The car left the road for the second time; only dropping the front wheel off the sealed surface but it was enough to frighten her into concentrating on the road ahead. She had adjusted the rear view mirror so that she could see the small bundle secured in the back, caring little for following traffic. Not that there was much following her, she was exceeding the speed limit by some margin. Normally a very cautious driver, Alice was now on a mission and the normal rules of the road seemed to have little meaning at the moment.

Alice and her partner had lived in the city since they got together. They both had careers and it was convenient to be close to work. However the pressure finally got the better of her and she had decided that working from home was a better option, and it was also more convenient since the arrival of Charlie. She had managed to take him shopping most days and occasionally to the park when the weather was fine but the only other place that he had to play, was on the balcony or the rooftop garden. She wanted something better for him and although all the facilities in the apartment were the very best, she felt there had to be more: he needed room to play. They agreed to move to a house with a garden.

Charlie had been playing in the garden. He had until now, only been allowed to be in the house under her immediate supervision but he was now of an age where she had felt that he should be allowed a little more freedom. Still within her view from the kitchen window or conservatory, he was enjoying the adventure and discovery of his new surroundings. Then the horror. She had looked out to see him lying motionless on the ground. Rushing out to him, she could see that his eyes were closed, and his breathing was shallow.

No mobile signal. They had chosen to live in the country and were aware that the mobile reception was poor. Having recently changed telephone and internet provider, the service was down until the engineer had been. The whole idea of being isolated and peaceful was suddenly a nightmare. The obvious choice was to get Charlie in the car and drive the few miles to town where, she hoped, the Out Of Hours service was up to the task.

As she secured him in the car, the low clouds were now providing a welcome sprinkling of rain on the parched ground. They were also making the road surface slippery and as evening now descended, the visibility became gloomy. She had put the lights on as she pulled he car out of the drive and joined the main road. Charlie made some reassuring noised as the she took the corners at more than her usual speed. He was wrapped in the shawl that Alice had been given as a Christmas present by a neighbour and only this small beautiful face was poking out, the eyes still closed. She looked again at her mobile to see if reception was any better and that was when the car had left the road and given her such a shock.

There was no street lighting for the first part of the journey and she had not put the light on in the back of the car. She could barely make out the image of the small figure in the back. As she approached the edge of the town the rain had eased some and the street lights stared to allow her to occasionally glimpse him. No change. Driving became easier in the well-lit streets and there was no other traffic to affect her. It was not too far to her destination when Alice suddenly began to fear that the place might be closed. She was sure that she was told when they bought the house that there was an Out Of Hours Service but now she began to doubt; was is the same at weekends, what day was it anyway, what colour was that traffic light. She was beginning to panic.

The illuminated sign gave her plenty of warning that the left turn she needed was just ahead. Even so, at the speed she was travelling, she had to brake hard in order to make the turn. Alice felt the anti-lock braking system kick in as she pressed hard on the pedal but the car responded well and took her in the direction she wanted to go. There was her destination. The entrance to the car park was not barred and the brightly lit entrance behind the glass doors showed her that the Vet’s Out Of Hours Service was open. Charlie was going to be fine.