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Story 2

Maureen Bowden


Maureen Bowden is an ex-patriate Liverpudlian living with her musician husband in North Wales. She recently achieved a BA First Class Honours with the Open University.

In the last two years she has had thirty-nine poems and short stories accepted for publication. She loves her family and friends, Shakespeare, Rock 'n' Roll and cats.

About the story:

On the day she passed her driving test, Lindsay ran over an asylum seeker from the Andromeda galaxy.

― Maureen Bowden

I can only add that as a result of the encounter general mayhem ensues.




Fallen Leaf

by Maureen Bowden


I’d passed my driving test that Friday afternoon, at the fourth attempt, so it was with a feeling of elation that I was exceeding the speed limit through Forestry Commission land on the edge of Snowdonia.

 “You’re not what I’d call a natural driver, Lindsay,” my instructor, Dino, had said, when he congratulated me, “but you’re not exactly dangerous.”

“I won’t kill anyone, then?”

“No, but you’ll frighten a few.”

Maybe so, but it was me that was about to be frightened. A figure sat slumped against one of the row of Mountain Ash lining the country road. It struggled to its feet and lurched out in front of me waving its arms. I slammed on the brakes, thanking all the saints and deities in whom I didn’t believe, that the one aspect of driving I’d mastered to perfection was the emergency stop. I managed to limit my impact upon the idiot to a slight nudge.

Shaking, I flung open the door and stomped round to the front of my spanking new, second-hand Corsa, ready to do battle.

“What the f…?” He was green, and I don’t mean innocent, nauseous, or ecologically sustainable. His cloak had slipped aside, revealing a face the colour of an Iceberg lettuce. I peered around for a flying saucer but found none.

He slid off the hood and gazed up at me with tears in his peppermint-humbug eyes. “The foot hurt,” he said. His voice was a soft baritone. His hair, also green, flowed in waves to his waist, and his snug-fitting black leotard revealed he was a cracking specimen of manhood.

I concluded that I must be hallucinating due to the shock of finally managing to pass my test, so I might as well stop worrying about it and go with the flow. I helped him into the front passenger seat.

“You’re not from round here, right?”      

“Right,” he said.  “My planet we call Eggyoke, third from sun in solar system, in Andromeda galaxy.”

“No post code?”

“Ah, I know that is joke. Very funny. Also you find Eggyoke funny because it sound like egg-yolk, that you dip your toast in. You can laugh. I not mind.”

“How come you speak English?”

“I go to night school on Eggyoke to learn before I come here. Complicated language. It take me three days to get the hanging of it.”

“Hang of it,” I said.

“What you mean?”

“You should say ‘hang of it,’ not ‘hanging of it.’”

“Oh, I do most sincerely apologise.” I wondered if his crash course had covered irony.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, you’re doing okay for three days.” He looked puzzled, so I changed the subject. “How did you get here?”

“Teleportation, but my aim was not good. I was stuck in tree for two hours. It was high tree. Excellent view.”

“How did you get down?”

“Branch broke.”

“Is that how you hurt your foot?”

“Yes. I need help, so I wave to you and you stop. Very kind. Now you help me, please?”

“You’re in luck,” I said. “I have some medical expertise.” Actually, I’m a trolley pusher in A&E at Bangor hospital but I can tell a sprain from a compound fracture and I was capable of applying a cold compress to a well-turned green ankle. “What do I call you? Do you have names on Eggyoke?

“We give name to people when we meet them. It depend on what they have done. I call you Brake Fast.”

“Sounds like you want to eat me.”

“You make joke again, yes? It sound like breakfast.”

“Yes,” I said, “dunking toast in egg-yolk.” He laughed. His teeth weren’t green. They were whiter than a toothpaste advert.

“You must name me,” he said.

“Well, you fell out of a tree, so I’ll call you Nut.”

“Does not that also mean one who ain’t dealin’ with a full deck? Did I get the cliché right?”

“You did indeed. I was just testing. I’ll call you Fallen Leaf.”

I took him home, administered First Aid to his swollen ankle and checked that he had no other injuries. My examination confirmed that his colour didn’t rub off. It was pigmentation, not paint. He was definitely not from round here.

“What do you eat?” I said.

“Not needed,” he said. “Your world’s atmosphere is full of nutrients. I feed as I breathe in, and remove waste products as I breathe out.”

“Neat trick.”

“I have read of the human method of waste disposal. May I observe?”

“Sorry, Leaf. Most definitely not.”

“My apologies, Brake. Is it not protocol?”

“You got it.”

He slept in my spare room. Next morning I found him standing in my kitchen, wearing nothing but an elastic bandage on his ankle, watching his leotard and cloak floating around in my washing machine.

“Simple but effective,” he said.

I fled upstairs and hunted for the fluffy pink dressing gown, two sizes too big for me, that my Auntie Kathleen gave me last Christmas.

“You’ll spread out one of these days,” she’d said. “We all do. It’ll fit you then.”

I ran back to the kitchen, averted my eyes, and passed it to him.

“Not needed,” he said. “I not feel cold.”

“Protocol,” I said.

I made my breakfast and dunked toast in my egg-yolk, while a green man in a fluffy pink dressing gown and an elastic bandage told me about Eggyoke.

“There is much trouble on my world,” he said. “The government not listen to us. Rich people rule and they grow richer while poor people have no homes.”

“Sounds familiar.”

“I read about your world, Brake. Here you can speak out against such people. I spoke out on Eggyoke and they came for me. I had to teleport in hurry and I cannot go back or they will cut off my snooters”

Dino chose that precise moment to turn up. The doorbell rang, and before I could stop him Leaf limped up the hall and opened the door. I heard a roar of mirth and mumbled voices.

He limped back to the kitchen, “Laugh Loud wish to speak to you.” 

Dino was leaning against the doorpost, howling with laughter, tears running down his face. “Where the hell did you find him, Linz?”

“He fell out of a tree in Snowdonia.”

“What’s he supposed to be, an elf, or an entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest?”

“He’s an Eggyokian.” That started him howling again. “You’d better come in and I’ll explain.” Leaf had retrieved his laundry from the spin drier and, remembering protocol, gone upstairs to dress. I told Dino the story.

“Come on, Lindsay,” he said. “Surely you don’t believe that crap. He’s an amateur actor who’s gone berserk with the greasepaint”

“It’s not greasepaint. I’ve checked.” He raised his eyebrows, his expression telling me he didn’t like what he was hearing. When Leaf reappeared in his leotard, minus the pink dressing gown, Dino didn’t like what he was seeing either. He was looking green himself. I amused myself with the prospect that he might be jealous. We go back a long way. He’d been teaching me to drive for three years and we’d become close. I wouldn’t have minded being closer but I was beginning to think I’d wasted enough time waiting for him to make his move. Maybe having Leaf around would give him a nudge.

I introduced them. “Leaf, Laugh Loud is my friend; Dino, this is Fallen Leaf. He’s a political refugee from the Andromeda galaxy.”

Leaf thrust out his hand. Dino shook it. “How long are you staying?”

“Till foot heal. Then I go travelling.”

We drank coffee and discussed my driving while Leaf sat with his foot up on the couch and plaited his hair.

After Dino left I said, “What are your snooters?” He stuck a finger up each nostril and pulled a wriggly green antenna down each one. “Okay, I’ve seen enough. Put them back and tell me what they do.”

He shoved the green Gilberts back up his nose. “They track by scent and they are organs of teleportation. To lose my snooters would be as bad as for you to lose eyes and ears.”

I remembered what he’d said to Dino about going travelling. “Where will you go when you leave?”

“I will be intergalactic explorer. There are many inhabitable worlds to discover, and such sights to be seen in the universe as are beyond our imaginings.”

I thought of my own life: rented flat, not much money, pushing trolleys for a meager living and a dim-witted prospective boyfriend who couldn’t take a hint. I sighed. “It sounds wonderful.”

“Come with me, Brake. We have fun.”

That shook me. My first inclination was to say no, it was impossible. But why was it impossible? There was nothing keeping me here. “I’ll think about it,” I said.       

On Monday morning I left to do my shift at the hospital, leaving Leaf improving his English by watching daytime TV. I pushed my trolleys with my head full of the rings of Saturn, the Crab Nebula and exotic aliens with snooters.

I was wheeling a broken leg back from x-ray when I nearly crashed into a fellow trolley-pusher, Jake, who was wheeling an appendicitis to Men’s Surgical.

“Hey, Lindsay,” he said, “get back to A&E Reception quick. There’s this weirdo dressed like the Caped Crusader. He’s got an impressive skin condition and he’s asking for Doctor Lindsay Breakfast.” I left the broken leg stranded in the corridor and I ran.

“It’s okay,” I said to the receptionist, “it’s greasepaint. He’s with a Street Theatre company, and he’s a bit….” I tapped the side of my head.

She smiled and patted Leaf’s shoulder. “You go with Doctor Lindsay, dear. She’ll take care of you.”

I led him to the canteen, sat him in the corner and bought him a copy of Private Eye from the newsstand. “How did you find me?” I said.

“Snooters follow your scent.”

“Well, stay here and keep your hood up.”

I collected him after my shift, “Why did you come looking for me?” I said, on the way home.

“Foot fixed. I heal quick. You good doctor. Now I must know. Have you thought? You explore with me, Brake?”


“That is good. We go soon, back to tree. It is on ley line: powerful teleport spot.”

“I’m not sure I can find the exact tree.”

“Not worry. Snooters backtrack my scent.”

That evening I cooked mushroom stroganoff, my favourite meal. I didn’t know how or where I’d get another chance to eat. Leaf insisted that there were worlds out there with nutrients in their atmosphere on which I could feed.  The ultimate convenience food, but I’d miss my mushroom stroggy.

He washed up while I rang Dino and said I needed a favour, could he come round? He arrived within ten minutes.

“I’m going with Leaf,” I said. “Here’s a cheque for my rent up to the end of the month. Will you give it to the landlord for me?” He stared at me with his mouth open. “There isn’t quite enough in the bank to cover it, but it’s only a few pounds short, and he can’t exactly track me down, unless he’s got snooters.”

“Lindsay,” he said, “what are you talking about? You can’t go with Leaf.”

“Why not? What do I have that’s worth staying here for?” Here’s your chance, boyo, I thought. Speak now or forever hold your peace. He didn’t speak.

I handed him the landlord’s cheque and my car documents. “Come with us into Snowdonia. We need to find Leaf’s tree. When we’ve gone, you can take the car. I want you to have it.”

He took the documents. “I’ll take care of it for you until you come back.”

I drove into the mountains I’d known all my life and which I’d probably never see again. Dino sat beside me, looking straight ahead, saying nothing. Laugh Loud wasn’t laughing. Leaf sat in the back, leaning through the open window, with his snooters out. I thought of the mountains, of Jake and the gang at the hospital, and of Dino. This is mad, I thought. I can’t eat fresh air, I haven’t got snooters and I want to go home.

“Stop car. We are here,” Leaf shouted. There was a hooded figure standing under the tree.

“Oh, no, not another one,” Dino said. The figure was female and she was green.

Slap Zap Kick,” Leaf yelled, leaping from the car before we drew to a halt. He ran to her and they kissed. I felt a pang, but also a sense of relief. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be undertaking intergalactic exploration any time soon.

The Eggyokians chatted, laughed and flung their arms around a lot. Dino and I waited by the car until Leaf approached us. “Slap followed my scent,” he said. “She came to tell me that the revolution has begun. The government has fallen and I am needed on Eggyoke. I must go home.”

“What about the adventurous life of an intergalactic explorer?” I said.

 “Brake, I am sorry. I mislead you. It would be a lonely life, belonging nowhere, met with fear and suspicion, and facing unknown danger.”

“But you asked me to join you.”

“I was selfish. I wished for a companion rather than face the future alone. We would have had some fun before meeting a horrible death on a hostile world, but home is best.” He turned to Dino. “Is that not so, Laugh Loud?”

“You’re right, Leaf, lad,” Dino said. “Best be on your way, then.”

Leaf clasped both our hands and flashed his toothpaste advert smile. He walked back to Slap Zap Kick. They waved, and vanished.

Dino gave me a hug. “Never mind, Linze,” he said. “If I paint myself green, any chance of a date?”

“You took your time asking,” I said, “but forget the makeover. I’ll take you as you are.”

“Good to hear. Let’s follow Leaf’s example and go home.”

“Okay. I’ll drive. I need the practice.”

“Fine,” he said, “but if any more intergalactic refugees drop out of a tree change your name to Didn’t Bother to Brake.” 

 The End



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