‘Again?!’ I hollered up at the night sky, kicking the rapidly-deflating tyre of my four-wheel drive.
I let out another yell, hearing it echo across the sparse desert road.
‘Problem?’ a voice asked behind me, and I almost jumped out of my skin. I whipped around to find a kindly older man, strapped to the nines in a hiking backpack and leaning wistfully on a walking stick the same height as him.
‘My tyre,’ I grumbled, gesturing half-heartedly at the deflating rubber.
‘Ah, yes,’ he nodded gently, ‘the desert has claimed another one.’
‘It’s claimed two, actually,’ I sighed. ‘What are you doing out here, anyway?’
‘Walking,’ he said simply, like it was the only answer that made sense.
‘It’s nearly eleven,’ I frowned.
‘Oh, I only walk at night,’ he said, glancing up at the stars. ‘How boring the day sky is!’
‘Right, fair enough,’ I said, rapidly losing interest in the conversation. ‘Look, do you know how far it is to Brighton?’
‘To Brighton?’ he asked. ‘Whatever for?’
‘Well, I’m going to need some sort of mechanic servicing the Brighton area to help me, and I don’t know if I can convince one to travel very far.’
‘Just down the road a bit,’ the man said simply, pointing with his stick. ‘Not far at all.’
‘Do you live there?’ I asked.
‘Me? Oh, yes,’ he nodded with a laugh. ‘Since the day I was born!’
‘So you’ll know everyone then,’ I said quickly. ‘Small country towns, that’s how it works, right?’
‘I’m friendly, I suppose,’ he said hesitantly.
‘So do you know the mechanic in Brighton who specialises in tyre and auto services that I could call?’
‘Oh, no, I’m afraid not,’ he said. ‘Never had much use for a car. You see—’
‘You like walking,’ I interrupted him with a sigh. ‘I get it.’
‘You’re welcome to join me?’ he said with a slight smile. ‘The night is still young, no?’
I looked down at my broken car, then up at the stars, shining so brightly above us.
‘Why not?’ I asked out loud.