For what seems an eternity, Barry falls through the dark. And then he lands with a thump next to his car somewhere in North Rompshire. The fog has thinned, and the first rays of the sun turn the dewy bracken from dull green to gold.
His feet are muddy, and the dampness is soaking into his cold body. He puts the key in the ignition. The car won’t start. Fortunately, the Alvis is facing slightly downhill. He gets out again and pushes the car down the hill. He runs alongside for an instant and then leaps into the driver’s seat as the car gathers speed, lets out the clutch, and the engine comes to life.
Barry turns on the heater. It works! It hasn’t occurred to him to think about where he’s going until now. And then it hits him: Ms. Pettigrew’s. He was supposed to be there for dinner. He has no idea what day it is. He must call her. But he has no phone. That’s not unusual in Rompshire, where most people think nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait a day or two.
He’s lost, so he may as well drive on in the direction the car’s facing. He is starting to remember. The invitation for dinner and he is going to stay a few nights at the school. Ms. Pettigrew wants Barry’s opinion about something, but he can’t remember what. Even with the heater on, he is deathly cold and wet.
He turns on the radio and rotates the dial. Static, bangs, pops, hisses, scraps of music, unintelligible voices, and then:
“And there will be a lot more rain in Great Sodden tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Ted Rix at the weather center. This is Radio North Rompshire.”
The weather center is a room in Ted Rix’s house. From an upstairs window, Ted looks out at the hills some 15 miles to the west. If he can see the hills, he can say with high probability that it will rain. If he can’t see the hills, it’s raining.
“And now: The new vicar at Sodden Church of the Slow Way has agreed to come into the studio to answer questions, a kind of get to know the community. First, I’d like to ask His Slowness why he chose our community. Not many come this far north?”
“Well, to tell the truth, it’s the hours. I saw the job advertised in Slow Times. It’s a one-day week! So I get six days a week off, and the job comes with the vicarage and Simpkins. The agency said the position had been open for a long time.”
“Yes, well, let’s take another question from one of our listeners. Gladys Babbitt wants to know what the new vicar thinks of the church.”
“Oh! It’s lovely, and the seating is so deliciously satisfying. Simpkins tells me it’s jolly old. And it is. But, you know, in a good way.”
Barry turns the radio off and concentrates on his driving. The road twists and turns. At last, he sees Beryl’s Transport Café just this side of the main road. He parks and goes in.