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
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
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
“How did you get down?”
“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
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.”
“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.”
“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
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.”
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.”
thrust out his hand. Dino shook it. “How long are you
“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
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.
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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,
“You’re right, Leaf, lad,” Dino said. “Best be
on your way, then.”
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
“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.”