Friday, 20 March 2015

The Road Less Cycled

Hard to believe after all this time, the three of us were back on the case. Well, not so much a case as a quintracycle.

"So this was your own invention?" asked Roth.

"It was indeed. Green conveyances with three seats were not easy to come by, so I designed and built one," I replied, "it will be to the bicycle what the Dyson is to vacuum cleaners."

"Strangely coloured and difficult to take apart?"

"No, that wasn't what I meant."

"Five wheels is a pretty strange feature too."

"Much better balance and road holding," I explained.

"I'd have expected them to be all the same size - not one is the same as another."

"Resist that conventional thinking."

"The built-in coffee machine is a stroke of genius," said our previously silent companion, discarding the drained espresso cup like a hamster would discard a sunflower seed shell.

"It doesn't have, does it?" I said. I was puzzled. Then I remembered accidentally ram-raiding Starbucks on our test run. I'm sure they wouldn't mind as we returned the barista to the upright position.

"Where are we?" I enquired.

"Ireland," Eolist said.

"Didn't we start off in Michigan?"


"Isn't there an ocean between the US of A and Ireland?" queried Roth.

Eolist was on a roll with the monosyllabic replies, "Yes," she said.

"Hmm. I'd have expected to have got a little moist on the journey. You know, dampish?" I said. 

"We took the cycle path."

"Ahh. I see," we said, lying.

We carried on cycling in silence, allowing the Emerald Isle to roll gently below our five different sized wheels. The only noise was Roth puffing on the steep hills.

"Not that it isn't a very pretty country, but why are we here?" I asked looking around at the marvellous countryside.

"We're on a quest," said Eolist, "I found this scrap of parchment in a box in my loft. I'll read it to you when we stop for a break."

"Why the quest?" asked I.

"I was speaking with some friends over coffee and spoke about my ghost sightings. And they were all like 'everybody has ghosts, we've all seen them'. So I thought I'd go and find something no one else had seen."

We rode on until the light began to fade and Roth looked puffed out. We sat down on the edge of a wood and lit a small fire. The conversation flowed easily as night fell.

Eolist pulled out the parchment and read from it. It told the tale of a wealthy Irish landowner who had abused his position and power. His lust and rejection by the beautiful, folk musician, tenant farmer's daughter resulted in him throwing the entire farmer's family off their land before a particularly hard winter. Other tenants who tried to take in the farmers family were threatened with losing their homes and livelihoods. The farmer, his wife and daughter sought shelter in the nearby woods. 

None were seen again. Except for daughter, who was found, close to death, still clutching her banjo. Her last words were to place a Celtic curse on the landowner.

One year to the day the landowner was found dead, with a look of terror frozen on his face. Staff reported the landowner had complained of hearing a banjo playing for a day before he died.

Even now, the local people believe that anyone hearing a ghostly banjo will be found dead the next day.

"That puts a shiver up your spine," I said, "I take it this is the myth of the Banjshee."

"And this wood is?" Roth asked.

"The very same one," confirmed Eolist.

Roth adopted a tone of mock offence, "So, in finding something exotic to see, you chose something that would kill us?" 

I joined in, "Yes, and kill us with folk music!"

"Anyway, I shall be wearing earplugs and zipping my sleeping bag up right across the top," I declared. 

"Yup," Roth and Eolist agreed.

We settled down to sleep. Which none of us did.

At 2am, I could hold it no longer. "Guys, I need a pee, " I called out.

There were some dark muttering from the other sleeping bags. I'm sure I heard a Celtic curse or two. Roth finally called back, "I'll keep a watch for a ghostly bint playing a banjo."

"I'm not going to look out for some folk singing, banjo strumming tart until I've had my third coffee," came a voice from the lower end of third sleeping bag. Nice.

I got out and wandered away to find a tree to water. I was in mid-flow when I heard the sound of a banjo playing ethereally in the distance. "New ringtone Mr Roth?" 

"Yeah, you like it? Greatest Bango Hits No. 17 (disco remix version)" he confirmed.

"So Eolist, should you see the Banjshee, are you planning to take a photo or get an autograph?"

"No idea. Why?"

"Because she is standing behind you. I think she is planning to kick off with a little song."

Eolist shot out of the sleeping bag, took a photo and ran past us. Roth and I felt strongly motivated to keep up.

It was an hour later before we stopped running and midday before we felt safe enough to go back and collect our stuff and the quintracycle. With that we set off back to Michigan on the cycle path, which as any seasoned traveller knows is mostly uphill. 

"Why is Roth going red and puffing and blowing?" Asked Eolist, "The quintracycle is very easy to peddle."

I lent over and whispered, "It is for us. I ran out of cycle chain and only had enough to connect his peddles to the driving wheels."

"Genius, " she replied.


  1. Beware the Banjshee! Good thing when my husband left, he took his damn banjo with him.

  2. Banjos are the devil's own instrument. A red-hot one, especially. Can I have a cushion for my saddle, please? Good to see you back dude. I've followed in your example. Roth


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