Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

"Dirty old bastard, he's supposed to adore only me", said Tamaz, sitting at the breakfast-table the following morning.

"What was he like, Hillyard?" said Joby, looking round furtively to make sure Mieps hadn't walked into the dining-room.

"I've told you what he's like", said Tamaz "He goes at it like a bull at a gate".

"He weren't like that with me", said Hillyard "In fact he surprised me by how soft and feminine he was".

"Aren't you jealous, Julian?" asked Finia, in a low voice.

"Hillyard will have anything that's got a pulse!" said Julian "Anyway, I was the one who was foolish enough to suggest he slept in Mieps's room. I should have known it would be too much to ask for him to keep his sweaty paws to himself a second time".

"This marmalade is cheap and nasty", said Ransey, picking up the jar and holding it up to the light "Surely these days we can afford better quality than this?"

"You said we had to economise on food!" said Hillyard.

"I said no such thing", said Ransey.

"Adam, are you coming in to breakfast or not?" Lonts shouted.

In the hall Adam had lifted up his dressing-gown, and was inspecting his arse in the full-length mirror there.

"I'll be in in a moment", Adam shouted back.

Mieps came down the stairs, wearing his exotic yellow silk pyjamas. He gave Adam a bemused look and passed into the dining-room, where everyone turned to look at him with unbridled curiosity.

"The oldest trollop in town", Tamaz sneered.

Mieps cuffed his ears in a cursory fashion and then sat down next to him.

"Mieps looking sated in his yellow silk pyjamas!" said Julian "That would make a good title for a portrait, Ada. You should seriously consider it".

"I could paint Mieps any amount of times", said Adam, lifting Mieps's chin up so that he could stare at his face "His expression is always so inscrutable, and his eyes seem to change colour each time I see him".

Tamaz looked venomous and shovelled down his breakfast aggressively.

To make them pay amends for having woken him up the night before, Julian ordered Kieran and the others to work in the garden all day, cutting down weeds with scythes, repairing glass in the greenhouse, and cleaning out the stables. Early evening Finia dragged out a crate of bottled beer for them.

"You shouldn't be carrying that", said Hillyard "A little thing like you".

"As Kieran would say, I'm tougher than I look", said Finia, fishing in the pocket of his dress for the bottle-opener "Julian says you can knock off now if you wish".

"Oh that's big-hearted of him!" said Joby "Seeing as it'll be dark soon! I dunno why we're doing what he says anyway. It's not as if he can fine us or turn us out into the street. What can he do if we all mutiny?"

"Tie us up and thrash us probably, knowing Julian", said Kieran.

"I'd like to see him try", said Joby.

"Don't say things like that in his hearing", said Finia "He'll take it as a challenge!"

"You look very nice", said Hillyard "Have we seen that frock before?"

"No it's new", said Finia.

"It's nice to see feminine clothes around here", said Hillyard.

Tamaz, who had been stomping sulkily along the edge of the lawn with his hands thrust into his trouser-pockets, took offence at this remark.

"Ah the peasents return from the fields!" said Julian, who was sitting just inside the French windows, smoking a cigar.

"All Indigo-ites are born equal", said Joby "But some are more equal than others. You must be Napoleon the pig!"

"Don't worry", said Hillyard "If he gets too big for his britches we'll get Adam to sort him out".

"Adam will do no such thing", said Julian "I am keeping him so well-satisfied at the moment that he won't have the inclination. You all reek of sweat, I'd go and have a bath if I were you".

"Thanks", said Joby, glumly.

Tamaz caught his own reflection in the hall-mirror as he passed and gave a yelp of dismay.

"My hair's all sticking up with sweat!" he cried.

"You'll be alright after a bath", said Joby.

The gramophone started up in the living-room, and Lonts began to career around it for all he was worth.

"How have you got the energy?" said Joby.

"I'm celebrating the end of the working day", said Lonts "We always did this in Kiskev".

"No wonder you all went raving mad!" said Joby.

Adam spirited Lonts upstairs with an offer to scrub his back. Lonts then sat in the bath, urging Adam to scrub harder and harder, as he liked the feel of the bristles on his skin.

After bathing, Tamaz wrapped himself in a towel and went into Mieps's room. He opened the closets and the drawers without looking for anything in particular. On the bedside table lay one of Joby's blood-and-thunder paperbacks, which Mieps had borrowed. Tamaz picked it up and flicked through it.

"Pointless you doing that, Ghoomer brat", said Mieps, coming into the room.

"I can read!" said Tamaz, indignantly "A little. I'm surprised you can".

"I picked up some on my travels", said Mieps "And I taught myself properly when I lived alone. You can teach yourself mostly anything if you put your mind to it. Have you come in here to throw a jealous rage, or are you looking for any love-notes Hillyard may have left me?"

"He hasn't left you any", said Tamaz "It's not his style".

"You would know!" said Mieps, flopping back onto the bed "Don't look so wretched, Ghoomer brat. I still think you're the best thing that ever happened to me. I went with Hillyard because ... because I can easily count the number of people who've ever propositioned me on the fingers of one hand, and because he's the only one who's ever just wanted me solely for the pleasure of my body, and not because he was playing some power game".

"I don't play power games with you", said Tamaz.

"Not so much nowadays perhaps", said Mieps "But at first you did it all the time, you were so damn sure of your sexual power over me. But you can't help yourself, that's the way you're made".

"And you've got no right to call me a bitch on heat!" Tamaz raged, tearfully "I know you do, because I've heard you".

Mieps made consoling, clucking noises and pulled him towards him like a small child.

"Tamaz, it's not meant nastily", he said "It's just that I have feelings too. Do you know what it's like to love someone so completely and they just tease and torment you?"

"Yes", said Tamaz "Joby used to do it to me sometimes when I was still in the cage".

"But he had good reason to", said Mieps "Whereas you were cruel to me simply because I loved you".

"Does that mean you don't love me anymore?" said Tamaz, miserably.

"I will always love you, Ghoomer brat", said Mieps, tenderly "Always. Forever and a day. And the day after that as well".

"Good heavens, we're honoured", said Adam, as Tamaz walked into the dining-room wearing his stage petticoat and fur stole "It must be Easter!"

Hillyard went to grab Tamaz's skirt, but Tamaz twitched it away disdainfully.

"No one is more alluring than me", said Tamaz, sitting down.

"You keep that attitude up and you won't get any pecan pie for afters", said Joby.

"I hope it's real pecan pie", said Ransey.

"Why on earth shouldn't it be?" said Adam.

"The fact that we've been eating cheap stuff lately", said Ransey.

"Take no notice of him", said Hillyard "He really is going senile".

Adam went over to the mattress on the floor where the clowns were dozing, and nudged them gently with his foot.

"Supper", he said.

Bengo rushed over to the table eagerly.

"Don't get carried away", said Bardin "Knowing you you'd stuff yourself til you burst".

Julian pulled him over his knee and dealt him a sharp slap on the rump.

"I'm fed up with your attitude", said Julian "Don't try it on us anymore, we've had to go without too many times".

"Quite", said Joby.

"By God, you've got a cute, firm arse though, Bardin", said Julian, approvingly.

"He sure has", said Bengo.

Somebody knocked on the front door.

"Sod off!" shouted Joby.

"We're not in!" shouted Ransey.

"Just ignore it", said Hillyard.

The rat-tat-tat persisted though.

"See 'em off, Bengo", Julian ordered.

Bengo sighed and went into the hall. As he opened the door Emily, who lived behind Persephone's bar, shot in and ran in the direction of everyone's voices.

"Emily!" said Adam, in surprise "We haven't seen you in ages, old love. Wasn't it good news about Cockroach Mansions falling down?"

"Shame it didn't happen before we had to live there", said Joby.

"Kieran, you have to come to the bath-house", said Emily, breathlessly "Now! The Manager's in a terrible state".

"He's always in a terrible state", said Hillyard.

"There's a demon in the old underground bathroom", said Emily.

"A demon?" said Kieran "Are you sure?"

"Yes, we wouldn't bother you with this, but the Priest won't help us", said Emily "He says he doesn't believe in them. Only she's in there, as bold as brass!"

"She?" said Kieran.

"Yes, she's a terrifying sight", said Emily "I knew she was a demon the instant I saw her. I don't know why, but from what I've heard they always have terrible teeth, and hers are in a shocking state. You must come!"

"We'll all go", said Adam.

"We'll frighten her off en-masse", said Julian.

Emily waited impatiently whilst Kieran collected his crucifix and rosary beads. Lonts donned his crucifix too for good measure, and then they all set off in a ragged crocodile down the twilight streets.

The underground bathroom was used these days as a laundry-room for washing the towels. Two ancient wooden bath-tubs, looking like the sort that lunatics would be strapped into in old-fashioned asylums, stood in the centre of the room. It was in one of these that the naked demon sat. She gave off a deeply unpleasent fuzzy brownish aura. Her eyes were like black marbles in her skeletal face, and her teeth certainly were in an appalling condition.

Kieran observed all this through the keyhole. He stood up and took a deep intake of breath.

"It's a demon, alright", he said to the others, who were all banked up behind him, along with, it seemed, most of the rest of the town.

"How did she get in there?" said Joby.

"They crop up anywhere, anyhow", said Kieran, nervously.

Joby was equally nervous. He was terrified of losing his remaining sight through another hysterical reaction to encountering evil. Mieps sensed Kieran's nervousness, and knew that if Kieran went in feeling vulnerable, all might well be lost.

"There's only one way to do this", Mieps whispered to him "We have to burst through that door like a pack of wild dogs, all yelling at once".

"I agree", said Kieran "Pass it round".

Kieran turned the key on their side of the door and then suddenly flung the door open. The noise they made was horrendous, as everyone piled through, screaming and yelling like a horde of barbarian invaders. The demon evaporated into a wisp of ectoplasm, leaving a foul stench of rotten eggs behind her.

It was a huge victory for the Toondories and they celebrated accordingly. Kieran though was uneasy about the demon's sudden appearance in their midst (as was Bardin, who connected all horrid occurrences these days with the Tall Thing), and he decided to take it out on the local priest for failing the town in its hour of need.

A fight broke out between Kieran and the holy man at the altar of the chapel just before the Easter Day service, resulting in the Priest getting a bloody nose. The congregation was just beginning to file in, and so Adam had to escort the wounded man out through the back door.

"You ent half gonna cop it when we get home!" said Joby "You're always beating up priests! What's the matter with you?! It's not his fault if he didn't believe 'em about the demon. Not everyone's had the experiences we've had".

"He should at least have listened", said Kieran, angrily "He refused to do even that! And that's not the only thing I'm focked off with him about. I've heard he's been going round ordering people to make donations to the re-housing fund. Not only does the fund not need it, 'cos Hillyard's money covers it, but a lot of the people on the waterfront that he's been bullying for donations are flat broke! It's unforgiveable!"

"Yeah well that's priests for you", said Joby "Always piously exhorting people to part with what little they've got. Some thing's never change".

"Maybe, but I'm not focking having it!" said Kieran.

"Stop swearing in church", said Joby, with mock-severity "And what are you gonna do with this lot?" he indicated the sizeable congregation which was gathering behind them "We've got an audience, and no show!"

"I'll have to give the sermon instead", said Kieran.

"Oh terrific", said Joby.

"What's wrong with that?" said Kieran.

"You get verbal diarrhoea when you preach", said Joby, pulling his gold fob-watch out of his jacket pocket "See this? I'm gonna be timing you. Ten minutes you're allowed".

"I can't deliver a sermon in 10 minutes!" Kieran protested.

"You'd better give it a bloody good try", said Joby "'Cos if you go one second over 10 minutes, I'm gonna get up and walk very pointedly out of the building".

"And so shall I!" said Adam, returning from his nursing duties "Really Patsy, that was outrageous behaviour, even for you! Joby and I are heathens but you don't get us carrying on like that! You think because you're Head of the Church you can get away with such nonsense. I'm not surprised some of your priests wanted to excommunicate you! Imagine what Christ would have to say if he came back today".

"He would understand my anger", said Kieran.

"I doubt he'd approve of you busting people's noses!" said Adam "You needn't think you've heard the last of this, not by a long way!"

Adam went to sit next to Lonts in the front pew.

"There'll be no chocolate eggs for you when we get home!" said Joby "And don't forget, 10 minutes, maximum!"

"LET US PRAY!" Kieran thundered, whilst silently hoping that one day he would get to deliver a sermon in a placid, serene tone of voice.

At the end of the service Kieran and Joby got held up at the chapel-door by well-wishers. The rest of the Indigo-ites took advantage of this to speedily return home.

"Nice of 'em to wait for us", said Joby, when he and Kieran finally got away.

They turned down a side street which ran down to the river, so that they could have a few minutes to themselves.

"Why are you wearing braces?" said Kieran, flicking the said article under Joby's jacket.

"Leave off, that hurt my nipple!" said Joby "I have to wear 'em, me trousers are too big for me".

"Jaysus Joby, we're not broke anymore", said Kieran "Why don't you buy a pair that fit you?"

"Because the shop didn't have any in my size, that's why", said Joby "And I couldn't borrow a pair either, 'cos no one at home is my size. Hillyard's too fat, the clowns are too short, you're too thin, and Julian and Adam and Ransey are too tall".

"Then pay someone to make you a pair", said Kieran.

"No, I don't want some old fairy fiddling around with me inside leg", said Joby.

"Emily would do it, she's a seamstress", said Kieran "Come to think of it, Finia would probably do it if you asked him nicely! It's crazy that we have all this money and yet you can't get a decent pair of trousers that fit you!"

"Shows you what a farce money can be don't it?" said Joby, leaning on the railings and looking out over the river.

Kieran made a noise of agreement and then said "I'm glad you didn't walk out on me".

"You just stayed within the 10-minute zone", said Joby.

"I think if you had left I'd have followed you", said Kieran "After last night's antics, I feel comfortable having you in sight".

"You need a break", said Joby "A proper break I mean. Right away from Toondor Lanpin, and all the other places we know, somewhere where we only have to see each other. The monastery'd be no good 'cos people can still get you up there. We don't have to go for long, just a couple of months say. Give you a chance to get your head together. It'd do you a lot more good than thrashing yourself or starving yourself, or any other of your daft antics".

"Let's go and have a drink, and then we an discuss it further", said Kieran, slipping his arm through Joby's.

They went to the bar at the Little Theatre, as being the nearest, where they found Bengo and Bardin. Bengo was sitting on the bar-top, scoffing salted peanuts to annoy Bardin. The only other customers were two men sitting in a corner, earnestly amending a script.

"Bengo's living dangerously", said Joby "It'll be the pickled gherkins next!"

"He's doing it to get at me", said Bardin "He thinks he can eat what he damn well likes now and I can't say anything".

"Come on now, you don't want him to end up like me do you?!" said Kieran "I have to wear baggy shirts when I'm out or little old ladies faint with shock when they see me!"

"Anyway, fatties help to keep out the draughts", said Joby "Why do you think we've always made Hillyard sit next to the door!"

"Alright I give in", said Bardin, holding up his hands in surrender "If Bengo wants to destroy his only assets he can, although he's not overly-blessed with brains to replace his figure with".

"At least I can read a script!" said Bengo.

"On a good day, with a following wind", said Bardin "Although I remember having to clout you round the head with one once because you couldn't take it in".

"I'm not as bad as this new bint they've got working here", said Bengo.

"Yeah, you haven't heard this, it's a scream", Bardin chuckled "See those two over there?"

Kieran and Joby glanced over at the script-editors.

"They've got this new female-lead, hired solely because of ..." Bardin indicated massive tits "But she can't act for toffee. She can't even read a script properly. They're having to re-do all her lines and make sure she's only got simple words to learn, and all names have to be written phonetically. Serves 'em bloody well right I say! I would never hire anyone just 'cos they've got big tits".

"What about hiring Bengo just 'cos of his legs though?" said Joby.

"Even I'll admit Bengo's got a bit more to him than that", said Bardin "Not much mind".

"You wouldn't have had any kind of an act all if it hadn't been for me!" said Bengo.

"And you wouldn't have had any kind of an act at all if it hadn't been for me!" said Bardin.

"I think the Sunshine Boys have reached an impasse", said Kieran, which made Joby hoot with laughter.

"Hawkefish thinks now we're living at the Town House there's no reason why we can't come back and work here", said Bardin.

"But we might go off again at any moment", said Joby.

"I've told him that", said Bengo "I've said Julian's a cap ... cap..."

"Capricious", Bardin groaned.

"I was getting there!" said Bengo "A capricious person. That he could have us all on the move again at any time".

"Chances are quite high at the moment", said Kieran "He's been a wee bit restless lately".

"Hawkefish got narked when we said that", said Bardin "Said the way we carried on anyone would think Julian had bought us at a slave-auction".

"In his dreams!" said Joby.

After a few more rounds they all felt midly tight and went home. They went in via the yard-doors and found Tamaz lying on the back lawn in the Easter sunshine, with his petticoat rucked up around his thighs.

"Whey-hey! We can see your knickers!" said Joby.

"Where did you go?" said Tamaz, jumping to his feet.

"To the Little Theatre for a drink", said Kieran.

"Several drinks from the look of it", said Tamaz, sourly.

"You've met our wife haven't you!" said Joby to the clowns.

Joby and Kieran went upstairs to change into something more comfortable for lunch, and ended up falling asleep on the bed. When they woke up a couple of hours later they both felt considerably the worse for wear.

"What an Easter Day this has been", said Kieran, perching wearily on the side of the bed "I punch a priest, deliver the shortest, fastest sermon in history, and then get rat-arsed!"

"You haven't had the best bit yet", said Joby "Being nagged by Adam probably".

"You'll protect me won't you?" said Kieran "It's always me who gets the worst scolding".

Joby sat up to kiss him.

"And we've probably upset Tamaz as well", said Kieran.

"He'll get over it, he's tough", said Joby.

He noticed Lonts hovering in the gap in their doorway.

"Bog off, Lonts!" he cried "Go and spy on someone else!"

"Adam sent me up to see if you were awake yet", said Lonts, coming into the room with Snowy under his arm "I think he wants to have a go at you".

"Oh what a surprise!" said Joby, flopping back against his pillow "Adam's been having a go at us ever since we've known him!"

"I suppose he's a wee bit miffed with us because we missed lunch", said Kieran.

"There was an announcement at lunchtime", said Lonts, climbing onto the foot of their bed "We're going away for a bit. Getting away from it all. Julian suggested it".

"That was my idea", said Joby "He's nicked it!"

"Where are we going?" said Kieran "Somewhere warm and peaceful I hope. No demons in bath-tubs waiting for us!"

"The house on the peninsula that we were originally going to go to when we still had the Indigo", said Lonts.

"How?" said Joby "We're not walking there are we?!"

"Don't be silly, Joby", said Lonts "We're going to get a new boat, the boatyard are going to be given all the details tomorrow by Hillyard and Ransey. Adam thinks we could be gone for the whole summer. Are you both pleased?"

"It was exactly what I had in mind meself", said Joby, smugly.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Go forward to next chapter

Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site