“So, Alan,” said Rich, as soon as it was polite to move on. “Tell me about yourself. I gather you’re quite interested in the environment and protecting it? Or am I going off on completely the wrong track here?”

          “No, no, that’s perfectly true. Yes, I’m trying to protect this planet, but it’s hard when you’re the only one willing to give up all their creature comforts to do something about it! I guess when you think about it it’s all a needless self sacrifice, but I can’t help hoping that one day somebody will see what I’m doing and they’ll join me, and then another, and then another.” He smiled.

          “So that’s why you don’t use any transport?”

          “Yes, that’s why I don’t use any transport. Though I’ve got heating in my house, it’s fed by wood that I chop myself from trees that I replant two for every one that I take. It’s completely sustainable, and I’m not using anybody’s fuel. I’ve got electricity too, but it’s partly solar, partly wind powered and partly kinetic. For example, if there’s not enough juice in the solar panels for a cup of tea, I hop onto the exercise bike for a few minutes of high powered cycling.”

          “Nice,” said Rich appreciatively. “And that does you for electricity? That’s enough?” He was seriously impressed, because although he knew of people who had part of their electricity supplied by solar he had never known anybody to be completely self-reliant.

          “Oh, that’s plenty. In fact, I don’t use it all, so I put it back into the National Grid and they pay me for it, not that I need the money—I set it aside for my family, if I ever meet anyone willing to live my way. But I think I’m a little bit past that now, a little bit old.”

          “Don’t think like that,” encouraged Linda. “You never know, there might still be someone out there.” Personally, Rich thought it sounded a bit far-fetched, but didn’t like to say anything. These people were paying for his food and transport; he wasn’t about to make them angry, not when they were seemingly this powerful.

          “You don’t believe her, do you?” said Alan, perceptive to the last. Maybe it was his hermit lifestyle, but he seemed to be uncannily good at guessing the thoughts which went behind swiftly changing facial expressions.

          “No,” admitted Rich, blushing.

          “Neither do I,” said Alan, and unexpectedly started to laugh. Jonathan, turning to look at his brother in some surprise, saw that he was no longer green, but had a little colour in his cheeks: the distraction of talking had been good for him. “There’s no need to be so embarrassed. Nothing wrong with speaking your thoughts.”

The End

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