Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

Brinslee's house at Port West was a monument to his huge love of life, but also to his loneliness. All the attention and generosity that would normally have been lavished on a partner and family got poured into the house instead. Overlooking the harbour, it was a large, spacious building, which looked like a cross between an Oriental temple and an Sultan's palace.

The Festival was a godsend to him. It meant he could fill his house with guests. Accompanied by the chief steward he went around and selected rooms that he felt were appropriate for each guest, best suited to their personalities. As such, he gave Dolores a simply-furnished but very elegant room which was a classic of chic minimalist design. Glynis was given one that was brimming over with femininity, full of frills, candy stripes, and well-stuffed cushions.

The Indigo-ites were a nightmare to house. Brinslee put them all in the East Wing, as the rooms were very close together there, but he was at a loss as to how to divide them up, like separating Siamese twins. Glynis told him how they normally divided up at the Town House, but this only added to the confusion. Brinslee wanted to put Tamaz in a room resplendent with tiger-skin rugs and bedspreads, as this suited his colouring and temperament. Only he couldn't see Kieran the vegetarian sleeping in there! Instead the room was given to Mieps, and Joby, Kieran and Tamaz were put in a room swathed throughout in white satin. Joby would have been more at home in the room with green wallpaper and solid oak furniture, but this was given to Adam and Lonts. By the time he had finished Brinslee felt as though he had completed a tricky diplomatic manoeuvre!

Everyone arrived the day before the Festival was due to start and were shown to their rooms. Joby and Tamaz went in search of a bathroom, and roamed the upstairs corridors in the East Wing for what seemed like an age. At one point they came across the wife of the Governor of the Marsh Village, who had strayed into the East Wing by mistake, and was looking flustered in a red velvet dressing-gown, and a red towel around her hair. She forgot her fluster when she saw Tamaz though. Nesta had once been accosted by Tamaz at Woll's house, when Tamaz had taken a shine to her diamond and sapphire necklace. Since then, Nesta had been rather intrigued by this half-human creature. Like most Marsh Village residents, Nesta had a very pampered lifestyle, and was self-indulgent to an extraordinary degree. As such, she quite admired the way Tamaz had survived being locked in a cage for so long. It was well-known that Tamaz had a love of luxuries, and Nesta felt it was rather a shame that he didn't get much of a chance to enjoy them, living with the other Indigo-ites.

She would like to have spoken to Tamaz, but he got very self-conscious because he was wearing only a shirt and his drawers, and dragged Joby down another corridor away from her.

"It's bad enough everyone's going to see me in them tomorrow", said Tamaz "And you won't even be with me".

"I'll be in the wings waiting for you to come off", said Joby.

"Why can't you be on stage with me though?" said Tamaz.

"I don't wanna play a wife-beater anymore", said Joby.

"So?" said Tamaz "It's only what you do to me in real life!"

"Only when you're naughty", said Joby "Anyway, you'll be alright with Rumble".

They located a bathroom and found Hoowie sitting in it, having his hair streaked with purple dye by Finia.

"I felt I was starting to look too normal", said Hoowie.

Julian was wandering in a rage around his allocated room, which was quite apt really as the walls were papered in a ferocious colour the shade of raw liver.

"Oh so this is your room is it?" said Adam, strolling in.

"No it's an abattoir!" Julian snapped "Or an explosion in a butcher's shop! Who does Brinslee think I am, Caln the vampire?!"

"Quite possibly", said Adam "I expect he just felt you'd like a fairly robust, masculine room. After all, you wouldn't want something all fluffy and pink like Glynis's, you'd get all insulted".

"I'd rather have that than this monstrosity!" said Julian "At least I'd be able to sleep in it without having nightmares! Who the fuck was his interior designer, Jeffrey Dahmer?!"

"What does Hillyard think of it?" said Adam.

"'Looks alright to me'", Julian mimicked Hillyard's casual tones "He'd be quite happy if he was made to sleep in the stables with the horses!"

"Knowing what Hillyard gets up to in stables, that wouldn't surprise me", said Adam "Where is he now?"

"Gone out to buy a new suit", said Julian "I offered to go with him, to get out of here, but he said he wanted to surprise me, which fills me with intense foreboding".

"Yes, Hilly's sartorial style has been rather ... um ... bizarre at times", said Adam.

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in", said Julian, curtly.

Nesta came in.

"Are you the chambermaid?" Julian barked "What are you doing coming in here dressed like that?"

"Jules, this is Nesta", said Adam "The wife of the Governor of the Marsh Village".

"Has every bloody head of state turned up for this Festival?" said Julian.

"Julian!" Adam exclaimed "Stop being so rude! It's hardly her fault you've got rotten wallpaper!" he turned to Nesta "What can we do for you, old love?"

"I would like to take Tamaz out for lunch tomorrow if that's alright", said Nesta "Just the two of us".

"Out of the question", said Julian.

"Yes, I'm afraid it would not be very practical", said Adam "Freaky requires a lot of specialist handling, you see. He's never allowed anywhere without one of us".

"You treat him as though he's still your prisoner", said Nesta.

"He is", said Julian, bluntly "We may not keep him in a cage anymore, but officially he's still in our custody, and will be until the day he dies. Those were the terms under which he was handed over to us by the Ministry. This isn't us being bid bad bullies, it is simply a fact".

"But he's not a danger to the public", Nesta protested.

"Not anymore", said Adam "But he would be an incredible handful, particularly if he sensed you wanted to make a fuss of him. We're doing this for your well-being more than anything. You have no idea what you'd be letting yourself in for!"

"Good start to the trip", said Julian, as he and Adam walked to Adam's room a few minutes later "We'll have to put up with her glaring at us now, and telling everyone what tyrannical swines we are. Perhaps we should've had Freaky branded as soon as his trial was over. You know 'Property Of Joby And The Others', that sort of thing".

"It's living at the Bay what does it", Adam sighed "We forget just how trying dealing with the outside world can be. Hell is other people, as Jean-Paul Sartre said".

"Other people are usually a mistake", Julian smiled "As Quentin Crisp said!"

In the green bedroom they found Lonts sitting at the window smoking his pipe, whilst talking to Joby.

"Where's Freaky?" said Julian.

"Having a look at the clowns' room", said Joby "It's only just across the corridor. Why?"

"There's some strange woman wandering about who wants to take him out to lunch", said Julian.

"She must be out to lunch!" said Joby.

Hillyard heard their voices as he was returning, and went into the room. He was dressed, most strikingly, in a completely white suit.

"Good God, Randall and Hopkirk Deceased!" said Joby.

"Yes it is rather", said Adam.

"Have you been walking about like that?" said Julian, fiercely "In public?"

"What's the matter with it?" said Hillyard, defensively "I think it's stylish".

"It might be", said Adam "But not on you, old love".

"You look like Colonel Sanders!" said Joby.

"I'm not going down to dinner with you this evening looking like THAT!" said Julian "If it's not bad enough I've got a bedroom straight out of Edgar Allen Poe, you turn up looking like a photographic negative!"

"Jaysus, that's some suit, Hillyard", said Kieran, entering the room, closely followed by Bengo "The man from Del Monte!"

"Ah no, the glare, the glare!" said Bengo, flattening himself against the wall.

"Alright that's enough!" said Hillyard, taking off the jacket "I'm not going to wear it if all you're going to do is laugh at me".

"It's hard not to!" said Joby.

"You buggers wouldn't know style if it nipped you on the nuts", said Hillyard "I've only just bought this and all!"

"Don't worry, Hillyard", said Lonts, earnestly "I was going to help Joby make up a proper scarecrow for his garden, and we can use that if you like".

"Bloody expensive scarecrow!" said Hillyard.

"It'll be highly effective I don't doubt", said Julian, dryly.

"What's your room like, Bengo?" said Lonts.

"Weird", said Bengo "It doesn't feel like a bedroom at all. It's all covered in white tiling, looks like the inside of a public convenience".

"Perhaps you should have been given that room, Jules", said Adam "You would have felt at home in there!"

"Snotty cow!" said Julian.

"It's got a swing in it too", said Bengo "Hanging from a hook in the ceiling".

"Well we've always said you clowns needed a giant play-pen", said Adam "It doesn't have toy bricks with the alphabet on too?"

"They'd be a bit beyond Bengo", said Joby.

"It sounds more like a budgie's cage", said Kieran "It doesn't have a looking-glass and a bell you can tinkle as well does it?"

"No, but it's got an aquarium in one corner", said Bengo "And coloured beach balls. Really weird".

"It still sounds a vast improvement on my room", said Julian, gloomily.

"Oh cheer up", said Joby, as he and Hillyard walked down the main staircase before dinner "What you've got on now looks quite smart".

"Yeah, but it's not the same is it?" said Hillyard.

"No, thank God!" said Joby "Stop sulking".

"I'm not sulking!" said Hillyard.

"You are", said Joby, as they turned into a side corridor at the bottom of the stairs "Look, Brinslee's said we can choose the wines for dinner. If you can't get happy about that, there must be summat wrong with you!"

They reached the wine-steward's room at the end of the corridor, where the wine-steward and his assistant (both slightly sozzled) were helping Kieran (very sozzled) to select from a vast array of bottles from Brinslee's well-stocked cellar.

"Ah you slow baskets", said Kieran "I've beaten you to it. Come and have a sample of some of these. I've narrowed the selection down to a few".

"You mean there's some left?!" said Joby, sarcastically "You look like you'd already had most of it!"

"I'm not drunk", said Kieran "They give you these wee dry biscuits to help mop it up".

"Yeah", said Hillyard, picking up a plate of them "There's plenty of them left!"

"Kieran!" said Joby "How are you gonna get through dinner this evening when you're completely rat-arsed already?"

"I'm not, I'm just a wee bit merry", said Kieran "And I can hold me drink better than you. I don't go around vomiting into fireplaces like you do!"

"I did that ONCE!" said Joby.

"Hey this one's quite nice", said Hillyard, lustily swilling a white around his mouth "It's really sharp and scrunchy".

"Ah, yeah well I'm afraid there's not much of that one left", said Kieran, apologetically.

"I thought it was only Tamaz I'd have to keep an eye on, on this trip", said Joby "But you're the one who's giving me the most headaches so far. This evening's gonna be a nightmare!"

Adam and Julian were sitting on the sofa at the bottom of the stairs, whilst all around them the others guests milled about, chatting.

"I thought we'd have been let in the dining-room by now", said Adam "Lo-Lo, what's the hold-up?"

"It's Toppy", Lonts sighed, and sat down on a chair next to them "He is SO embarrassing sometimes. He's rearranging the seating, says it's not right as it is. As if it matters!"

"Tell Toppy if he wants a job here as a steward I'm sure it can be arranged!" said Julian.

"I'm really hungry", Lonts boomed.

"I'm sure it won't be long now, Lo-Lo", said Adam, placatingly.

"Yes, cheer up, you're not the one with a beetroot-coloured bedroom!" said Julian.

"Is there something wrong with your room, Julian?" said Brinslee, looking concerned as he came over.

"Please just ignore him, Brinslee", said Adam "We mustn't indulge him when he's carrying on like this".

"Brinslee was making a genuine query", said Julian "And I have a right to answer it".

"No you do not!" said Adam "And if you mention that bloody wallpaper one more time this evening Jules, I swear I shall spank you!"

"Are you two fighting again?" said Hillyard "I thought you could at least try and behave in someone else's house!"

"Don't look at me", said Adam "I'm not the one who's been incessantly whining and complaining".

"Knowing you, I bet you have!" said Hillyard.

"Well really!" Adam exclaimed, as a smile crossed Julian's lips.

"Um ... er ... hello everybody", said Toppy, appearing at the door to the dining-room "Everything's ready now. Dinner is ... s-served".

He quailed because Lonts was glaring at him viciously.

"I should think so!" Lonts roared "We've been waiting. Waiting!"

Early the next morning everyone went down to the site of the Festival to get their bearings. The theatre in Port West was a pitifully small and ramshackle affair, so Brinslee arranged for an impressive Big Top to be erected on the common grazing land at the back of the town. This meant a three-ring stage could be prepared in the middle and there was room for many tiers of seating on 3 sides. The tent was massive, and larger than anything the clowns had ever worked in before. Bengo and Bardin stood in the sawdust, whilst men worked with scaffolding all around them.

"This is big, Bardy", said Bengo, nervously "Bigger than the Cabaret of Horrors".

"Yeah, but I bet the audience here'll be more civilised", said Bardin.

"I hope so", said Bengo "What if our routines don't work in a place this size?"

"What are you talking about?" said Bardin "Of course they'll work! We are Bengo and Bardin, the world's greatest clowns, we don't know the meaning of the word failure! Now let's go and see what our favourite stooge is up to".

Tamaz was backstage, being fitted into his new costume, attended by Toppy and Rumble. Since the famous detachable petticoat had ended its days as firewood-carrier, Finia had fashioned a new dress out of cream-coloured satin. This was modelled on the old catamite's frock from the Cabaret of Horrors, except with this garment one gentle tug at the bodice pulled the whole lot away.

"I think you've put on a bit of weight whilst we've been at the Bay, Tamaz", said Toppy.

"I have not!" said Tamaz, indignantly.

"Are you on a death-wish, Toppy?" said Rumble.

"You look great", said Bardin "Finia's done a good job there".

"I wanted another corset", said Tamaz, sulkily "To give me an 18-inch waist".

"Eighteen inches!" said Bengo, aghast "You'll crush your ribs! Anyway, I don't like you all boned up, neither does Kieran".

"And you can't expect an 18-inch waist these days", said Bardin, bluntly "You're not 15 anymore, and you've had kids".

"You've got a great figure", said Rumble, putting his hands on Tamaz's waist.

"Thank you", said Tamaz, slightly mollified "I suppose it was pointless of me to expect Old Flat-Cap to say anything nice to me".

"I'll pay you compliments later", said Bardin "At the moment we've got work to do".

"There's one problem with this dress though", said Bengo "When it comes away it'll bare Tamaz's tits. Is that allowed?"

"It'll have to be", said Bardin "It won't have much effect if he's wearing a camisole underneath. Rumble, give it a tug, we'll try it out".

"Hold on a minute", said Tamaz, waspishly "Stop talking about me as though I'm a fucking stage-prop!"

"You are not stage-prop, but the dress is", said Bardin "You're a clown, like us, and that's that. And one thing we clowns have to do is make sure our props work properly, otherwise that could be the whole routine completely fucked. Rumble, go ahead".

Rumble gave Tamaz a reassuring wink and tugged at the front of the dress. It came away to reveal Tamaz at his most mouthwatering, with pert bare breasts, lacey drawers and silk stockings.

"It he doesn't bring the house down looking like that, nothing will", said Bengo, with satisfaction.

Bardin prowled round Tamaz, inspecting him like a horse. Tamaz watched him suspiciously.

"I don't get the logistics of it though", said Bardin "Tamaz is supposed to be running away from Rumble, so how come Rumble's tearing his clothes from the front?"

"Because Bengo and me are having a fight over him", said Rumble "We rehearsed it earlier before the dress was finished. I'm clasping Tamaz to my chest, whilst Bengo is behind Tamaz with his arms around Tamaz's waist, trying to pull him away from me. He manages to get Tamaz away. I grab at Tamaz's dress to get him back, and the whole lot comes away".

"I think it's funnier that way than the way we did it before", said Bengo.

"See!" Tamaz squawked at Bardin "We've got it all worked out. I don't see as how we need you in the act at all. Toppy, help me get dressed again".

Toppy scampered around Tamaz, like a camp shop assistant in love with a window mannequin. When he was clothed again, Tamaz boxed Bardin's ears and then strode away, with Toppy scurrying in his wake.

"What did I do?" said Bardin, picking up his cap, which Tamaz had knocked to the floor.

"Tamaz needs different handling to us, Bardy", Bengo sighed.

"Yeah, you can't boot him around like you do the rest of us", said Rumble.

"I wouldn't have to boot him around if he'd just knuckle down and do some work!" said Bardin "I've worked with some prima donnas in my time, but he's the worst of the lot!"

"The fact remains we can't afford for him to drop out", said Bengo "If he did, we'd ahve to scrap 'Love In The Laundry', and that's our most popular sketch. We couldn't do it without him".

"I know I know", Bardin sighed "It's bad enough we haven't got Joby in it. No offence Rumble mate, you do a fine job, but there was a chemistry between those two that can't be rehearsed".

"It's still funny though", Bengo hastened to reassure Rumble.

"That's all it is", said Bardin, mournfully.

"Well what more do you want?" said Rumble.

"It's funny, but it's not erotic", said Bardin "When you tip Tamaz over your knee it'll get laughs, but when Joby did it, it was shocking. It always had a big effect on the audience".

"Yes too much sometimes!" said Bengo.

"We are sposed to be just entertaining the punters, Bardin", said Rumble "Not inciting 'em to violence!"

"I think we should just settle for being funny this time, Bardy", said Bengo.

"Playing safe", Bardin muttered, bitterly "Cute wholesome laughs. This from a clown who prided himself on his anarchy!"

"We'll still have that", said Rumble "You can't have broad slapstick without anarchy. That's what it's all about. Creating chaos out of order".

"That was really profound, Rumble", said Bengo, genuinely awed "Don't you think that was really profound, Bardy?"

"Go and fetch some coffee!" said Bardin, crossly.

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