Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

'The Indigo MkII', as they named her, was a single-masted sloop, with an engine attached for those days when the wind was in the wrong direction, or there was no wind at all. She was a magnificent long, wooden vessel with plenty of room below deck to house their menagerie of horses and goats (the chickens went up on deck). At the bow end, directly under the poop-deck, was the galley, which to Adam's disappointment was darker and more cramped than the one on the original Indigo. There was also no room to eat in it, so all their meals were consumed on deck, which was fine so long as the weather held good. Their sleeping accommodation was one large, airy cabin at the stern end of the boat, which had impressive bow windows, like on an old pirate ship. They all slept on a long communal bed which stretched the width of the room. This made things quite sticky in the heat, but it was also rather nice and cosy.

They were now 2 weeks into their voyage, and estimated at only a few days from their destination.

"Is that all you've found?" said Adam, as Joby climbed back down into the galley. Joby had been sent to round up all the dirty glasses and cups on the boat in order to wash them properly "There must be more than that at large", Adam continued.

"This is a stupid job, Ad", Joby protested.

"No it's not", said Adam "We're getting short of crockery in here. I want to do a full count. Go and finish rounding up the rest. I don't suppose you've been tried the cabin yet. Go on!"

Joby snarled and thrust his hands into the bib of his canvas apron. Below deck, the galley was connected to their sleeping quarters by a long corridor which ran under the main deck, with the animals stalled along one side of it. Joby made a fuss of the horses on the way, whilst the noise of everyone else's movements thundered overhead. As he got near the cabin the door suddenly opened and Julian came out, with his silk bath-robe flapping open over his naked body.

"You'll do", he said, hooking the handle of his cane around Joby's neck and hauling into their cabin.

"Oi! What d'ya think you're playing at?" Joby cried.

"I need you to perform a vital service for me", said Julian, slipping off his bath-robe.

"You can whistle", said Joby "I'm not getting into trouble with Kieran just for the sake of giving you a blow-job!"

"I meant a massage", said Julian, climbing onto the communal bunk "My back and legs ache. I thought I'd grab the nearest of my slaves. Fortunately it was you, you have accomplished hands".

"Adam'll be expecting me back in no time at all", said Joby.

"Oh don't worry about Adam", said Julian "I'll sort him out for you".

"Are you o.k?" said Joby, getting out the massage oil "Or are you finding this bunk a bit hard?"

"No, the bunk's fine", said Julian "I think I just slept in a draught from the window last night, it made me a bit stiff, in all the wrong places!"

Joby chuckled.

"See, I'm not so bad to be alone with am I?" said Julian "Why does Kieran still distrust me so much?"

"Oh I doubt it's your fault", said Joby "Even after all this time it's hard for us to shake off your upbringing though".

"The Awful Aristocrat, you mean?" said Julian "But Adam is one too".

"There's a difference", said Joby, rubbing oil into Julian's back "In our time I saw a film of 'A Tale Of Two Cities'. There's a scene in it where a French aristocrat runs over and kills a peasent kid in his carriage".

"I know the scene you mean", said Julian "Dickens has got a lot to answer for!"

"And the aristocrat chucks a handful of coins out of the window at the hysterical mother, and says 'that must be how much a peasent child is worth these days'", said Joby "Well I could never imagine Adam doing that, even though he is an aristocrat. But I could imagine you doing it, if you thought you could get away with it".

"Oh I don't know, Joby", Julian sighed "We all of us like to push our luck, see how far we can go. Unfortunately I come from a background that taught me that I had no limits. With the right amount of style and confidence I could do exactly as I wanted. My parents hoped that by sending me away to school I would have my corners knocked off me, but school only made me worse. Simply because there was nothing I could be bullied for. In the survival of the fittest, I was the fittest! It was different for Adam. He'd had all his confidence beaten out of him by his vile father. It gave him a much greater sympathy for the under-dog than I had".

"Well that's the problem", said Joby "We none of us shake off our upbringings. And I think Kieran feels as I do. That if either of us had been at your school, you'd have given us hell!"

"You're not being fair to me", said Julian "If I was really so terrible, the archetypal school-bully, why aren't your or Tinker Belle afraid of me? Because you're not, are you? And yet you're afraid of Adam! Even after all these years you don't like getting on the wrong side of him".

"You know what he's like", said Joby "He don't half go on when he's narked!"

"I know old fruit, I know!" said Julian "So what it is is this. You fear Adam, but you trust him. Whereas you don't fear me, but you don't trust me either".

"It's not like that at all", said Joby "What it boils down to really is that I'm scared shitless of Kieran catching me doing something wrong!"

Julian let out a guffaw of laughter.

"It's true!" said Joby "He gives me plenty of rope, turns a blind eye to me going with Tamaz and Adam, 'cos he knows how much they mean to me. He just about turns a blind eye to Hillyard, although he's not really happy about it ..."

"But I'm completely beyond the pale?" said Julian "Well it's nice to know I'm still not too old to be disreputable", he gave a shudder of enjoyment "What a wonderful touch you have, as good as Hillyard".

"All done!" said Joby, breezily, and he gave Julian's rump a violent slap.

"Ow!" Julian yelled.

Joby slipped out of the room laughing. He closed the door behind him and then stood quietly to collect himself, thinking how Julian had given him rather more pleasure than Kieran would have liked!

"There you are", said Lonts, appearing suddenly in front of him.

"Christ, Lonts!" said Joby, flustered "You're like a fucking genie we can't get back in the bottle!"

"Adam sent me to look for you", said Lonts "What were you doing in there with Julian?"

"Leave it out, you sound like my Gran!" said Joby, walking back along the corridor.

Lonts tailed him back to the galley, where Adam gave him such a venomous look that Joby quailed.

"He was in with Julian", said Lonts, ominously.

"He wanted me to give him a massage!" said Joby.

"Oh yes?" said Adam "And what else?"

"Nothing else", said Joby "Don't be so distrustful".

"It's hard to be otherwise where Julian's concerned, I know him too well!" said Adam "Now get on and finish the washing-up".

"I'm sposed to be galley assistant", said Joby.

"Exactly, and washing-up is part of the galley work", said Adam "I shouldn't need to explain that to you after all this time!"

"Can't we get a scullery-maid to do all the imbecile work?" said Joby "Like Bengo or Lonts?"

"I don't think that's very kind, Joby", said Lonts.

"You asked for it", Joby growled "Lying in wait for me like that, trying to catch me out!"

"I think Toppy should do the dirty work", said Lonts "He's the youngest".

"I think I can't do any better than having you two as my assistants", said Adam.

"Oh yeah!" said Joby "With his brains and my beauty you'll go a long way!"

"Why are you being so crochety?" said Adam.

"Because I'm sick of being trapped down here in the Black Hole of Calcutta!" said Joby "I've barely seen daylight since we set sail! And everytime I try to get up on deck for even a few minutes you find another useless job for me to do! You're obsessed with work! I don't see why everyone can't cook their own dinner".

"It wouldn't work that way", said Adam "There has to be some order. This is the best way to keep stock of all our supplies and make sure no one goes without, or no one has much more than anyone else".

"I still want a break", said Joby, stubbornly.

"Then go up on deck for a little while, you silly arse!" said Adam "I'm not an ogre, I don't keep you on a chain!"

Joby pulled off his canvas aprong and passed it to Lonts. He went up onto the main deck where Hillyard was fiddling with the orange sail. Kieran was watching him, arms akimbo. Lying on the floor were the clowns, Tamaz and Toppy. All of them were butt-naked in the warm sunshine, and Toppy was spanning his fingers over one of Tamaz's nipples.

"Joby!" said Kieran, squinting through his sun-bleached hair "Adam's not let you out of your cage has he?"

"I insisted", said Joby.

He glanced behind towards the poop-deck, where Ransey was steering.

"Are we going in the right direction then?" said Joby.

"Seem to be", said Kieran, leading him over to the bulwark "What do you think?"

He indicated the countryside that surrounded them. They had gone beyond No-Name and down one of the southward-leading rivers. The countryside was flat and featureless. Centuries ago it had all been farmland but had lain fallow ever since the severe depopulation of the world had taken its grip. Lining the banks of the river were masses of wild flowers which crowded high, giving the river a secluded closed-in feel in spite of the flat landscape.

"It's peaceful", said Joby "Non-threatening. I hope it stays that way".

"Hope with a big H", Kieran smiled.

They all dined on deck, and Adam later walked around with a large saucepan offering seconds. Julian quibbled that Hillyard got bigger portions than him.

"He's been working today", said Adam, shortly "You haven't, not as far as I can see anyway".

"Not unless you count trying to lure people into his web", said Hillyard "Like a great, randy old spider!"

"I'm not taking that from you!" said Julian "Not after some of your antics in recent times!"

"Ladies, ladies, please", said Adam "Just accept the simple truth. You're both a pair of disreputable old tarts!"

The others hooted wildly with laughter. Tamaz, who was walking around the table eating a hunk of bread, yodelled almost musically.

"Many a true word spoken in jest", said Ransey.

The sun went down, and a chill set in with the darkness. The surrounding countryside was as quiet as a desert.

"What do we do now then?" said Hillyard, with a wry smile.

"Oh we could always go on a pub-crawl I suppose!" said Kieran.

"I think that particular options out somehow", said Ransey.

"Bed I think, I'm shattered", said Joby.

Bed was always a low-key but exciting event on the Indigo MKII. Inevitably so when a large group of people, who are all sexually involved with one another, all live together in such close and intimate surroundings.

Adam scraped the plates into a bucket that Lonts was carrying. This would be taken down to the goats in the morning. As usual, the clowns then took the scraped plates down to the galley and did the washing-up, whilst everyone else went to bed.

"It's at times like this I wish there weren't so many of us", Bengo yawned, as the procession of plates onto the draining-board seemed endless.

By the time they finished it was well after midnight. They left the galley and walked to their sleeping-quarters via the below-deck corridor. Outside the cabin door they quickly removed their pants and singlets, giggling as they did so. They then went into the darkened cabin where a fair amount of snoring was already in progress. They dropped their clothes into a heap on the floor, and then climbed onto the end of the communal bed next to Toppy, who, in spite of his new-found sexual liberation, still insisted on sleeping in his vest!

They all went to sleep lulled by the smell of night-scented stock coming through the open window above them. Because they were the night-time washer-uppers, the clowns were allowed to stay in bed later than everyone else, and this was something they took full advantage of. Whether it was to enjoy some private lovemaking, or simply a private breakfast.

The Indigo MKII was already moving when they awoke, and there was some excited shouting coming from the deck. Sunshine poured through the window, and the air felt briney and fresh. Tamaz came into the cabin and pulled his t-shirt out of the heap on the floor.

"The sun's so strong already", he said "My tits'll burn if I don't do this. Anyway, you two should get up or you'll miss all the excitement".

"How do you mean?" said Bengo.

"We're nearly at our destination", said Tamaz, kneeling on the bunk and opening the window as wide as it would go "The river's widened out into a sort of cove, with a beach and everything. The open sea's just beyond, but we're not going out onto that".

"You mean we're nearly there?" said Bardin, excitedly.

"That's what I just said!" said Tamaz.

The clowns gave a whoop and pulled him into the middle of them. Tamaz slid out nimbly and ran across the cabin, pursued by them all the way up onto the deck, where the others were leaning against the bulwarks and jabbering excitedly like the dawn-chorus. Bengo picked up Tamaz and held him aloft like a ship's figurehead.

"We've arrived", he said.

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