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When Tamaz had woken up from his recuperative nap, he went out to the stables where the clowns and Topy were surveying the newly-finished deep canoe that Bardin had built. Bengo and Toppy were lying feet-to-feet in it to demonstrate the sleeping space capacity.
"We'll kip in the bottom of it at night", said Bardin.
"What, all 4 of us?" said Tamaz, dubiously.
"Bags of room", said Bardin "Look, I'll show you".
He picked Tamaz up and laid him in next to Toppy. He then climbed in himself and sat next to Bengo.
"Not exactly loads of elbow-room", Tamaz grumbled.
"Well you'll just have to leave your ball-gowns behind then won't you?!" said Bardin.
The "BBTT's" as the new boat was named, was ready for its maiden-voyage. It was agreed to take it down one of the numerous hair-line estuaries that ran off the river to the south. They would journey for a couple of days, taking in an overnight stop. This wouldn't sound any big deal to most people, but to the Indigo-ites, who these days rarely went anywhere without each other, it was quite something. "Like tearing bits out of our flesh", said Adam, rather too dramatically for Julian's liking.
They took plenty of brandy and water with them, plus potatoes, which were the staple diet of the Indigo-ites when travelling. Bengo and Bardin knelt in the boat and paddled it as a canoe should be paddled, with Tamaz and Toppy sitting in the middle. They journeyed down through the hot wastelands to the south of Toondor Lanpin, and for their overnight stop they moored at the site of 3 dilapidated old windmills, which hadn't seen active service for many years.
This was an arid, desolate area which got bitterly cold at night, and the 4 of them slept in the bottom of the boat wrapped in overcoats, blankets and Tamaz's fur cape. At daybreak the clowns ran around the windmills to generate some body-heat, and then wrestled each other. Meanwhile Toppy made a fire, and Tamaz stood by to put the kettle over it.
Since their romantic clinch in the tent at Krindei, Toppy had found himself getting more excited than ever by the close proximity of Tamaz. Adam had long since worried that Toppy might have subtle masochistic tendancies, not the same as the robust masochism he himself enjoyed at Julian's hands, but something potentially darker and more soul-destroying. It took his de-flowering to really bring it out. Tamaz still barely tolerated Toppy, and never tried to disguise the fact, something which Toppy relished. He wanted a goddess-figure who would treat him contemptuously, which was why nice, warm-hearted Lilli had never really got him going. Joby jokingly called it The Curse Of Tamaz. "No sane, well-balanced woman gets a look in next to him!" he said "We're all weird!"
Julian had always maintained that Toppy had a "waiter's mentality", and this was true. He could be both snobbish and servile. To any ordinary well-meaning woman, he would have had the potential to be a bully, someone who would only be too quick with the sarcastic put-downs and contemptuous sneers. That he would never, in a million years, get away with such behaviour towards Tamaz increased his awe of him even more. Tamaz even went one better than Lonts, with his fierce "Shut up, Toppy!" remarks. In that Tamaz usually treated him with withering indifference. Since their love-making, Toppy relished all this. In return Tamaz, who was used to very vigorous sexual partners like Mieps, Joby and Lonts, simply dismissed him as a wimp not worthy of his time, although he would let him climb on occasionally "Just to give the poor little sap a thrill!"
Toppy had spent the night lying next to Tamaz in the canoe, and had savoured every moment of being granted such a favoured position next to his goddess. Now he could only watch admiringly as Tamaz slammed the kettle onto the fire. In the cold early-morning light Tamaz had never looked more beautiful, in Toppy's opinion. This was in spite of the fact that Tamaz was wearing his oilskin jacket open over his serviceable winter bloomers. Actually this item of underclothing, for all its coarse enduring material and super-abundance of elastic, could look very erotic. They were certainly have that effect on Toppy anyway.
Their little domestic reverie was interrupted by Bengo coming over and attempting to wrestle Tamaz, who put up a creditable resistance and didn't allow himself to be felled to the ground.
"This kid's good, I couldn't get him down", said Bengo to Bardin, who was attempting some rather good ballet movements, including walking on his toes, which was no little accomplishment.
"You should've been a dancer", said Tamaz.
"With my face?!" said Bardin.
"What's your face got to do with it?" said Tamaz "I thought people only looked at a dancer's legs!"
"That's what I tried telling him years ago, but he wouldn't have it!" said Bengo "No one else goes on about his face as much as he does. He's paranoid about it".
"Did you sleep well?" Bardin asked Tamaz, anxious to change the subject "Our boy over there didn't keep you awake with his sexual demands did he?!"
"He has to wait until I invite him", said Tamaz, grandly.
"Oho!" Bardin laughed "I bet Mieps doesn't let you get away with that attitude. He keeps you on a very short leash".
"He's a Ghoomer", said Tamaz, dismissively "He's only just learning civilised ways. When we first got together he thought kissing was some pathetic, feeble human thing. Now I've shown him how good it can be, he can't get enough of it. In fact, he likes to kiss me all over".
The clowns both squirmed with pleasure at the thought of Tamaz being kissed all over.
"Ahem", said Bardin, clearing his throat "Toppy, are you getting on with the breakfast?"
"What does it look like?" said Toppy, who was in the middle of making up the mixture for the buckwheat pancakes.
"Alright, I was only asking", said Bardin "Watch your mouth!"
"Who the hell are you to talk to me like that?" said Toppy "You're nothing but a two-bit clown with a twisted lip!"
Bengo furiously struck Toppy round the face, causing Toppy to drop the frying-pan.
"Oh terrific", said Tamaz "That's the breakfast gone up the spout!"
Bardin stormed round to the side of one of the windmills and stood with his back to it, gazing out at the endless treeless waste.
"Bardy", said Bengo, appearing at his side "Take no notice of him. Toppy's always been difficult to get on with. He used to get up my nose all the time when we lived on the waterfront".
"You shouldn't have hit him", Bardin mumbled.
"Bullshit!" said Bengo "I'm not having that little squirt talking to you like that!"
Bardin smiled at him and was about to say something when Toppy came round the side of the windmill.
"What now?" Bardin sighed.
"I wanted to apologise", said Toppy, stiffly "I shouldn't have said what I did".
He held out his hand in a very formal gesture of reconciliation. A lesser person would have laughed at such grave overtures, but fortunately Bardin accepted it in the spirit of which it was intended, and shook hands with him.
"Hey! Dickheads!" Tamaz yelled, crossly "Just because I'm half-female doesn't mean I get lumbered with all the domestic chores! One of you come and cook the breakfast!"
They breakfasted off fried eggs, washed up and then repacked everything into the canoe.
"Not a bad vessel", said Tamaz, pulling on his trousers "'Cept you could have made it wider. It's a bit narrow".
"Oh I don't know", said Bengo "That makes it nice and cosy at night!"
"Perfect for 4", said Bardin, suggestively.
They paddled back down the river and stopped in the middle of nowhere for lunch. The windmills were now on the distant horizon behind them, looking like abandoned toys. The sun, by this time at its noonday strongest, was extremely fierce. Tamaz changed into a pair of beribboned lace drawers and a skimpy camisole, which had Bardin looking feverish and flustered.
"Can't you put something else on?" he said "What if someone else sees you?"
"Who's going to see me out here?" said Tamaz, incredulously "There isn't another living thing for miles, not a bird, not an animal, not even any plant-life!"
"Anyway, I think it looks quite respectable", said Bengo "You see women and girls on the waterfront wearing much skimpier stuff than that in the hot weather".
Just to annoy Bardin, Tamaz pulled off his camisole and twirled it around.
"Put it back on!" Bardin thundered.
"He's just doing it to wind you up", said Bengo, even though Tamaz obligingly put it back on.
"I think Joby deserves a medal", said Bardin "I bet you wouldn't behave like this if he was here, Freaks!"
"Joby is my slave", said Tamaz.
"He'd beat you like a carpet if he was here", said Bardin.
Tamaz came and sat on his lap and started to caress his face with his long tongue.
"You desire me", said Tamaz, huskily.
"Of course I do", said Bardin "Be thankful I'm not a gentleman, if I was I'd roll you over and wallop you!"
"Oh good, does that mean you're not a gentleman but a naughty boy instead?" said Tamaz.
"Bardin is no gentleman!" Bengo laughed "He used to talk to the girls at the Little Theatre as though they were a cavalry regiment!"
"They deserved it", said Bardin "Lazy little bitches".
"Kiss me all over", said Tamaz "I might not have long to live".
"Don't say that", said Bardin, kissing his hair "Life would be very dull without you".
Bengo picked up one of Tamaz's dusty bare feet and kissed it lovingly. Toppy, uncontrollably excited by the whole scene, giggled wildly. He grabbed one of Tamaz's arms and kissed it in a fashion worthy of Gomez Addams!
Ask any woman what her favourite sexual fantasy is, and those who have the honesty to reply, will say that it is to be serviced by 2 men at the same time. Tamaz's female side was about to be well-satisfied. It was going to get 3 men at once! Bardin picked him up and carried him around tenderly, whilst barking instructions at the other two.
"Bengo, use your coats to set up a sunshade", he said, in his divinely romantic and practical way "Then we won't get sunburn whilst we're at it. We'll be able to take our time".
"As Lonts would say if he was here", said Bengo "We're all going to screw Tamaz!"
Tamaz gave one of his tee-hee-hee giggles in reply.
Toppy knew that he was going to be the last tom-cat in the queue, but as this rather appealed to his masochistic tendancies, it didn't bother him overly much. Just to be allowed close to the goddess was enough. He helped Bengo to erect a makeshift sunscreen, and then went to the canoe to fetch the brandy. He was just returning to them when he glanced towards the horizon they had recently left, and gave a terrified scream, dropping the brandy bottle with a dull thud on the ground.
"What's the matter?" said Bengo.
Everyone looked to the horizon. Standing next to the windmills in the far distance, barely distinguishable from them, was an abnormally tall figure, all in shadow, but its thick arms and legs clearly defined against the harsh blue sky. Bardin got the binoculars out of the canoe, but even with the aid of these, he couldn't tell what on earth the figure was.
"No human's that tall", Bengo gasped "It's as big as the fucking windmills! Bardy, what the hell is it?"
"Let's try and figure that out in a place of greater safety", said Bardin, remembering Julian's maxim that to get everyone home safely was a Captain's first priority "We'll discuss it then!"
The clowns paddled the boat back up the river towards Toondor Lanpin, after having hurriedly packed everything away again in a panic-stricken dream-like state. All through the homeward journey, Tamaz and Toppy sat facing towards the distant windmills, to keep an eye on the figure. They thought it occasionally moved, even at one point seeming to step towards them. Most disturbing of all was the thought that it was watching them from the very area where they had spent the night and had breakfast. After a while the scorching sun turned that area into an abstract picture barely discernable, and the figure, so large and so (mercifully) still, became indistinguishable from the windmills.
Toondor Lanpin, when they returned to it, felt more like a sanctuary than ever. If that terrifyingly large and anonymous figure should come here, they would all still be in grave danger, but it always feels safer to face any peril on home-ground, rather than somewhere remote, bleak and alien.
They moored on the south side of the river, which wasn't somewhere the Indigo-ites normally liked going, as it reminded them too much of the grim Cockroach Mansions winter, but the BBTT's were so relieved to be back in town that they moored outside the nearest bar they could find. This was literally a hole in the wall place which, possessing nothing so luxurious as a tap-room, dispensed drinks through the window. The 4 of them trod gingerly through the mudflats on the side, bought 4 whiskies and then sat in a row on a wooden bench by the window. For a while they didn't say anything, but just drank and dangled their mud-caked bare feet in front of them.
"Anyone had any bright ideas what it was?" said Bardin, eventually "Tamaz, is there anything in Ghoomer folklore which accounts for it?"
"Don't ask me!" said Tamaz "I'm as in the dark as you are!"
"It was frightening wasn't it?" said Toppy.
"I feel sick actually", said Tamaz.
When they had finished their whisky, Toppy got up and offered to get in another round. He stood in front of Bardin inquiringly.
"What?" said Bardin.
"You're the treasurer", said Toppy "I need some money".
Bardin ferreted in the leather pouch he round his neck under his singlet.
They drank the second round ever faster than they had drank the first, and then went for a walk around the neglected streets of the neglected side of town. Tamaz and Toppy walked in front of the clowns holding hands, but more like young children who had been told to look after each other, than lovers. They had a fit of the giggles over the display outside a rundown dental establishment, which showed various pairs of dentures ready to be fitted. Bengo shuddered and said they looked as though they'd been torn from the mouths of dead people.
Next door was a cafe. In the window two old men were playing backgammon and drinking ferociously-strong black coffee. They both stopped to stare at Tamaz, who had put on a shirt to protect his arms and shoulders against the afternoon sun, but who was still provocatively dressed, at least as far as old men were concerned anyway! Even more disturbing were his giaconda eyes, which transfixed them like reptilian headlamps.
"Stop it!" Bardin hissed "God knows how I'm going to explain to Julian how I let you wander around the seediest part of town in your underwear!"
Tamaz giggled all the way back to the canoe, which they were relieved to find had not had any of their belongings stolen from it. Not that there was much to steal, apart from perhaps the remains of the brandy wrapped in Tamaz's fur cape.
"And Tamaz's bloomers of course!" said Bardin.
"Next time we should use them as a sail!" said Bengo.
The others laughed, and Bardin was gratified that, in spite of everything, they were still considering a next time!
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