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By Sarah Hapgood

"... The clown Bengo continues to make his home with us, and the others, God forbid, like him. Except Finia, who as usual exercises his customary shrewd judgement of character by viewing him with utter contempt. Lonts also has no time for him, but this must be mainly because Bengo is hunky. This to my mind is the idiot's one redeeming feature. I'd always thought before that clowns were rather ugly little men with screwed-up faces, whereas Bengo is handsome with a firm body and good legs. If he didn't have these attributes I'd have put him ashore for the alligators to sup on days ago. Enough Captain's log for one night. I feel rather tired".

"Are you gonna stay in here all day?" said Joby, prodding at Lonts, who still lay curled up in his bunk.

"No one would care if I did", said Lonts, mumbling into his pillow.

"But you said last night you was gonna help me spring-clean the galley. You was all for it. Said it'd be a nice surprise for Adam".

"I'm staying in here for the rest of my life".

"You'll starve then", said Joby "'Cos I'm not gonna bring your meals in to you".

Lonts surfaced from under the blanket like a hamster scurrying out of torn-up newspaper.

"Get Bengo to do it", he said, angrily "You lot all seem to find him so funny".

"He's alright", said Joby, indifferently "I make an effort to get on with him because if we didn't life on this tub would get unbearable".

"There are too many of us here", said Lonts "Two complete strangers who shouldn't be here. This was supposed to be a family trip".

"I agree. I'm fed up with having him sleeping in here in the middle of the floor for a start. We've got even less privacy than we had before".

"Then why did you vote for him to stay?" Lonts cried.

"Because I didn't think he should be put ashore in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night", said Joby "It's dense swampland out there. It wouldn't have been fair on him".

"I suppose not", said Lonts, grudgingly "Promise me you don't love him more than me though".

"I don't love him at all!" Joby exclaimed "I just put up with him".


"I promise", said Joby, in a longsuffering way "I love you as much as I love Kieran and Adam, you should know that by now. You've made me say it often enough!"

"I hope you mean it".

"YES!" Joby cried, in exasperation.

"I'll help you clean the galley then".

"Oh good", said Joby, sarcastically "I hope I'll know how to show my gratitude".

"Come along, Joby", said Lonts briskly, as he began to fumble with the pins of his nappy "Help me with this".

"You're not doing much in the way of helping me", Joby complained, looking up from the scrubbing of the galley table "What are you doing hiding behind the door for?"

"I'm going to chuck this over Bengo when he comes in", said Lonts, indicating the bucket of dirty water which he held in his hand.

"And what if it isn't Bengo who walks in?" said Joby "What if it's Julian for instance? He'd never let us hear the end of it. He'd probably put us on so many extra cleaning duties we wouldn't have time to have any kip!"

"I hadn't thought of that".

"No that's your trouble, you never think anything through".

Lonts reluctantly went back to helping with the kitchen table, but he kept on the alert for anyone who passed the galley door.

"Bengo's just gone past", he hissed "Call him in, Joby".

"Just so's you can chuck filthy water over him? No I won't".

"Bengo!" Lonts called, whilst scowling at Joby.

Bengo walked in, still wearing only the leather jock-strap.

"Yeah?" he said.

"Got a surprise for you", said Lonts, trying to sound innocent, and not capable of fooling anyone.

No one alive could have known more about the art of slapstick than Bengo, and he saw Lonts's intentions with the bucket straight off, and ducked very deftly. Etyn, who had walked in at that moment to complain yet again about his bunk being unmade, caught the whole lot. Apart from a substantial amount that went over the door and wall instead. Etyn was speechless, and he looked down at his ruined brocade waistcoat with an expression of pure grief.

"You've done it now", Joby muttered to Lonts.

"Bengo, you shouldn't have ducked!" Lonts exclaimed.

"Rather him than me!" said Bengo.

"Look at the state of my galley", said Adam, glancing around him, with almost as much anguish as Etyn was showing his waistcoat "You two are supposed to be cleaning it, not messing it up! What the hell's going on here?"

"I was cleaning it", said Joby "It's Charlie Caroli here who decided to re-decorate!"

"I only wanted to chuck dirty water over Bengo", said Lonts, as though this activity should be met with the highest praise not condemnation "But he ruined it when he went and ducked".

"Shut up Lo-Lo!" said Adam "Look at my galley. Look at it!"

"Never mind your galley", said Etyn, having regained the power of speech "Look at my waistcoat!"

"For God's sake has this place turned into a zoo?" said Julian.

"No, a circus", said Joby.

Lonts began to cry noisily.

"Everyone sides with Bengo", he wailed.

"Joby, take that boy into my cabin and get some brandy down him", said Julian "If you don't, we'll have a full-scale tantrum on our hands in no time. Adam, come with me".

"I would've thought that you of all people would understand jealousy", he said, once they were alone in Adam's cabin.

"Lonts is spoilt", said Adam, firmly "He simply doesn't like having someone as good-looking as Bengo around".

"Rubbish", said Julian "He's jealous because he thinks you're after Bengo, it's as simple as that, and you haven't given him much cause to think otherwise. I don't know who leers at him more, you or Hillyard".

"There is no harm in looking".

"Well if that's your attitude, don't be surprised if when you've finished looking, you find you've lost Lonts to me. And when you've lost him once, I'd make damn sure you didn't get him back again".

"You bastard!" Adam raised his hand to strike him, but Julian caught his wrist and held it firmly.

"That's always been your answer to everything, Adam", he said "I'm going to check up on the boy now".

"No you won't. I'll go and see him".

"I think he needs a break from you at the moment, actually".

Julian left him in the cabin and went to his own, where he found Joby sitting with his arm round Lonts, who was drinking brandy as though it was orange juice.

"I said a glass of brandy, not the whole bloody bottle", said Julian.

"He's unhappy", said Joby.

"Yes and I know why", said Julian "I think it's high-time that Bengo creature put some clothes on. He's worn nothing but that leather jock-strap since he arrived. It must be a public health hazard by now. He's about your size, could you lend him something for the time being?"

"Yeah sure", Joby stood up and went to the door "Be easy on the baby, Julian. You know how insecure he is".

"I'm sorry, Julian", Lonts gulped, after Joby had left "Is Adam still cross with me?"

"He has no right to be", said Julian "He needs teaching a lesson in fact. Stay in here for a little while".

"With just you?" Lonts smiled, shyly "I hope we don't get Adam even more angry".

"I can't see him attacking you with a champagne bottle somehow", said Julian "And it might just bring him to heel".

"Look at it! Ruined! Ruined!" Etyn cornered Lonts in the saloon later that day. He was holding up his filthy waistcoat and brandishing it angrily at Lonts, as though the boy had poured tea over the Turin Shroud.

"I'm sorry, Etyn", said Lonts, tearfully "But I wasn't meaning it to fall over you. I was trying to get Bengo".

"I don't care", Etyn slapped Lonts's face, and the boy fell back onto the sofa in a daze. None of the others ever hit him in such a way, and it was a complete shock to the system.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Bengo pulled Etyn away from the boy "You heard him. The water was meant for me, not you. Now leave him alone!"

Etyn tossed the waistcoat at Lonts and left the room.

"Are you alright?" said Bengo, sitting down next to him on the sofa.

"I think so", said Lonts, rubbing his sore cheek gently "He scared me though".

Bengo knew immediately what Lonts was getting at. The boy had messed himself out of sheer terror, and Bengo could smell it.

"I'll take you to Adam", he said "Don't cry now. These things happen".

"I'm so embarrassed", Lonts wept "What must you think of me?"

"Hey now", Bengo cooed "You're talking to a man who had to give up the rights to embarrassment years ago. I've been ritually humiliated more times in public than you've had hot dinners. I can assure you that once you've had your face pushed in a fake cowpat, nothing can embarrass you ever again. Still, at least it was a fake!"

"Why did they do such horrible things to you?" said Lonts, wide-eyed with astonishment.

"It made the public laugh", Bengo shrugged "And that was all that mattered at the end of the day. That's what I was in the business for. It gave me a real kick to think I had the power to do that. To cheer people up. Although sometimes I did get fed up at the thought of the yet another slime tank waiting for me!"

Adam found Bengo on the forward deck later that evening. They were now some way up the Beyond River, literally in the middle of nowhere, with swamp-land on either side of them. The nocturnal darkness was intense, and crickets and toads could be heard raising a din all around.

"Thank you being so kind of Lonts earlier", said Adam "Etyn gave him quite a scare, and yet you calmed Lo-Lo down. I'm sorry if he's given you a hard time of late, but he doesn't trust people easily. I'm afraid he either loves or hates, there's no in-between. But once he does decide to love you he's a perfect delight".

"I'm just beginning to realise that", said Bengo, who was wearing one of Joby's t-shirts and looking quite civilised for once "I thought he was a moody little sod at first, but I don't mind being proved wrong".

"He's wonderful, very kind and loving at heart", said Adam "I'm rather afraid it's my fault he wanted to give you the unorthodox shower. He thought I was after you".

"Anytime", Bengo laughed.

"Better not", Adam smiled "I don't want to lose him to Julian for good. One afternoon's bad enough. At least I don't have to worry about you being offended by some of our ways. Being in showbusiness you must be fairly unshockable".

"It doesn't bother me what people get up to, unless it causes trouble for everyone else, and I've seen that happen a few times".

"So I take it you're settling in with us o.k?" said Adam, leaning on the bulwark "Julian's always lecturing me about being head of personnel, so I thought I'd better ask".

"Everyone's made me welcome", said Bengo "Especially considering I dumped on you a bit. Finia gives me the odd filthy look but that's about it".

"He can be a haughty little madam I'm afraid. I always get the impression he doesn't approve of anyone!"

"Julian's pretty haughty too".

"Oh he mellows the longer you know him", said Adam "You said when you arrived that you wanted to be with Kieran".

"I've been interested in him for years", said Bengo "And I've read about all your adventures, and I suppose I wanted to be a part of it. To say I'd travelled with him. I get all tongue-tied and full of stage fright when he's around though. He's very nice to me, but I can't help feeling he's one of those people you never get to know properly. Have you found that?"

"I know what makes him tick", said Adam "Compared to a lot of us he's very straightforward, but there's a part of him that he keeps back for himself. Like a room inside him which the rest of us can't follow him into. I know Joby finds that aspect of him difficult to deal with sometimes".

"You must worry about him constantly".

"Ever since we crossed over I don't think I've stopped worrying about him", said Adam "There's one horrible feeling I can't shake off and it's getting worse. He's an icon, we had plenty in our time too, and they usually all have one thing in common, they don't live long. They usually end up meeting some violent death, often at around the age he is now. It terrifies me. Julian would laugh at me for saying all this, but in my eyes it's a very real fear, and one I can't shake off".

"Patsy, what are you doing?" Adam walked into the galley a short while later to find Kieran frying bread.

"Not objecting are you?"

"Not if you're eating, no".

"I thought I'd make us a little late-night snack", said Kieran "Call Joby in if you like. He can join us".

"Sure, but what's this in aid of?"

"I couldn't help but overhear you earlier", said Kieran, fishing bits of bread out of the pan "Talking about icons dying young".

"Oh yes", Adam blushed.

"So I'm making peanut butter and banana toasted sandwiches", said Kieran "It was the last thing Elvis Presley ate before he died".

"You have a black sense of humour, Patsy", Adam couldn't help but laugh.

"Eat up!" said Kieran, brightly.

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