Wayne is Carnbeg's number one bicycle courier.
The other couriers cheat; they'll use a motorbike or a Vespa, or in Jake's case a skateboard, depending on distance and urgency and volume of traffic.
Wayne, 22, is the coolest of the lot of them, though.
He's as thin as the proverbial beanpole. The baby of his family, he was laughed at school for being such a skinnymalink. ('Wayne' to rhyme with 'wean'.) Thin, but wiry and quite strong in fact.
His hair is done in dreadlocks. He wears a red bandana with a skull-and-crossbones pattern, plus another yellow scarf tied up on top if his head, like two floppy ears. A pair of leather gloves without tips for the fingers, fastened with studs, and leather armbands and assorted good-cause jangly bangles.
Three-quarters Nadal pirate pants, even in frost and snow. Tartan trainers, and dayglo socks marked down as seconds by his aunt in the sports shop (even though they're not). Top of his wish list is a phone stalk in his ear, but where would it go when he already has plug-in earpieces for his iPod. He connects with base not on his mobile but via a walkie-talkie, rasping out messages and carried on a holster over his shoulder with an aerial for good measure.
His racing bike has fourteen gears, which Wayne doesn't think is enough. It also has the meanest, narrowest wheels and guards. A cover on the chain would look wimpish, and like this the bike appears to be going faster, or perhaps it is - no drag.
He's up on one pedal, freewheeling, before he straddles the crossbar, and - head down- he's off. To everyone else he's simply negotiating the streets of Carnbeg. That's not what it seems to Wayne.
He's in two places. He's in the Highlands town which pays him more or less a living wage, where he grew up and still (technically) lives. But he's also locked in a neverdone war against the forces of darkness, wrestling with evil of galactic proportions. From the road where his old school stands emanates the terror: viz. Qokat the Headless Giant. His henchmen are everywhere, preparing to ambush him, and Wayne needs 360 degrees vision. He wears aerodynamic goggles to protect his eyes from the laser guns which are aimed at him (during working hours).
He hears the barking of their accomplices, the Hounds of Hell, and isn't fooled by their cunning disguises as labradors and westies and pedigree schnauzers. His goggles and headphones are a defence against their deadly combination of optical and sonic rays. He pedals past, at 10,000 mph. All around are exploding fireballs. He dodges between them, not letting up speed for a nanosecond. The road is zapped in front of him, it melts, so he skirts round the flaming chasms on the outermost rims of his wheels. A crackly voice reaches him through the aeons of space, it's sounds just like his boss Mrs Forbes trying to make contact with him from base.
'Come in, Wayne. Can you hear me?'
How does he know it isn't another of Qokat's evil tricks?
Wayne responds with 'Operational difficulties!' and 'Cutting out!' and pedals faster to get to the end of the street and round the corner first.
He isn't taken in either by the pretend sleepy-afternoonness. For his part he feels buzzy, perhaps because he's survived since breakfast on no more than a diet Coke and a poke of nuts 'n' raisins.
A battle royal is raging. Planets burn out on the periphery of his vision. Firing boosters, Wayne ducks to avoid every enemy craft trying to strafe him, and one gets caught in a rowan tree - which is in fact a virtual tree, the illusion of Zzelnix the wizard, once Qokat's mentor and now his arch-enemy The tree bursts into flames behind him, brighter than autumn.
On and on. Through an urban wasteland, where snipers fire rockets at his wheels and he repels snarling yellow dogs with karate chops.
On and on, because he has to be home for tea, 5.30 sharp, when his mum expects him to be seated at the table ('Bandana off, please!), hands washed and repeating after her, 'For what we are about to receive, Lord …'
© Ronald Frame
Published in The Herald 2008