Cast of characters




Miss No




Mr E
















“Keep veering to the right,” No said suddenly and decisively and wagging her finger that way.




“Huh?” E squinted and shrugged bewilderedly. “This is the rightmost lane! What are you talking about?”




“Get over there!” she ordered and pointed.




E was aghast. “The paved shoulder? It is illegal – for emergency vehicles only.”




“Right – pali!” she insisted. “And drive on the shoulder as fast as possible until you get ahead of all this traffic. Toll booth ahead.




“Chances are once we get past that, it will be less busy. So get to it, we don’t have time to waste.




“This is too important. I have to get back to Chinju to meet with Fred before it’s too late.”




“But if police catch me on the shoulder it will be a substantial fine.”




“How could the police get through this gridlock to apprehend you unless they had a helicopter? This is not Los Angeles.”




E followed her military-style order, slithering onto the shoulder.





He cautiously picked up speed while manoeuvring along the narrow and empty illegal lane, going about 30 km/hour.




* Do you think the police will catch them? *




Admittedly it was a bit of a head rush whizzing past all the clogged cars on the road, but another part of him was horrified.





This is a serious violation of traffic regulations. What if there’s a fire, or someone’s in an ambulance dying and I block their way?




There was no way he could get right off the road because the highway was effectively built on an embankment and it was a ten foot drop to the frozen rice fields at the side.




He glanced warily sideward at Miss No but upon seeing her determined face, quickly withdrew his glance and focused on the road again.





The toll booth was now in sight!




Whizzing toward it unobstructed, he quashed his guilt and came on side with No. He found himself slowly but surely stepping on the gas to reach the objective.




Faster, faster, faster.




“Watch out! Stop!” Miss No cried out.




* Why?! *




E hit the brakes. Damion jerked in the back and grunted. Donna braced herself from being thrown forward.




“What happened?” Damion asked, groggy and barely conscious.




An older man had disembarked a vehicle up ahead and was crossing the shoulder.





Judging from what his hands were doing, he was intending to take a leak off the side of the highway.




Mr E had to slow right down to squeeze past him and while doing so No reached over and reefed on the horn.




“Get off the road you idiot! Babo grandfather!” she yelled.




Damion grunted in the back, shifted positions, and fell back asleep.




No blasted the horn again; the wily senior had somehow waddled out of the way to do his business.





E grinned and admired the elder’s coordination and focus.




Once they were past him, E glanced in his rear-view mirror to check up on the old guy’s progress.



That’s when he saw the flashing blue lights coming up from behind.




“Ayeesh! I knew this would happen.




“What?” Miss No queried.




“A cop car is approaching from the rear.”




“Never mind, just keep going and pretend it’s not there. Speed up! Just get to that toll booth and butt back into the line.”




He stepped on the gas and within a minute was near the front and started to nudge back into the thick line up.




This elicited a few perturbed horn toots, head turns and dirty looks from those who’d been patiently waiting, but Koreans generally give a person the benefit of the doubt in a case like this.





They presume that either you’re special or there’s a bloody good reason why you’re jumping the queue.




“In a minute or two,” No said, “once we get through the toll booth, it’ll be smooth sailing back to Chinju.”





She craned her neck and peered into the rear-view mirror. The cop car had slowed right down to get past the grandfather.




“Eyes front,” E said.




They were being waved over by a young, pimply-faced police man on foot patrol.




“Ayeesh!” No exclaimed. “We’re almost at the toll booth. Pretend we didn’t see him. Get through that toll and don’t look back.”




She fished frantically around in her purse for change.




* Will they make it through? *




The cop started blowing on a high-pitched whistle yet E continued inching forward, his eyes straight ahead. Yet now there was a decisive knocking on Miss No’s side window.




She shuddered but didn’t look sideways. Damion grunted restlessly in the back.




There was complete silence in the car for a few awkward seconds. Then Miss No shattered it: “This is it – now or never. Keep going. Get through that toll!”








Tomorrow: Miss No takes advantage of an error.