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By Sarah Hapgood

“Hark on it”, said Bengo, lying on his bunk and staring up at the ceiling “I hope it doesn’t cause the ceiling to fall in”.

“I thought you wanted to be back here”, said Bardin, slipping into his pink nightie “You went on and on and on about it in fact”.

“I am glad to be back here, Bardy”, said Bengo “Doesn’t stop me hoping the ceiling doesn’t fall in does it!”

Bardin turned the lamp down to the level of a glow-worm and climbed into bed. The starchy underwear had been removed in honour of the nightdress, so Bengo burrowed under cover and stroked Bardin’s pubic hair. Bardin stretched and flung his arms above his head, in anticipation.

Suddenly there was an almighty clap of thunder, followed almost instantaneously by a flash of lightning, which momentarily lit up the room like a nuclear blast.

“Bloody hellfire!” said Bengo, emerging from under Bardin’s nightdress like a dog emerging from cow-parsley “That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard!”

“There was no warning”, said Bardin.

The dogs were barking frantically in the corridor, accompanied by a hullabaloo of voices. Bardin got out of bed and unbolted the door.

“Hello gorgeous”, said Hillyard, who (with Lonts) was trying to calm the dogs “Did the earth move for you just then?!”

“Are all the hatches securely fastened?” said Bardin.

“No we thought we’d leave them wide open”, said Hillyard “And let all the rain in”.

Bardin swept majestically down the corridor and checked the hatch at the top of the quarterdeck steps. Then he went into Joby and Kieran’s cabin, where Joby was reading a well-thumbed paperback, and Kieran was lying next to him, watching the lightening through the porthole.

“What?” Joby barked.

“I wanted to make sure no one was up on deck”, said Bardin.

“Why would we be up on deck in weather like this?” said Joby.

“Just checking”, said Bardin, suspiciously.

“Even Kieran wouldn’t be made enough to go up on deck in this”, said Joby.

“Thanks Joby”, said Kieran “My great-grandmother used to cover up all the mirrors during a thunderstorm”.

“Was this some quaint old Irish custom?” said Joby.

“I’ve no idea why she did it”, said Kieran.

Bardin swept out of the room to prey on someone else.

“Perhaps we should throw a blanket over Bardin during a thunderstorm!” said Joby.

Hoowie was standing at the door of his cabin, butt-naked.

“So here’s this famous thunderstorm everyone’s been getting so excited about”, he said.

Bardin shoved past him. He found Julian standing in the middle of the cabin, also naked, inspecting a tiny hole which had appeared in the ceiling and through which rain water was steadily dribbling.

“I’ll fetch the mop-bucket”, said Bardin “It’s just outside the heads”.

“I expect it’s going to get worse as the night goes on”, said Julian, once the bucket was in place “But there’s not much we can do about it whilst the storm’s going on”.

“Do you want to come and stay in our cabin?” said Bardin.

“No we’d best stay here where we can keep an eye on it”, said Julian.

“We’ll have to keep changing the bucket all night”, Hoowie protested.

“No you won’t”, said Bardin “It’s only a pathetic little drip at the moment, a bit like you really”.

“Hey!” Hoowie shouted as Bardin left the cabin “I’m taller than you ACTUALLY!”

Bardin found Bengo in the galley, making tea.

“I didn’t think anyone’s be able to sleep with all this racket going on”, said Bengo “So I thought I’d make some”.

“Well don’t give any to Hoowie”, said Bardin, hoisting himself onto a stool and tucking his filmy skirts around him “He doesn’t deserve any”.

“What’s he done now?”

“Complaining about a tiny trickle of water coming through their ceiling. Anyone’d think he was being made to sleep up on deck the way he was carrying on about it! AND I offered to let them sleep in our cabin too”.

“That was very generous of you, Bardy”, said Bengo “What’s come over you?”

“I am often very generous”, said Bardin “Just everybody’s usually too damn self-absorbed to notice!”

“Oh you look so sweet sitting there like that”, said Bengo “You look just like you did when we were kids, except with a better face of course”.

“Thanks”, said Bardin.

“Now don’t be like that”, said Bengo “I’ve always loved your little face. It was you who had a massive hang-up about it”.

“Says the man who’s always been cute!” said Bardin “If you’d ever had had to put up with it …”

“I know I know”, said Bengo “But to me it was just part of you, and anyway I’ve never had your perfect, slender figure. Would you like some fruit-cake, and if you say that’s why I haven’t got a slender figure I’ll crumble it over your head!”

“Huh, I’d like to see you explain that to Adam”, said Bardin “Go on, get the cake-tin out. I suppose it’s dried fruit?”

“Well of course it is, Bardin”, said Bengo, impatiently “Where would we get fresh fruit from? Anyway, you often get dried fruit in cakes. The real stuff goes all squishy”.

“It can’t be easy”, said Bardin “Cooking without any fresh fruit and veg”.

“It gets Adam down sometimes”, said Bengo “He’s got this little scrapbook of recipes he’s collected over the years, and there’s a lot of them we can’t do”.

He fetched the book from a shelf and handed it to Bardin.

“Chicken liver pate with red cabbage chutney”, said Bardin, opening the book at random “That does sound nice”.

“Oh there’s tonnes of them”, said Bengo.

“We’ve got to come to some form of civilisation at some point”, said Bardin “We know it’s out there now, we’ve heard the wireless broadcast”.

Joby strolled in with his hands in his dressing-gown pockets.

“Can’t you sleep either, Joby?” said Bengo.

“No”, said Joby “Got woken up by some deranged phantom in a pink nightie wailing about a storm!”

“You were already awake”, said Bardin.

“And after all that paranoia about battering down the hatches the water’s getting in anyway!” said Joby, joining him at the table.

“It wasn’t the water I was trying to keep out there”, said Bardin “But anything else that might be lurking around here”.

“Would you like me to make a cup of tea for Kieran as well, Joby?” said Bengo “Only I don’t wanna run all over the ship with it”.

“Yeah alright, keep your vest on”, said Joby.

“No it’s just I’ll be spending all night making it otherwise”, said Bengo “You now what everybody’s like”.

Umbert rushed into the room, looking rather pink and flustered.

“Hey up”, said Joby “Another member of the dressing-gown club. What is it? Another weather-report on the wireless?”

“No”, said Umbert, excitedly “Lights up on the headland. Somebody seems to be signalling to us”.

“I don’t like the sound of that”, said Bardin, getting to his feet “Could be wreckers”.

He ran across into the dining-room, and climbed up on a chair to look out of the window. The lightning flashes still came violently and in rapid succession, making it difficult to get a coherent, satisfying view of the landscape.

“I can see two lights”, said Bardin “Moving about. Definitely signalling”.

“They might be warning us, Bardy”, said Bengo “It doesn’t always have to be somebody out to get us”.

“Or they might be in trouble and trying to get our help”, said Umbert.

“Look, trust me on this”, said Bardin, pulling his skirts away from his feet so that he could negotiate getting off the chair easily “I have a gut feeling about it”.

“Well I guess there’s nothing we can do about it until the storm passes”, said Umbert, helping him down, as though assisting a diva in an evening-gown down off the stage.

“I still think it’s silly to automatically assume they’re out to do us evil”, said Bengo “I bet Kieran wouldn’t approve”.

“If we listened to him all the time We’d be CONSTANTLY placing ourselves in danger!” said Bardin.

“We owe a lot to him, Bardy”, said Bengo.

“I know that, and I’m grateful”, Bardin snapped “But it doesn’t mean I have to listen to him all the time! He’s there just to be a quiet presence in the background”.

“Not particularly quiet sometimes”, said Joby.

“Is anyone keeping an eye on that pot of water on the stove?” said Bardin.

“Huh”, said Bengo, and he flounced back into the galley.

When Kieran heard about the lights he immediately wanted to get out of bed to investigate. Joby pushed him back in.

“According to Bardin”, he said “You’re here just to be a quiet presence in the background”.

“He said that?” Kieran bellowed “If he had his focking way I’d never be able to speak at all!”

“Well you gotta admit”, said Joby “It gets in the way of him listening to the sound of his own voice all the time!”

Kieran knelt on the bunk to try and see out of the window.

“Can’t see a focking thing”, he complained “The glass is too filthy”.

“Have to send Toppy out there with his chamois to clean it”, said Joby “He probably damn well would as well!”

“It’s no good”, said Kieran “Can’t see anything”.

“Then leave it until tomorrow!” said Joby, pulling him back down under the blankets.

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