your mind off.”

Was he actually enjoying this? she thought. He continued,

“Ain’t had a winner in a long time. Must be our turn, I reckon.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think I could take the shock,” she said.

What were the odds of finding yourself at the only rest stop without a working restroom, and a resident trigger-happy deputy, and was it worthwhile packing your own road trip Drain-O? The wall clock said twenty minutes to touchdown. She would have to bet on its sure arrival.


written for Fandango’s Flash-fiction challenge (#FFFC) photo flash-fiction prompt #15

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It’s raining in Baltimore

It is.

Even though I am in England – it’s raining here too though that’s never surprising – I checked the weather out in Baltimore. Drizzle. Isn’t that the worst kind of rain? It’s hopeless trying to dance in it. A bloody insult, I call it.

I began this post by considering its title to be, It’s raining in Gloucestershire after that Counting Crows song. It’s a funny thing with Americana that when you try for the British equivalent, it just doesn’t sound right. I blame history: we simply have too much of it. We were hey-nonny-no-ing with pig bladders on sticks centuries before Bill Haley rocked around his clock. It’s not easy shaking off a first impression.


Plans thwarted by weather, I had an extra half hour in bed, thinking about things. Like,

Why do we Follow, instead of just remembering who the good ones are and thinking, “hey! I wonder what they’ve been up to recently?”


I thought about Relaxation and became aware that though I was recumbent on a good mattress and with my head on a comfortable pillow, I wasn’t completely relaxed. I noticed a tension in my muscles between the shoulder blades; for some inexplicable reason, I was unconsciously lifting my upper back imperceptibly off the bed. I practice a little yoga so I’m used to monitoring the old bod for unnecessary tension and managed with some mental effort to switch the offending muscle off.

Relaxing, or the process of it, is quite frightening. It’s psychological. It is essentially overcoming the fear of letting go, akin to falling. I find the biggest hurdle to fully relaxing is around the chest, all that physical apparatus which deals with breathing. Though there’s plenty of scope to let go of the unnecessary tension, it feels to me like I might stop breathing altogether and won’t be able to start up again. Nonsense, of course, but that’s the treachery of the thinking mind.


Now if you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the A road that’s the best
Get your thrills on the A-Thirty
It winds from London to Land’s End, less than three hundred miles, give or take a bend
Get your thrills on the A-Thirty
Now you go past Camberley, Basingstoke, and Egham…

When I was small, the family would head in the car to Cornwall for our regular annual holiday. From NW London, we’d pick up the A30 somewhere south-west of our house and it would take you all the way to the far edge of the country. It’s not called Land’s End for nothing. This way is mostly defunct now as you’d be mad not to hit the motorways, M4 and M5, but you’ll be hard pressed to find the poetry in those.

I was attempting to fine tune the version then I remembered Billy Bragg’s parochial parody of Route 66. As small as we are, I’ve no knowledge of Shoesburyness or why it would be anyone’s destination. It must be part of the parody.


I nearly forgot to say I downloaded an app to tune guitars and the last thing I did before getting into bed last night was tune the guitar beside the bed. It was easy, but what was more amazing was it hardly needed any tuning. Maybe there’s hope yet.

Now if you ever plan to motor west……🎵

A13, Trunk Road To The Sea – Billy Bragg