Here’s a short excerpt from the beginning of my second book, ‘Don’t Need The Whole Dog!’. This book follows my adventures post-Ecuador, and is based in both the UK and Thailand. The same sample is available FREE for your Kindle from Amazon.

 

 

 

DON’T NEED THE WHOLE DOG!

by Tony James Slater

This edition published 2012 by Various Things (ADT)

Copyright © Tony James Slater 2012

Tony James Slater has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, or licensed in any way except when specifically permitted in writing by the publishers. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights.

www.TonyJamesSlater.com

Author’s Note

Before we start, I’d like to thank all of the people mentioned in this book. Some of them were very helpful to me; others were so bloody useless that I got to write lots of funny things about them.

Part of me would like to apologise for this behaviour.

But only part of me.

Most of all, I’d like to thank Linda, for being one of the best friends it’s possible to have; my family, for putting up with me writing about them (like they had a choice!) – and Krista, for things I can’t tell you about until at least Book Three…

Once again, these stories are all true, apart from the occasional name-change.

And in case you were wondering, yes – they were all my fault.

For Paul

Still in those hearts

You left behind;

Just out of sight

Not out of mind.

Prologue

You know those moments, when you think you’ll do something really brave? You convince yourself that you’re ready, and screw your courage to the sticking point. You might even say things to yourself, like ‘It can’t be that bad,’ or ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

I remember those moments. I don’t have many of them any more.

I’m starting to learn my lesson.

The poor dog, sound asleep, was carefully and strategically shaved.

Then a green cloth was draped over the top of him.

The cloth had a small square hole in it, which came to rest precisely over the dog’s nut-sack, leaving his balls protruding from the middle of it.

I winced when the nurse gave them a forceful prod with one finger.

That would have woken me up, regardless of the anaesthetic.

But the nurse was just warming up.

Deciding everything was ready, she deftly grasped one testicle between fingers and thumb, and tugged it slightly away from the body.

I nearly dropped to the floor in sympathy when she squeezed the scrotum, tightening the sack to make its delicate contents more prominent.

Then she reached for the scalpel I was holding. She took it, raised it, aimed it and lowered…

And that was as much as I could take. Something about the coldness of the razor-sharp steel, the way it slid through that ball-sack, opening it up like a zipper – affected me deeply.

I had no choice.

I dropped my implements on the table, sprinted out of the back door and threw up in the washing machine.

Well, there are worse things to be sick into…

I’d seen a lot since my arrival in Thailand. Some of it beautiful; some, slightly less so. And then there were the things I could never un-see – like my first ever castration. Oh yes, I was living the dream, alright – even though bits of it seemed more like a nightmare.

But all that was nothing compared to what it had taken me to get this far…

The New World

A visit to modern-day America is fraught with danger.

And I’m not talking about gangs, and drugs, and drive-bys and Scientology.

I’m talking, almost before you get off the plane.

I’m talking Customs.

As I queued up to be stamped into the country, I was pulled out of the line and politely informed that I had to join a second, much shorter queue.

In front of me was a seven-foot tall black dude with magnificent dreadlocks all the way down to his arse. And no-one else.

Something told me this was the line for the body cavity search.

Now, I’m plenty scared of drugs and guns and all that other stuff – but there was something much more real, more immediate, about this situation.

I could almost hear the snap! of a rubber glove from up ahead.

None of the staff were smiling. Maybe they hadn’t found their quota of concealments this month, and they were determined to get something out…

Or maybe it was just my imagination.

The Rasta-looking guy in front of me held strong in the face of a barrage of questions; he had a relaxed, kind of wearied attitude, as though he’d done this a thousand times before. With hair like that, he probably had.

Or else he was stoned.

Either way, he managed to get through the ordeal unscathed.

Then it was my turn.

The man behind the desk looked like the kind of guy who shaved twice before setting out in the morning. Everything about him was spotless. His crew-cut said he firmly believed he was every bit as vital at keeping America safe as his brothers in the marines. It was a fairly safe bet that he was not wired for comedy. I had to bury that urge, the one that makes me tell stupid jokes when I’m nervous – bury it deep. It was tough. It’s a big urge.

“What is your purpose in visiting the United States?”

Damn it! I’d been waiting for him to ask if I was here for business or pleasure, so I could quirk an eyebrow and say ‘both, I hope!’ like the bad guy always does in spy movies.

That would have been a mistake. I could tell that already.

“I’m here to visit my sister,” I said. The truth, and only the truth.

“Where’re you from.”

“England.”

“And what’s your sister doing here?”

“Oh, she’s working. For Camp America.”

“She’s working, huh? Is she a US Citizen?”

“Yes, actually, despite the fact I’m British. She goes both ways. She’s only my half-sister you see – in fact she used to be my half-brother, until she had the op. We share a daddy, but it’s more of a ‘who’s your daddy?’ kind of arrangement. So come to think of it, we might not be related at all…”

No, you’re right. I didn’t say that. I bit my tongue. Smart-mouthed comments would only make him want to probe my bottom. But oh! My heart still bleeds for that missed opportunity. Instead I told the guy my sister was (unsurprisingly) also English, and braced myself for the next inevitable question.

“So how come she’s working here?”

“She has a J-1 Working Holiday Visa.” I was ready for it. After all, I’d done the paperwork for her. Hell, I’d even applied for and accepted the job for her! Sort of like a ‘Get-Off-Your-Arse-And-Go-Travel’ present. She’d been so happy when she found out. Tears of joy, I recall. And those less-commonly reported strangling-sounds of joy, too.

The Customs Officer was glaring at me.

“And do you intend to work here?”

“Oh, no.” Then, “No, sir!” I added. I felt sure he’d like that.

“Do you have a visa?”

“Erm? Visa? I thought… don’t you give them here, on arrival? I’m just here as a tourist.”

“Uh-huh. How long are you planning on staying in America?”

“Ah… about two weeks.”

“Uh-huh. And how much money do you have?”

Money?

Shit!

Why the hell did that matter? I felt a small bead of sweat gathering speed down my chest. I dug in my pockets. “I’ve got… uh… about fifty dollars…”

“FIFTY dollars! That’s not going to get you very far in this country. I’m going to ask you again, sir – are you planning on looking for work in the US?”

“No! No, not at all. It’s my mum. She’s got all the money. When I meet up with her I’ll have plenty. We didn’t want to split it up, that’s all.”

The man eyeballed me for a good few seconds.

“I thought you said you were going to meet your sister.” It was an accusation, not a question. This was turning ugly. Some fast explanation was required.

“My mum is already here,” I told him. “She’s also coming to meet my sister, then we’ll travel around together. Mum has all the money because she flew in yesterday —”

“I’m going to ask you this once: how many members of your family have already entered this country?”

“Oh, just us. The three of us, I mean. Well, they’ve entered. I’m, ah, hoping to.”

“And you all entered separately.” He was accusing us again. Of what, I had no idea.

“Well, my mum and I were supposed to be on the same flight, but I had to delay mine because I lost my passport…”

“You LOST your PASSPORT?!” The guy’s eyes positively bulged with the scale of this revelation.

Oh shit, I thought.

“So what’s this?” he gave a sarcastic shake of the little brown book he was holding.

“Ah yes, well I had an emergency passport issued in 24 hours. They do it in Newport, in Wales.”

“Oh yeah? ‘Wales’ huh? They do that here, too. Only they go to Mexico. How much did you pay for this?”

“No, no, it’s real! Wales is a real place, honest! It’s a country. They have the closest passport office to me because I live in Cardiff, which is in Wales.”

He was not impressed.

“You know, a minute ago I could have sworn you told me you were English…”

It was a long time before they let me through. I remained unviolated by the narrowest of margins. I’d love to say my honesty won out in the end – but this was, after all, the Land of the Free… market. Eventually I’d dug out my wallet and spread a stack of credit cards across the desk. They give them to you so easily as a student and I’d always known they would come in handy one day. Two of them were even gold and silver coloured, which whilst it means nothing at all in England (the third one had a horse on it), apparently makes a difference over there. Satisfied that I wasn’t going to steal jobs from hard-working Americans to fund my adventures, they’d eventually let me go with a stern warning to ‘get my passport sorted out’. I resisted the urge to point out (again) that it was perfectly fine – or to mention that I’d never done a hard day’s paid work in my life.

Finally my mouth had gotten the message.

Sweaty and trembling, I grabbed my rucksack from its lonely perch on the long-vacant carousel and walked from the airport, glancing nervously around me.

Two armed police officers stood underneath a giant ‘Welcome to Arizona!’ sign. I kept my head down and tried not to look at them.

I looked far more like a drug smuggler than I had when I’d arrived.

The bus was clean and safe and mercifully free of weirdoes. I know that sounds harsh (and a bit hypocritical, coming from someone as weird as me), but wherever nutters roam, they always seem to seek me out. Seriously – if you’re missing a nutter, come and look next to me. I collect the damn things. A friend once told me it’s because I smile at people. This is not generally accepted behaviour in the western world, where most of us are too concerned with being robbed and/or stabbed to death to risk exchanging smiles with a stranger. In fact, one of the things that sets nutters apart from the rest of civilization is exactly this; they smile at people. I guess it’s hardly surprising that most of them see me as a kindred spirit. And then gravitate towards me like flies on a fresh cow pat.

A giant concrete highway carried me out of the city of Phoenix, into a landscape of small green hills – which were quickly replaced by mostly-yellow hills covered with scrubby patches. Before long we were driving between sand dunes, which looked to be held together by the tenacious vegetation.

I saw my first ever full-size cactus, and that really made me feel like I was on holiday. Which, just for a change, I was.

Following the same massive road for almost three hours, we passed through several different weather systems, and geographies too – experiencing perfect blue skies over flatlands filled with wheat, then torrential rain over the rocky, broken desert. By the end of the trip we were in the forest, which I took as a good sign. I love trees. I find them sheltering and nurturing. Sadly, I don’t think the feeling is mutual, on account of me having spent the last three months in Ecuador conducting the tree equivalent of genocide.

In a first for me in foreign bus journeys, I arrived on time and in the right place, more relaxed than when I started and still nutter-free. I reclaimed my rucksack from the bowels of the bus and turned to survey Flagstaff, Arizona. It was… quaint. And kind of brown. Well, they do call it ‘The Copper State’. I could think of some less poetic descriptions, but then that’s probably why I don’t work for the local tourist board.

Four dusty figures, arranged in size order from miniature to giant, approached me as the bus pulled away. Here we go, I thought, here come the crazies.

And I was right.

The smallest silhouette was my mum – at four-foot-bugger-all, wearing bright blue shorts, an orange top and a floppy hat, she was one fishing rod short of being a garden gnome. My sister Gillian, standing next to her, was longer, leaner, and looked substantially less like a gnome. Next to her and longer, leaner still, was her new best friend – a particularly pretty Australian girl called Krista, who had predictably adopted the nick-name ‘Roo’. And next to Roo loomed her new boyfriend, Richie – a towering slab of muscle, blonde haired and blue-eyed, he looked like the kind of all-American boy that even customs officials wouldn’t doubt. Except that he was from New Zealand – and he was grinning madly at everything. I could tell straight away that we were going to get along.

That night we drank, in the lounge of cheerful little backpackers’ hostel, and I did my best to punish those foolish officials who had let me into their precious country. I flouted the laws of the land and bought booze for my new friends, despite the fact that only my mum and I were old enough to drink there. It’s bizarre; most Americans can drive at sixteen, and are allowed to own a gun at eighteen, yet almost none of them can legally drink until they turn twenty-one.

Madness!

Or maybe it’s for the best. Seeing as how they all have guns. I have no desire to get shot for eyeing up some drunken teenager’s girlfriend.

I told Gill about my narrow brush with US Customs.

She was fascinated by the tale. “And… did they?”

“No.”

“Whew! So you nearly had your arse —”

“Shhh! Keep your voice down, will you!”

Then Gill did something I did not expect. She stood up. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” she announced to the room, “this is my brother! And his anal cavity has not been violated recently!”

Then she sat down. There were a couple of sniggers from the far corner. Mum was staring at Gill in shock.

“You’ve changed,” I told her.

It was true. She’d left home a scared, self-conscious, quiet little sister.

And she’d been cursing me most inventively for making her go.

All that was different now. I could tell by the way she spoke, the way she stood; Gill was becoming more and more… like me.

Poor girl.

Dealing With Loss

How did I lose my passport?

Easy.

One minute it was there, the next… gone.

I’d taken it out with me to get it photocopied, in case I lost it – and as a direct result of that precaution, the little bugger had vanished. Straight after, I’d gone shopping for stuff to take to America, because most of my clothes had been torn apart by wild animals. I’d arrived back from Ecuador with a gigantic (and very colourful) woolly hammock, and not much else but the clothes I was standing up in. And even they had blood stains on them.

It just didn’t seem right to take them on holiday.

So I hit the town. Somewhere on my shopping spree, most likely in the changing rooms where I’d experienced the sensation of new jeans (defined as jeans that didn’t have holes my balls would hang out of) – my passport and I had parted company.

This is not something you want to discover five hours before you’re due to board an international flight.

My temper was the next thing due to be lost.

“Bastard, bastard, BASTARD! What the hell am I going to do?”

“Call the shop,” Mum demanded. “Call every shop you went to. Check the car, check your coat, check your old jeans… what’s left of them.” She was on the case, understandably nervous as she was now facing the prospect of a solo trip to America.

It had been her idea (and her treat, since I was broke) that we fly together to the States, to meet my sister and bring her home after her three-month stint as a summer camp counsellor. Mum had made all the plans and arrangements on her own, which by itself was cause for concern – most days she struggled to place an order at McDonalds.

Seriously, this is an actual example of her conversation with the counter assistant:

Mum: “Can I have a Big Mac meal and… another Big Mac Meal. Two Big Mac meals.

Assistant: “So, is that four meals?”

Mum: “No! Two meals. But one of them without the drink.”

Ass*: “So, one meal, and one burger and fries.”

Mum: “Yes. Two Big Mac meals…”

Ass: “Another two?”

Mum: “No! The same ones. And I’ll have a cup of tea with one of them.”

Ass: “The one with the drink?”

Mum: “No, the other one. Actually, with both. And…”

Ass: (sighing) “So, two Big Mac meals.”

Mum: “Yes please! Two big mac meals. But no drinks.”

Ass: “Ahhh? Is that with the drinks, or without?”

Mum: “Without, thank-you.”

Ass: “Okay. So altogether that’s two Big Macs?”

Mum: “No! Four! But the last ones without drinks.”

Ass: “Ah! Okay. That’s… two meals, and…”

Mum: “Actually I’ll have a cup of tea with one of them.”

Ass: (frantically pressing buttons) “Okay,”

Mum: “In fact, I’ll have tea with both.”

Ass: “Right…”

Mum: “Oh, but you know that first Big Mac?”

Ass: “Ah, yes?”

Mum: “Can that one be coffee instead?”

Ass: “I think so…”

Mum: “And can you take the pickle off that one?”

Ass: “Um… I think so.”

Mum: “Actually, don’t worry about it. I’ll have that one. Take the pickle off one of the others.”

It’s only because McDonalds employ the finest university graduates in the UK that we manage to get any food at all. And the best thing about it? We order the exact same thing every time we go there!

(*I’d like to apologise to McDonalds employees worldwide about how this abbreviation turned out. If it’s any consolation, I know exactly who was being the ass in that little episode!)

Ah, Mum!

We love to let her do it.

And we love to take the piss out of her afterwards – it’s like a family tradition.

However, it highlights a trait in her that she is well aware of.

She’s not the most organised person in the world – and she flaps like a pissed-off penguin.

She really, really didn’t want to go it alone.

But she was going to have to.

As the afternoon progressed I narrowed the loss down to one shop – Debenhams in the high street – but no-one there had seen the thing. Staff had been questioned and I’d tried to get word to the cleaners, all to no avail. There was only one thing for it – I was going to have to get a new passport.

So we packed poor mum off on the bus to the airport, and I called the airline to beg.

The staff at Delta Airlines were awesome. They said they could delay my flight for 24 hours at no extra cost. I went for it, because the price of delaying it any longer was astronomical. I knew it was possible to get a passport in 24 hours – I’d heard of it before. But how? I leapt from the phone to my computer…

And that was when I discovered that our nearest passport office was in Newport, South Wales – not far from my flat in Cardiff. A bloody long way from Somerset, where I was currently staying with my parents though. But closer than London. Just. Dad scanned the rules while I printed out the necessary paperwork.

‘If the application is submitted by midday,’ the website said, ‘the passport can be processed the same day.’

It was Thursday evening. We could leave early in the morning for the passport office, but we had to be sure we’d make it – they were closed all weekend.

It was nearly 8am. A soggy Friday morning in September. Newport was a good two hours’ drive away. Things had been looking good – until, filling in the application form, I’d realized that it had to be counter-signed by someone who knew me. Someone who could testify that I was real. But not family. And that person also had to be a doctor, lawyer, or management-level professional of some kind…

This was a bit of a bind. Sadly, my friends are not highly placed. What can I say? I studied acting, and then became a professional vagabond. Neither of these things led to my social circle being populated by over-achievers…

Either of my parents could have signed it – if they weren’t my parents. And if one of them wasn’t already on her way to America.

Dad came up with the only answer; Bob, his best friend at work, was also management-grade. And a jolly nice chap to boot. So instead of Newport, our first stop was his office in Taunton; a little over half an hour in the opposite direction.

Bob was a big bloke, larger than life and eternally cheerful. He loved computers and he loved his job, which was with computers. He didn’t love bureaucracy – who does? – but he was happy enough to help me with my predicament.

Until he finished signing the form. That’s when he noticed that it asked for his passport number, presumably to prove that my Dad and I hadn’t invented him. He didn’t have his passport at work – who does? Unfortunately Bob loved his work so much that he commuted for well over an hour just to get there. There was no way we could drive to his house and get back in time.

But Bob wasn’t defeated. Not yet. He called his wife at work and explained the situation. She was a teacher at a school just down the road from their house. If she could find an excuse to nip home, say, in the next ten minutes, we would be in with a chance… and that is when our bad luck began to break.

It was an INSET Teacher Training day, and all the children were off. God, I used to love those days! I was even more grateful for them now.

She drove straight home and rooted around for the passport – for a scarily long time. Eventually she discovered it hidden in a sock drawer. She called back with the number, good old Bob put pen to paper once more, and we were gone in a flash – gunning my Dad’s old Vauxhall Senator down the M5 towards Newport.

There was traffic. Oh, was there ever traffic! But I won’t get into that.

We arrived in time – barely.

Dad had to drop me off outside while he went looking for a place to park; that’s how tight the time was.

Inside there was a queue, but I didn’t care. As far as I was concerned we’d made it! The clerk who took my form waved me towards the photo booth in the corner and told me to hurry. Asshole! Like it really mattered to him. I looked at the booth. It took coins only. Pound coins.

Eight of them.

Eight pounds?

The shock stole my breath for a moment. It was double what I’d expected to pay, and double what I’d brought. Dad arrived and had almost enough to make up the difference… almost. But not quite.

“Any shops nearby?” I asked him. I already knew the answer.

He shook his head.

There was only one thing for it.

“Has anyone got a pound they can lend me?” I threw my plea out to the crowd. Surely in the queue there was some kind-hearted person… ideally one who spoke English. Hm. That ruled out most of them, by the look of things.

Then it happened; a kind old lady shuffled forward with a single pound coin for me. Actually, she could have been an axe-murdering old lady, but I didn’t care; at that point I could have kissed her.

I put the cash in the booth, sat in it for my photos, and joined the queue again.

It was all working out perfectly. Or it would have been, had the photos been acceptable.

But they weren’t.

“You’re smiling here, you see,” the clerk pointed out. “Guidelines call for a neutral expression. And also… you have your sunglasses on your head.”

WHAT? Shit! It was true. In my panicked rush, I hadn’t even noticed.

“But… I…”

“You’ll have to get another set, I’m afraid.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me!”

His expression didn’t budge an inch.

He was probably used to being sworn at.

The clock ticked down. Less than five minutes to the cut-off.

I glanced around the room and saw nothing that could help me.

Desperation was setting in.

I had only one option left.

“PLEASE,” I yelled into the queue behind me, “has ANYONE got EIGHT POUND COINS to lend me?”

In the car on the way to the airport, I sat looking at the document that would identify me on my travels for the next ten years. The eyes in the photo glared back at me in hatred. It looked like I was about to reach through the frame and strangle someone. It was the kind of face that would grace the cover of a psychotic horror novel. By the time the passport office customers had had a whip round and collected enough coins for my second set of photos, I was seething with frustration and rage. I’d managed to maintain a neutral expression by massive effort of will, but nothing could control my eyes. ‘I will fucking stab every one of you,’ said those eyes. Even the clerk had recoiled slightly, but couldn’t find an excuse to refuse it – probably because he thought he’d get stabbed. I’d been looking at him with those exact same eyes.

It’s hardly surprising, in hindsight, that they didn’t want to let me into America.

A Great Big Hole

I stood on the very brink of the Grand Canyon and looked down. “Deep, man.” It was the wittiest thing I could think of to say – guaranteed by the time we got to the next hostel I’d have thought of a dozen better quips, and no-one would care. Such is my curse.

I had to admit though, it was impressive. In the heat-haze of the perfectly clear day, the opposite rim of the canyon was blurred; slightly muted like an old faded photo. I was only looking through fresh air, but quite a lot of it. It gave the impression that the other side was a painting, a giant piece of stage scenery that looked great from far away, but up close you’d be able to see all the brush strokes.

A huge condor drifted lazily below us, which was quite surreal.

Behind us, a newly arrived tour group gathered around their guide as he started his spiel. We sneakily drifted closer, so we could hear his droning, nasal voice. He could reel off the numbers alright, as though visitors to the biggest geological feature on the continent didn’t already have a guidebook featuring it. I instantly attributed to him three qualities: deadly bored, deathly boring and intensely annoying. The risk of being stuck on a bus for a week with someone like him is exactly why we’d decided to rent a car. Yes, it meant the occasional hair-raising near-miss, when Mum suddenly remembered which side of the road to take a roundabout on – and navigation being none of our specialities, we must have been the only people this century to ‘lose’ the Grand Canyon for over an hour.

Still. I felt we were ahead of the curve on this one.

“Two-hundred and seventy-seven miles long, eighteen miles wide and over six thousand feet deep…”

Whenever I hear guides reel off these kinds of numbers, it always reminds me of C-3PO telling Han Solo that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are approximately 3720 to 1. Is it true? Who knows? Who cares? It’s just arbitrary numbers. They might as well say “Over a quarter of the contents of a hundred-thousand domestic laundry carts would fill less than ten percent of the bottom two-thirds of this canyon.” Or “It would take five million grannies six centuries to knit enough embarrassing jumpers to fill it.”

We have no frame of reference.

He could have told us you could drop Belgium into the Grand Canyon without touching the sides, and everyone would have believed him. (I would. And I’ve been to Belgium; it wouldn’t be much of a loss).

But I wanted to know more exciting facts. Actually I just wanted to upset his monotone drawl.

“If I jumped off, how long would it take for me to hit the bottom?” I asked, putting my hand up like I was in school.

“I’m afraid you can’t do that,” was his reply.

See, that’s the trouble with these western nations. It’s health-and-safety gone mad, I tell you.

We left them to it.

More than anything, Mum wanted a donkey ride to the bottom.

I don’t think she’s ever gotten over our trip to Blackpool beach.

(In fact neither have the donkeys, but that’s a different story).

The rides here went down into the canyon by the narrowest, crumbliest of paths. It was a trip for the adrenaline junkie, with ten extra points for anyone who made it down with clean underwear. We were all super-keen, until Mum asked about the price.

“$500? Bloody hell! For a ride on a donkey?”

“We don’t have donkeys we have mules,” explained the woman behind the booking desk.

“But still… would donkeys be cheaper?”

“Do we get to keep the donkey afterwards?” I quipped.

“It’s quite a long ride,” she pointed out. Patiently. She must have gotten this reaction a lot.

Mum was crestfallen. “We only wanted to go for a couple of hours…”

“The ride takes two days.”

“Oh! Really. Ah. Well then. It still seems rather expensive.”

“It includes accommodation and meals in the hotel at the bottom.”

“I see…”

“And it’s fully booked a year in advance.”

“Oh. Aren’t there any shorter rides we could do?”

“Yes, there are —”

“Great!” Mum cut her off. “We’ll do one of those!”

“—but they go from the other side of the canyon.”

There was a pause while we digested that nugget of information.

All of us naturally turned towards the window and its view over the edge, as though looking would make it easier to gauge the possibilities of getting there.

“Well, it’s only eighteen miles away,” I reminded them.

No-one found this particularly funny.

“I don’t suppose there’s a bridge around here?” I tried.

The woman gave me a flat ‘don’t push it’ look.

And that was the end of our donkey ride.

Instead we wandered along the edge, taking photos, standing as close as we dared to the drop-off (whilst ignoring mum’s pleas to ‘come away from there!’) and daring each other to look over the precipice.

For some reason, Mum always gets extra nervous when I stand near the edge of high things.

Perhaps because I once confessed to her that I get this overwhelming urge to jump, just to see what it feels like…

Or perhaps because she knows how good my balance is.

(It isn’t.)

Apparently there are various religious groups so impressed by the spiritual significance of the area that they travel from all over the US to hold ceremonies right on the edge of the Canyon.

I know this because I found the place where they do it; it is marked with a large sign which simply says ‘Site of Rim Worship’.

Yes, I know. I fell about laughing, as did the rest of the group when they saw this – except Mum, bless her, who stared at the sign with a confused expression, before looking around her for something she’d missed.

“I don’t get it,” she complained.

Poor, innocent woman.

I just had to enlighten her. “Well Mum, what must happen is that people of a religious persuasion from all over the US come here to hold their ceremonies on the edge of the canyon.”

“That’s what I thought it meant.”

“And while they’re here, they take it in turns to stick their tongues up each other’s arseholes.”

That night I slept in the car.

It wasn’t entirely my fault.

We’d arrived at a motel, the only one we could find, only to be told by the owner that reception was closed for the night. We begged for a bit but she was having none of it. This pissed me off a little; I generally go out of my way to help other people if I can, and to make them feel welcome at very least. She just couldn’t be bothered, as though helping a clueless group of weary travellers wasn’t worth her effort.

“We could have checked ourselves in,” I complained to the others. “In fact I think I’m going to.”

It took me less than five minutes to break in to the motel through a back window. Sometimes I felt the need to demonstrate my more esoteric skills, and this was one of them; if only to prove that obnoxious woman wrong. This room was now most definitely open. I lay on the bed for a bit, but couldn’t convince the others to join me. They were afraid ‘inside’ would take on a different meaning if the owner saw us and called the cops, so we made do with a tiny strip of gravel-and-grass verge down the road. The girls pitched their tent and froze in it, while Richie, Mum and I curled up uncomfortably in the car seats.

It wasn’t the best night’s sleep for any of us, but we had a tube of Pringles awaiting us for breakfast.

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for the little things.

“I still don’t get it,” Mum confided in me as I was about to drift off.

But I was too tired to draw her a diagram, so I let it pass.

End of Sample!

 

I hope you enjoyed reading! If you’d like to see more, I’m afraid you’ll have to download the book – it’s available from Amazon, HERE.