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By Sarah Hapgood


“I remember seeing you guys on TV many years ago”, said Limal, having coffee with Bengo in his hut “A repeat of an old show”.

“Oh we did a tiny bit of that when we were kids”, said Bengo “But we never really liked it. It always felt too restricting after the stage”.

“Yeah, your partner Bardin said that too”, said Limal “He seemed to not like TV performers very much”.

“Oh take no notice of him”, said Bengo “Bardy always gets superior about everybody. But he has a bit of a point. TV performers never seemed as disciplined as stage ones”.

“I suppose you have to be disciplined when the curtain goes up at a set time, no matter what”, said Limal.

“Well yes”, said Bengo “Although I’m sure he’ll tell you the time I got all panicky one evening and went and hid up in the flies. Everyone gets to hear that sooner or later”.

“I can imagine you as a clown, doing your tumbling about on stage. Hard to imagine him sometimes”.

“Oh Bardy’s a great performer. He can sing and dance too. But he’s also great at the tumbling about. And he can keep a deadpan expression much better than I can, and that can be very funny”.

“This life must seem strange after all that”, said Limal, staring out at the sun-dappled lake.

“Not really, we’ve been living this way for so long now”, said Bengo “The stage was another life”.

“So what would you call yourself now?”

“Well ….” Bengo pondered for a moment “A disciple of Kieran. Bardin’s partner. Adam’s galley slave”.

He gave a little laugh, which Limal found infectious. Limal could often appear reserved and stony-faced, born out of necessity from having to live a solitary existence for so long, existing on his wits. But he unwound with Bengo, whose air of cheerful innocence was therapeutic and relaxing.

“It’s nice to chat to you alone”, said Limal “Sometimes you guys get lost in the crowd of each other”.

“Bound to”, said Bengo “There are about two dozen of us”.

“But hang it, how do you keep so cheerful after everything you’ve seen?” said Limal “It doesn’t seem to prey on you none”.

“I’m sure the other clowns would say it’s because I’m thick”, said Bengo “Perhaps it is. I don’t over-analyse things the way some of the others do. I’m an entertainer. Just point me at it and tell what I need to do. I get very sad sometimes, and I worry for Bardy. He over-thinks things at times, and then he gets down”.

“Why did he want to know all that?” Bardin barked, back on the ship.

“He’s lonely, Bardin, he wants someone to talk to”, said Bengo “Just because he’s interested in us doesn’t mean he has some sinister motive”.

“Huh”, said Bardin.

“What kind of a world is this if we’ve got to distrust everyone all the time?”

“You know exactly what kind of a world this is! Or you should by now!”

“That attitude isn’t exactly putting Love back into it is it”, said Bengo “That’s not what Kieran’s all about!”

“I know, but you still have to exercise caution”, said Bardin.

“Oh bollocks”, said Bengo.

Kieran may not have been a perfect illustration of Love at this moment. He had loaded the sofa in his cabin with guys he had retrieved from the hold. Joby was furious when he saw it.

“What the fuck are you up to now?” he demanded to know.

“I’m just assessing our weaponry situation”, said Kieran.

“That’s Ransey’s job, not yours”, said Joby.

“Joby, we’ve got to be well-prepared for our next move. I can’t afford to leave anything to chance”.

“I’m starting to understand how Matthew feels about you. There he was, expecting some vision of peace and harmony, and here you are, stockpiling fucking weaponry!”

“Ach c’mon you know it has to be this way, we have no choice”, said Kieran “We have to keep pursuing them until we’ve eradicated the lot”.

“Alright, alright”, said Joby “But there’s still no reason to keep all that in here. Return it all to the hold, or I’ll chuck you out on your scrawny little arse. I don’t want a heap of guns in my bedroom!” “You’re very excitable today, Joby”.

Joby looked as if he was about to throttle him.

“Ok OK”, Kieran held up his hands in surrender “I’ll collect them all up”.

“I want them all gone from here by the time I return”, said Joby “You’re completely bonkers. As usual”.

“Don’t distress yourself, old love”, said Adam, when Joby returned to the galley “Patsy does get a little carried away at times. Though Ransey won’t be at ll pleased with him getting the guns out. He does get so very sensitive about that sort of thing”.

“I don’t need reminding that we’re gonna have to go and sort out that lot up the lake at some point”, said Joby.

“Let’s not meet trouble halfway”, said Adam.

“I just wish to fuck it would all end”, said Joby “Not everything, I mean just the miseries”.

“Well unfortunately they won’t end until we end it for them”, said Bardin, from the doorway.

“Oh blimey, have you been talking to Kieran?” said Joby “And can’t a man let off a bit of steam around here without some self-righteous sod correcting him all the time!”

He pushed past Bardin and stamped off down the corridor.

“What have I said now?” Bardin exclaimed.

“He’ll be alright”, said Adam “I’ll go and fetch him back in a moment. He got a bit tense because Patsy took some of the guns into their cabin”.

“And you were being a bit pious, Bardin”, said Bengo, who had overheard most of it from the corridor.

“Pious?” said Bardin “When have I ever been pious?”

“Joby knows what we have to do”, said Bengo “He doesn’t need you ramming it down his throat”.

“Should I go and explain myself to him?” said Bardin.

“NO!!” shouted Bengo and Adam, simultaneously.

Joby went up on deck, and sat slumped in gloom on a pile of hemp rope.

“Come on, old chap”, said Julian, going over to him “Don’t go flaky on me”.

“I feel like I’m locked in a cage at the moment”, said Joby “And I can’t see any way out. We’re gonna be stuck on this treadmill forever”.

“No it will get sorted”, said Julian “It just won’t be very pleasant that’s all. We’ve almost got to bury our principles whilst it’s going on. Forget any idea of a gentlemanly code of conduct. They don’t have one, and we have no choice - if we’re going to sort this out - than to fight on their level. It’s extreme psychopaths we’re dealing with here”.

“Kieran’s gearing up for that already”, said Joby, glumly.

“He’s more tough and worldly than he likes to let on”, said Julian.

A shout went up from the shore, and Matthew came running out of the trees. He looked like a man deranged. His eyes were popping out of his head with horror.

“Oh Christ”, said Joby “I don’t like the look of this at all. I think we’ve just heard the starting-pistol”.

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