My new assignment is in Wales, somewhere ... penance for my insubordination.
Chloe is my car, and she is taking me to Wales. I would prefer the train, but I don’t think my destination will have Uber, or cell phone coverage for that matter. It's way out there ... beyond the reach of the convenient future that I’ve come to rely on. So I pack my stuff and pile everything into Chloe’s back seat. I stop off to check her oil and water and to buy some snacks for the road, which I will never eat. Asking for a bottle of Smirnoff, on its own, is like buying your first vibrator. You feel guilty and ashamed ... until you’re back home alone. I guess the snacks are like the small change that you drop into the basket at church.
Brynmawr. South Wales.
Just north of Brynmawr is a village, which has no post office, no hotel, no Starbucks, just a church, library and two pubs. I park outside pub one.
The Inn was built in the dark ages. The walls are wrought and white, and the black wooden frame is warped so the building looks melted on one side.
In the entrance hall there is a reception desk and behind that is a medieval gargoyle. The gargoyle is not a real gargoyle, it's a stoneface old woman and she's knitting. I approach, and its eyes look me up and down. Nothing else moves, just the eyes.
"Hi. I wonder if...”
The gargoyle twists its head and it shrieks "Evan!"
A man appears, from an adjoining bar. He's followed by the gaze of patrons. Apart from the rugby commentary, coming out of the TV, the bar is quiet.
Mr "Evan!" exchanges annoyed gestures and some Welsh with the gargoyle then looks at me. The gargoyle scoffs at him, he shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders.
I smile my smile, the one that looks friendly but isn't. He smiles his.
"Hi, I am looking for a room?"
Evan smiles a gold-rush smile.
"Yeah, we got rooms. How long for, like?"
"I'm not absolutely sure, a couple of days, two or maybe three, I think. Hmm, two for now?"
"Fifty pounds. Includes breakfast and a toilet.
My smile is struggling to stay in place. I nod.
"Um, that's great. Perfect, oh and, um, I am hoping that someone local might be able to help me with this, I'm sure it's near, but my GPS is not ... have you ever heard of New Bethesda?"
In the bar area, a black remote control is hoisted into the air. The TV shuts up with a click.
The gargoyle caws and disappears behind a flapping door, with “kitchen” stencilled below its porthole window.
"Per night. Fifty pounds per night.”
He doesn't smile. My smile, however, changes into a "bingo" grin.
The hustle and bustle, of the patrons, is restored by a colloquial complaint.
"Oi Jonesy, I was watching that, I was. On it will ya!"
The TV snaps back to life.