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Chapter Sixteen

After a disgusting Sunday spent emptying rubbish bins behind a pub in Taunton, and finding nothing, no raffle ticket, no telephone number, Arthur tried everything he could to find Fenchurch, and the more things he tried, the more weeks passed.

He raged and railed against himself, against fate, against the world and its weather. He even, in his sorrow and his fury, went and sat in the motorway service station cafeteria where he'd been just before he met her.

``It's the drizzle that makes me particularly morose.''

``Please shut up about the drizzle,'' snapped Arthur.

``I would shut up if it would shut up drizzling.''

``Look ...''

``But I'll tell you what it will do when it shuts up drizzling, shall I?''

``No.''

``Blatter.''

``What?''

``It will blatter.''

Arthur stared over the rim of his coffee cup at the grisly outside world. It was a completely pointless place to be, he realized, and he had been driven there by superstition rather than logic. However, as if to bait him with the knowledge that such coincidences could in fact happen, fate had chosen to reunite him with the lorry driver he had encountered there last time.

The more he tried to ignore him, the more he found himself being dragged back into the gravitic whirlpool of the man's exasperating conversation.

``I think,'' said Arthur vaguely, cursing himself for even bothering to say this, ``that it's easing off.''

``Ha!''

Arthur just shrugged. He should go. That's what he should do. He should just go.

``It never stops raining!'' ranted the lorry driver. He thumped the table, spilt his tea, and actually, for a moment, appeared to be steaming.

You can't just walk off without responding to a remark like that.

``Of course it stops raining,'' said Arthur. It was hardly an elegant refutation, but it had to be said.

``It rains ... all ... the time,'' raved the man, thumping the table again, in time to the words.

Arthur shook his head.

``Stupid to say it rains all the time ...'' he said.

The man's eyebrows shot up, affronted.

``Stupid? Why's it stupid? Why's it stupid to say it rains all the time if it rains the whole time?''

``Didn't rain yesterday.''

``Did in Darlington.''

Arthur paused, warily.

``You going to ask me where I was yesterday?'' asked the man. ``Eh?''

``No,'' said Arthur.

``But I expect you can guess.''

``Do you.''

``Begins with a D.''

``Does it.''

``And it was pissing down there, I can tell you.''

``You don't want to sit there, mate,'' said a passing stranger in overalls to Arthur cheerily. ``That's Thundercloud Corner that is. Reserved special for old Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head here. There's one reserved in every motorway caff between here and sunny Denmark. Steer clear is my advice. 'Swhat we all do. How's it going, Rob? Keeping busy? Got your wet-weather tyres on? Har har.''

He breezed by and went to tell a joke about Britt Ekland to someone at a nearby table.

``See, none of them bastards take me seriously,'' said Rob McKeena. ``But,'' he added darkly, leaning forward and screwing up his eyes, ``they all know it's true!''

Arthur frowned.

``Like my wife,'' hissed the sole owner and driver of McKeena's All-Weather Haulage. ``She says it's nonsense and I make a fuss and complain about nothing, but,'' he paused dramatically and darted out dangerous looks from his eyes, ``she always brings the washing in when I phone to say I'm on me way home!'' He brandished his coffee spoon. ``What do you make of that?''

``Well ...''

``I have a book,'' he went on, ``I have a book. A diary. Kept it for fifteen years. Shows every single place I've ever been. Every day. And also what the weather was like. And it was uniformly,'' he snarled, ``'orrible. All over England, Scotland, Wales I been. All round the Continent, Italy, Germany, back and forth to Denmark, been to Yugoslavia. It's all marked in and charted. Even when I went to visit my brother,`` he added, ''in Seattle.``

``Well,'' said Arthur, getting up to leave at last, ``perhaps you'd better show it to someone.''

``I will,'' said Rob McKeena.

And he did.


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