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The first public performance of "Love In The Laundry" took place at Dolores' house at 8 o'clock that evening. It was performed in her hallway and passed off very smoothly, and to most of the Indigo-ites' utter astonishment was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. Truth to tell, they had little concept of just how starved for entertainment these people were. Since Lady Red's departure things had been dolefully quiet in No-Name, and Dolores had been entirely accurate when she said that the evenings hung heavy here. Even a simple little slapstick sketch made a very welcome diversion.
"If we can find a few more settlements like this up-river", said Adam "The Indigo Players might have a future".
"And if we turn in a duff performance we'll be eaten by cannibals I expect", said Julian.
The audience, comprising of Dolores' family and her household staff, got incredibly involved with the little comedy, and followed every movement with unnerving rapture. Even more worrying was the crush that Simeon developed on Tamaz during the course of it. When Bardin had blithely predicted that everyone would fall in love with Tamaz, he hadn't expected it to happen quite so soon! Simeon had been awed by this astonishing creature the previous night, but after seeing Tamaz have his petticoat torn off him he fell hopelessly in love, and had got dangerously agitated when Joby gave Tamaz the mock-spanking.
"I thought he was gonna run over and tear me head off!" said Joby, talking to Adam and Julian afterwards, as pre-supper cocktails were served in the hall. A thunderstorm was slowly brewing outside and lightning flashes could be seen through the gates.
"I suppose out in the wilds like this we'll just have to get used to it", Adam sighed "Particularly if we come across any settlements that are still men-only. I dread to think of the trouble we'll have then".
"I can promise you that if we end up in a place like that", said Julian "'Love In The Laundry' will not get performed, and Tamaz will only appear on stage if he wears a baggy polo-neck sweater and trousers!"
"Oh Jules, he'll boil", Adam laughed.
"Rather that than we have to keep worrying about him losing his virtue", said Julian.
"You remind me of that wonderful line in 'Some Like It Hot'", said Adam "When the band-leader says every one of my girls is a virtuoso, and I intend it to stay that way!"
"Nobody's perfect", said Julian, with great aplomb.
Tamaz suddenly gave a yodel of anger and could be seen beating Simeon around the head. The hapless Simeon had been unable to resist the lure of the velcro and had torn off Tamaz's petticoat for himself. Tamaz was not amused by this.
"Alright, calm down", said Joby, dragging Tamaz away by his elbow, and clutching the skirt in his other hand.
"He gives me the creeps", Tamaz shrieked.
"He's harmless", said Joby "He's just a bit clumsy that's all. But he's no worse than Lonts".
"I don't think that was very kind, Joby", said Lonts, who had been standing at the gates with Toppy, watching the storm.
"Joby didn't mean anything by that", said Adam.
"It wasn't my fault I lost my clothes this time", said Tamaz, jabbing his finger at Julian.
"Stand still", said Joby, who was trying to re-fasten the skirt.
"As from tomorrow I'm going completely into boy mode", said Tamaz "No more women's clothes for a start".
"You're going to wear underpants instead of your lacey drawers are you?" said Julian.
"Underwear doesn't count", said Tamaz "But I'm not playing the girl on stage anymore. It's not fun being slapped and stripped".
"Tamaz, you can't mean that", said Bardin, in dismay "You have to be the girl. You're the one with the real tits!"
"Tamaz dosen't mean it", Joby sighed "If he saw anyone else playing his part he'd have a right spasm!"
"'Love In The Laundry' isn't the only show we'll do", said Bardin "I've got all sorts of ideas. You'll be doing no end of different things on stage".
"And all at some point will involve you losing your clothes", Julian snorted with laughter.
"Jules!" said Adam "You're not helping!"
"But it's true", Julian protested "Bardin can't in all honesty tell me he has any intention of letting Freaky stay full-dressed in any production, because I won't believe it for a moment!"
"Well ...", said Tamaz, graciously "If the punters want to see my body so badly then I don't really have a problem with that".
"That is very magnanimous of you, Tamaz", said Adam, with as straight a face as he could muster.
Dolores clapped her hands like a W.I leader calling meeting to order, and announced that supper was now being served in the dining-room.
"Tomorrow we'll do another performance of 'Love In The Laundry' outside for the villagers", said Bardin, as they prepared to file in "And I'll also start thinking of ideas for another sketch too".
"Can I be in this one?" said Lonts.
"Of course", said Bardin "I've no intention of letting your looks go to waste".
"Can I have my clothes torn off me as well?" said Lonts.
"As long as I don't have to do the tearing I don't care", said Joby.
Adam noticed Bengo skulking at the back of them, looking distinctly mutinous.
"Bardin thinks he's running this revue", he snapped.
"Now don't be silly", said Adam, firmly taking him by the hand "He just has such good ideas that's all, but he's not in overall charge".
"No, I am", said Julian, firmly "And any of you forget that at your peril!"
"You don't seem in any great rush to go and claim your estate", said Dolores, sitting over balloons of brandy with Hillyard in her study an hour later.
"Mainly because we can't take the Indigo there", said Hillyard "And we don't really like leaving her behind".
"But why can't you take her there?" said Dolores.
"Because the river doesn't go up there".
"But it does".
"Eh?" said Hillyard "Well I know there's a mountain river runs through the estate but ..."
"It's a bit of a tortuous roundabout route I know, but there is a way you can take her there", said Dolores, rooting about in her map-drawer "There's a tributary comes off this river a couple of days journey further up. It eventually joins up with the one on Woll's estate. As I said it's a much more long-winded route than going overland, but it means you'll be able to take the Indigo there".
Hillyard went to the door of the study and yelled out at the throng gathered in the other room.
"Julian! Come here!"
Julian looked annoyed at being summoned thus, but nevertheless he went over to him. He was delighted to be told the good news.
"That's absolutely perfect for us", he said.
"It'll take a while I'm afraid", said Dolores "But you don't seem in any great hurry, and I suspect there are some more settlements you can entertain along the way".
"We'll probably end up fleeing to Woll's for our own safety in that case!" said Julian.
"You don't know what this means to us, Dolores", said Hillyard "It's the answer to our prayers".
"Are you going to keep this up for the entire trip?" said Bardin, talking into the darkness.
"I don't know what you mean", said Bengo, lying next to him on the saloon floor.
"Don't be childish, you know damn well what I mean", said Bardin "You're not doing yourself any favours you know. You're supposed to be the amiable one, and yet you've done nothing but carp and snipe for days. Everyone's remarked on it. I don't know why you have to be so unhappy".
"Because I left the Little Theatre to get more creative freedom", Bengo shrieked, pulling himself up onto his elbow "And now I find I've got less than I had under Hawkefish!"
"That's absurd", said Bardin.
"No it's not!" Bengo exclaimed "I'm like a fucking performing seal working with you. I don't know why you don't just wind me up like a clockwork toy!"
"You don't have to do anything you don't want to do", Bardin hissed "Perhaps if you stopped jumping down my throat everytime I suggested anything I might consult you more!"
The door flew open and Julian stood there in all his naked glory.
"Save your matrimonial quarrels for daylight hours", he yelled, ensuring that everyone was woken up by now "Some of us are trying to sleep".
"I never wanted to sleep in here in the first place", said Bengo.
"Shut up, or I'll take the strap to you!" Julian snapped. He turned to leave and bumped into Adam "Get back into bed, Ada. They don't need your advice".
"Well I don't know why they can't make love, instead of keep squabbling all the time", said Adam, as Julian shut the door "It would make life so much easier for the rest of us".
Bardin stared at the shut door in disbelief, his little brown eyes like startled pebbles. Suddenly he flopped down and rolled onto his side, facing away from Bengo.
"Bardy", Bengo whispered.
"Go to sleep", Bengo muttered.
"The trouble is, the daft old bat has a point", said Julian, sitting in his china hip-bath the following morning "If those two were to become lovers it would make life a lot easier. But then again, I don't expect you'd approve of that".
"I feel about Bengo the way I feel about everyone", said Hillyard, soaping Julian's back "I just want him to be happy, and he's not at the moment. But he and Bardin have got to sort this out between them. I hope they do it sooner rather than later though. Poor little Bengo, he feels everything so much, but he's not a bad kid".
"I know that", said Julian "Do you know anything about Bardin's sexual habits? I got the impression of most of his energy goes into his work".
"I think it does", said Hillyard "From what Bengo's told me in the past, Bardin just had a quick grope of a chorus-girl when the pressure got too much, but otherwise he's not too fussed about sex really".
"Hm, that means he's straight", said Julian.
"I thought you'd know better at your age than to pigeon-hole people so simply", said Hillyard, holding up a towel for him.
"True", said Julian, standing up "And holed up on this boat in the middle of nowhere, anything could happen. Bengo needs a strong partner. If I was 40 years younger I'd take him on properly, but I feel such a disgusting old roue when I get close to him these days. God knows, YOU'RE too young for me, let alone him!"
"You and me were made for each other", said Hillyard, towelling him dry, vigorously.
"If we could get Bengo sorted out, everyting would be hunky-dory", said Julian "But then again, if they don't come to some arrangement on this trip, they never will!"
They did another performance of "Love In The Laundry" for the villagers that afternoon, "screening" it in the middle of the main street. Dolores' brothers came out to watch it again, and both were a confounded nuisance. Thierry also got carried away, and insisted on shouting out instructions to them from the front of the crowd.
"I used to come across you when we had a t.v set", Joby shouted at him "Called interference!"
In spite of Thierry's best efforts the good people of No-Name enjoyed the show, and paid them with gifts of fruit and biscuits. The undoubted star had been Tamaz, and only the most thorny-hearted of people could have denied that he'd proven himself to be a real trouper, even if he had had to be coaxed back into the show only with bribes of new jewels and furs when they got back to cvilisation.
"If he hadn't come out we'd have had problems", said Joby, swigging from a water-gourd that Kieran had handed him "We'd have had to put you in a petticoat instead, and stuffed a couple of oranges down your cleavage!"
"Anytime", said Kieran "Although I can't see the punters getting too excited at the sight of my legs somehow!"
Tamaz walked over and held out the skirt of his petticoat to Joby. He then stood there imperiously whilst Joby fastened it round him.
"We were just saying, Tamaz", said Kieran "What a little star you've turned out to be. After every performance now I find meself getting infatuated with you all over again. I just want to take you back to the Indigo and make love to you".
"He only does what's in the script", said Toppy, who was holding a basket of figs donated by one of the villagers.
"That look he gives Joby at the end isn't scripted", said Kieran "It couldn't be!"
"I expect you could do that bit brilliantly too", Joby smiled, fondly.
"Let's all three go home", Tamaz purred.
A disgruntled Toppy watched them walk away.
"Put the figs in the bath-tub, Toppy", Lonts ordered "And we'll carry it back to the Indigo".
"O.K", Toppy sighed.
"What's the matter?" said Lonts, bluntly "Didn't you like the show?"
"Yes I did, it's just ... don't you ever get scared of Tamaz?"
"Oh Toppy, you mustn't worry like that", said Lonts "Tamaz wouldn't hurt any of us. Kieran says if Tamaz wanted to do that, he'd have had plenty of chances these past couple of years, but he hasn't".
"I don't mean like that", Toppy mumbled "I mean, when you get close to him, you know ... He has a hold on you now".
"I don't care", Lonts shrugged "I like that kind of hold".
They carried the bath-tub back to the Indigo, and Bengo and Bardin followed on behind with the water-butt, having first emptied its soapy contents onto the side of the road.
"I lose track of who's made love to who on the Indigo sometimes", said Bardin.
"You get used to it", said Bengo, quietly.
He never normally felt uncertain around Bardin, but he had done today. They hadn't bickered once, not even during those tense few minutes before the performance started, which was something of a miracle. If anything they both seemed to be going out of their way to be as polite to the other as possible, like a married couple who had declared an armed truce.
"Y-you don't feel like an outsider I hope?" said Bengo.
"No, I've been made to feel very welcome", said Bardin, still with that hint of polite reserve in his voice.
"Good", said Bengo, and they walked the rest of the way to the Indigo in silence.
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