The sun poked at the speeding car through the pink-blue haze of dawn.
Penelope lay back in her seat, eyes closed, twisting her head in
search of a comfortable angle for a snooze. Findus held the wheel
with one relaxed hand, a lit cigarette dangling from between two
fingers. He rubbed his face with the other hand. There wasn't much
Unfortunately, there was a peacock on the motorway.
Findus thought it was a plastic bag until it threw up its
multicoloured fan and charged the car. He blinked and jammed on the
brakes, far too late, driving straight at the bird. Penelope was
jolted forward with a squawk and stared wildly from Findus to the
road and back.
The peacock swerved onto the hard shoulder, waving
its wings and chattering. The car skidded round 180 degrees and screeched to a halt in the
slow lane, right beside the flamboyant bird. It made a bwaaaaaak noise and skipped back a
little. Penelope grabbed Findus's arm and they both stared at the
peacock. The fag dropped from Findus's mouth. The bird stared back
at them, giving its wings an occasional flick.
Findus was quickly out of the car. "That's a peacock," he said, "a
Penelope lunged for the cigarette where it smouldered on the seat,
suspending it warily between her thumb and forefinger. She couldn't
throw it out her husband's doorway without hitting him. She also
couldn't look away to wind down her own window. "Findus-- watch!
You're-- what d'you think you're doing?"
Findus advanced on the bird. "It really is," he said, "it's a real
peacock. I've wanted to see one all my life. A peacock."
The cigarette was burning Penelope's fingers so she aimed carefully
and tossed it through the gap at the driver's door. It dropped out
of sight onto the road. She glanced at her distracted husband,
then out through the windscreen. The car was still in the
slow lane, facing the wrong way. "Findus! Will you get back in here?
The car's-- we'll get hit! There'll be an accident!"
Findus half-turned his body, eyes still fixed on the peacock. He
waved a vague hand in her direction. "You move it, Penelope. I'll
just be a minute. If I leave this it'll run off and I'll never see
The peacock twisted its neck at him. A blue Sierra roared past in
the fast lane with a rude burst of horn. Penelope jumped, then
clicked off her seatbelt. "Findus, you bastard!" she shouted,
wriggling over the gearstick, "get in here!" He squatted down in
front of the peacock and continued to flap his hand at her.
"Findus!" She landed in his seat. The pedals were too far forward;
she had to fumble for the lever. Her weight made the seat slide
backwards. She urged it forward. It moved on the third heave.
"Findus! We can see one in a zoo if you want. Will you get in the
car?" She clicked the driver's seatbelt into place and reached for
the door. A coach rushed past, honking angrily.
"Just a minute, Penelope. It's a peacock. I've never seen one of
these before." He stopped waving at her and returned his full
attention to the bird.
Penelope flashed her eyes at his back and slammed the car door. She
forced it into reverse and backed along the flow of traffic, turning
the rear onto the hard shoulder. She wound down the passenger
window, staring at her husband as he leant ever closer to the
"Well, FUCK OFF then!" she yelled, and drove off, tyres squealing.
Findus jumped in fright. The peacock bit his nose. He fell over.
It turned and fled into a field, away from the motorway. The car
disappeared rapidly from sight.
On the hard shoulder, Findus propped himself up with one arm, rubbing
his nose with the other. He searched his pockets.
"Shit," he said, "I've left my fags in the car."