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By Sarah Hapgood

Bengo and Bardin had been showering after their act in the communal wash-house on-site, when Farnol came in and told them the news about their temporary change of accommodation.

"I went and packed your things whilst you were on", he said, holding a rucksack in each hand "And Rumble's got an idea for a comic dance routine we can do sometime that'll involve all of us".

"For someone who's supposed to be in charge I don't seem to have been left very much to do", Bardin grumbled.

"Bardy", Bengo groaned.

"No I'm o.k, I'm o.k", Bardin said, waspishly, slapping his cap onto his wet hair "Just what I've always bloody wanted, to go back to being a two-bit performer!"

"Um ... Julian told me to tell you that ... er ...", said Farnol, awkwardly "If you make any scenes about it he'll come down and give you a few swishes of the strap".

"That's the second time he's threatened to beat me today!" Bardin squawked "You've had the strap in the past, haven't you, Bengo?"

"Not properly", said Bengo "Just the odd lick now and again, why?"

"Does it sting?" said Bardin.

"Enough to know I don't want it properly", said Bengo "It's not fun like the paddle".

"Hm, we'd better go to our new home then", said Bardin, taking his rucksack off Farnol.

"I've given you and Bengo this bed, and me and Farnol'll have the one down the end", said Rumble, as they all manoeuvred awkwardly around each other in the long but very narrow caravan "Toppy and Hoowie'll have to go on the floor, as Tamaz has ..."

Resolutely made himself at home on the one single bunk.

"I would have thought one of them could have come and seen us in", said Tamaz, with annoyance "But no, we get packed off down here as though we're no longer wanted".

"Julian's said no one else is allowed to come and see us for a while", said Farnol to Bardin.

"They did give us a food parcel though", said Toppy, indicating the cardboard box which was parked precariously on top of the small gas-ring.

"I'll make us some coffee", said Farnol, grabbing a battered tin kettle and going outside to fill it at the stand-pipe which served several caravans.

"Cheer up, Bardy", said Bengo "We've done our work for today, so we can just relax this evening".

Toppy offered to make everyone scrambled eggs for supper, and was instantly faced with the prospect of cooking for 7 people on top of one gas-ring. They decided they would do what they would automatically do at the Bay, and build a fire outside and cook over that, only to be told by the actor who had been designated Site Warden that this was completely unacceptable as it presented a fire hazard, and was "anti-social to the other residents". The under-30s weren't used to having rules and regulations flung at them. Apart from Julian's rather erratic orders, they lived their lives blessedly free of such restrictions. Toppy bravely got on with cooking over the gas-fire. Whilst he was doing so, two of the chorus-girls came over and said they'd like to have a look round inside the caravan.

"Well it's a bit awkward see?" said Farnol, standing at the door "Only there isn't enough room".

The 7 ate outside, enjoying the sudden quiet of the site, as most of the other performers had now gone off to do the evening show, so they ate their eggs and drank their coffee to the sounds of the show in the near distance. Afterwards they dumped all the plates, cups and cutlery in to soak in a bucket of water and put it under the caravan. They then went to bed, as it was now dark.

"Right, I've got a torch here", said Bardin, as Rumble lit the popping gas-lamps in the caravan "So anyone who needs to go out to the gents in the night had better take it, if they want to find their way there and back. Tamaz, if you need to go, wake up me or Rumble. You're not supposed to wander about on your own, anything could happen to you".

"I can take care of myself better than any of you lot can", said Tamaz.

"Who the hell's gonna mess with him?" said Farnol "Knowing what he can do!"

"And does Tamaz have to use the gents or the ladies?" said Hoowie.

"I can use both", said Tamaz, haughtily.

"At the same time?" said Farnol.

At 10 o'clock the next morning Hawkefish went to the caravan to talk to them about their spot later that day. He found the curtains still drawn and the door bolted against him. He eventually managed to get their attention.

"We've got it all under control", said Bardin, sleepily "We're going to rehearse when we get up, and then we can show it to you at lunchtime if you like, see what you think".

"Do you think you'll be awake by then?" said Hawkefish, sitting down on a folding chair which Hoowie had set up for him "You boys certainly seem to need a lot of sleep!"

"Well it takes it out of you, living altogether the way we do", Bardin yawned "And we're not used to living by clocks anymore. We sort of just wake up when we wake up, I guess".

Tamaz rolled over in his sleep and flopped onto his back, exposing his breasts. Hawkefish watched him, mesmerised. Toppy got up and gently pulled the blanket back over the tits.

Joby had been right when he had said that Lonts wouldn't like the idea. Not only did Lonts passionately miss Tamaz's presence, but he missed watching the clowns and their antics too, and also having Toppy to boss around. To take him out of his dejection, Adam took him up to Brinslee's favourite golf-course up on the headland, and they whiled away the morning in this fashion. Lonts thoroughly enjoyed himself, but when they came to leave, he looked dejected again.

"Shall we call in at the caravan and see how they're all getting on?" said Adam.

"Julian won't like it", said Lonts, morosely "He said we had to stay away".

"Julian can lump it", said Adam.

They found the others having a coffee-break at the caravan before going to show Hawkefish their new routine.

"It's going to be a nightmare coming up with a new routine everyday", said Bardin "This is slave labour".

"I thought you might have brought a basket of food for us", said Tamaz.

"Who do you think I am, Little Red Riding Hood?!" said Adam, sitting on Bengo and Bardin's bunk.

"We'll bring it tomorrow won't we, Adam?" said Lonts.

"I'm not sure, Lo-Lo", said Adam "They are supposed to be getting their own food. Who's doing the cooking?"

"Toppy", said Bardin "We'd be lost without him. Probably end up living off dried cereals".

"Rumble can cook though", said Adam.

"He's like us, busy on the clowns' treadmill", said Bardin "We rely on Toppy to do a lot of our back-up chores".

"And Hoowie does the dirty work", said Tamaz "He's our slave".

"At the moment I just keep answering the door, like a damn butler!" said Hoowie.

"A top-up?" said Farnol, offering the coffee-pot to Adam.

"Yes, but it'll have to be a quick one", said Adam "Jules will complain if we're late for lunch".

"What are you having?" said Bengo, wistfully.

"I don't know yet", said Adam "Shall we make you up a doggy-bag?!"

"It'll do them good", Julian thundered, sitting in Brinslee's sun-lounge after lunch, overlooking the sea "After all, it's nothing like the hardship we endured when we were with Cootie's circus".

"Excuse me? But I can't remember you suffering any hardship", said Adam, who was sitting in a wicker chair next to him "The rest of us did, and yes it was a lot worse than what they're putting up with, but you, you lived like some rich Arab on a desert safari! You and Finia had that gigantic tent all to yourselves, whilst we were all crammed into that Godforsaken wagon! Anyway, you talk about them as though they're pampered rich brats, used to gold bath-taps and chauffeur-driven limosines, and that's simply not the case at all".

"They must be spoilt, Adam", said Julian "Hawkefish popped in to see me whilst you were out this morning, and he was telling me that they are lazy little bastards with no due regard for authority".

"Rubbish!" said Adam "Hawkefish would never have said that, not unless it was a joke anyway".

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

"You are utterly impossible!" said Adam, and then he burst out laughing "I know what your trouble is, Jules. You're missing them. You're desperately trying to think of an excuse to go down there and give them what-for!"

"Can you blame me?" said Julian "I don't have much of a life when they're not here. You disappear for hours on end with your little darling, and I'm left with Hillyard and Kieran extolling the joys of a healthy lifestyle".

"Don't take that from them!" said Adam "Pots, kettles and the colour black spring to mind. They're just trying to bully you because you're old".

"That's exactly what I thought", said Julian.

"Come and have a round of gold with us tomorrow", said Adam "Lo-Lo's got quite a knack for the game. It's a joy to watch him, he enjoys to so much, very heartwarming ..."

"Yes alright, I'll come", said Julian, cutting short what promised to be a lengthy eulogy to Lonts.

"And sometime today or tomorrow, go down and see them", said Adam "I strongly suspect Bardin's getting himself into a tizz over the new daily performances. He needs a firm hand to steady him".

"Mm, that sounds an interesting idea", said Julian, smiling.

"And Bengo deserves a thoroughly sound spanking", said Adam "He pulled my nipple-ring just as we were leaving, the little sod. It hurt like buggery".

"Why didn't you take the pleasure yourself?" said Julian, in surprise.

"Because they were just heading off to see Hawkefish", said Adam "He knows I've got a long memory though!"

In the heavy, musky after-lunch hour, the clowns were all idling away once more back at the caravan. One of the chorus-girls, a strapping well-toned creature in a bikini, who looked more like a weight-trainer than a dancer, was practising her footwork on the grass outside, watched from the steps by Hoowie.

"Jeez, you're a hot chick", he was saying, for the umpteenth time "You're a real babe. Jesus Christ, I could do things to you!"

"Will you shut up, Hoowie!" Bardin shouted from his bunk, where he was jotting down notes on a scrap of paper "You're like a fucking parrot!"

"She wouldn't be interested in an ugly moron like you anyway!" said Farnol.

"Not if she's got a brain", said Tamaz.

"Hah, you went for me in the basket the other day, you little slut", said Hoowie.

Tamaz pushed Hoowie off the steps and slammed the door on him.

"But I like sluts!" said Hoowie, appearing at the open window by the sink, where Rumble was trying to shave.

Tamaz picked up the dishcloth and slapped it into Hoowie's face.

"You'd better open the door and let him in again, Tamaz", said Farnol "Or he'll bawl his head off if we leave him out there!"

"And we'll boil in here", said Bardin.

The door was opened, just as Toppy returned with a bag of groceries.

"I'll do supper after your show tonight", he said "I'll make something nice".

"Yeah, put cyanide in it whilst you're at it", said Bardin, screwing up another piece of paper "This is ridiculous. There is no way I can be expected to come up with a new sketch everyday!"

"You're crazy", said Tamaz "You don't need to come up with a new sketch everyday, we can still use some of the old ones. What about 'The Stallion' for instance? Bengo would have to play the hunk, as the rest of you would be rubbish at it. No one would fight over you lot at a slave auction!"

"We'd be the cheap job-lot at the end", said Rumble "Coming with a free set of scatter cushions!"

"But who would play my part then?" said Bengo "The debauched old tosser?"

The unanimous cry went up of "Hoowie!"

"And Farnol can be the snooty society lady", said Bardin, soaking a tea-towel in cold water and draping it over his head "He's not as sexy as Finia, but he'd look quite amusing in drag. He's got the matronly build!"

"Yeah, that'd work", said Rumble, wiping his face dry.

"It's no good though", said Bardin, despondently "That still leaves another 9 sketches to come up with".

The others all gave a cry of exasperation and threw everything at him that came to hand.

Kieran, Joby, Hillyard and Mieps came to watch their turn early that evening. The comic ballet routine went off better than Bardin had hoped. It was an ambitious one to try at only a few hours notice, involving as it did lots of complicated steps and movements which all had to be got in precisely the right order. But Bardin's graceful dancing skills and Bengo's acrobatics helped to cover the lack of experience in some of the others.

Flushed with success, they danced out of the ring, and Bengo did some extra somersaults when he saw the others waiting for them. Tamaz threw himself at Joby and kissed him so hungrily it seemed as though he'd just been released from several years incarceration down a salt-mine!

"I'm afraid we can't stay", said Kieran "We've got another dinner on tonight".

"Oh yes, and we're banished", said Tamaz, sourly "Scumbag peasents not good enough to join you".

"That's right", said Joby, teasingly.

"Ach now, Tamaz, you're not missing anything", said Kieran "You remember that boring old governor from Aspiriola?"

"And his even more boring family", said Joby.

"Well they've emerged from Brinslee's West Wing, and have taken to joining us", said Kieran "You wouldn't believe what a performance it is eating with them!"

"Anyone'd think they was still summat important", said Joby.

"You lot can walk us home", said Hillyard.

The clowns walked them to Brinslee's back gate, where Hillyard presented Bardin with a substantial wad of bank-notes.

"Now, don't get mugged on the way home will you?" said Hillyard.

Bardin thanked him and stuffed the money into the inside of his cap.

"Go on, you'd better clear off", said Joby "I dunno who's gonna cry first, me or Mieps!"

The clowns went down to a bar and celebrated the success of their act with a round of beers.

"No one else", said Bardin, having impressively downed his pint in one go "No one else but circus performers puts their goddamn all into just a 20-minute act!"

"We've spent most of the day in bed, Bardy!" Bengo giggled.

"Yeah, but some of us have gone through untold anguish all day", said Bardin.

"You worry so much you don't always think constructively", said Tamaz.

Bardin grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him towards him, giving him such a vehement kiss it was amazing Tamaz still had a tongue left at the end of it.

At the bar sat one of the footmen who had come to Port West with Aspiriola's deposed Governor and his family. He was bragging to anyone who would listen how he doped The Family's drinks so that most of the time they would be "out of it", and so leave him and the other staff to get up to what they wished.

"You really can't get the staff these days!" said Bardin.

They bought bottles of beer and carried them back to the caravan using every pocket they could find. After a supper of sausages and mash, they went into a beer-fuelled sleep, and were still comatose when Adam and Lonts paid another visit the following morning. Hoowie let them in, after Bardin had chucked his pillow at him.

"We're really here to warn you that Julian's on his way to see you, before we go up to the golf-course", said Adam, pulling back the limp remnants of curtains to let in some daylight.

Bengo and Bardin's bed was littered with the empty beer-bottles.

"Oh really, clowns!" said Adam "He's going to have plenty to grumble about isn't he! You're as bad as Pats and Joby used to be!"

"We'll make some coffee", said Bardin, dopily "That'll be nice, I think. Hoowie, go and fill the kettle".

Hoowie muttered something under his breath, but he grabbed the kettle and went as he was, naked, out to the stand-pipe. Just as he finished filling it, Julian sauntered over, taking down the black umbrella he had been using as a sun-shade.

"Don't you know better than to inflict the sight of your disgusting body on the world at this hour?" he said, whacking Hoowie across the backside with the umbrella.

Hoowie fell up into the caravan, splashing Bardin with some of the contents of the kettle.

"I can see you're keeping discipline, Bardin", said Julian, facetiously, stepping into the caravan.

"He does a pretty good job really", said Rumble.

Julian winked at Bardin, who paused in the middle of sorting out his wet bed-sheet to smile back. Toppy set up the folding-chair and grandly indicated for Adam to sit down.

"We were going to ask if you've had breakfast yet", said Julian, sitting down on Bengo and Bardin's bed "But I should've known better than to ask really!"

"We're going to take you out to breakfast", Lonts boomed "At the golfers' hut".

"The clubhouse, Lo-Lo", Adam laughed.

"Are we civilised enough to be allowed up there?" said Rumble.

"I shouldn't think so for one minute", said Julian "That's why we're doing it, they need shaking up a bit. Of course this doesn't give you carte blanche to start a riot".

Bengo leapt up excitedly and nibbled Julian's ear.

"Calm down, or knowing you, you'll have a nasty accident!" said Julian.

"Bengo", said Bardin, sternly, slapping his backside.

"I'll put some clothes on if we're going out", said Bengo, going to the cupboard behind their bunk.

"Yeah that might be an idea", said Bardin, dryly.

"It'll be nice to get out", said Tamaz "After being holed-up in this tin-can".

Rumble noticed a folded slip of paper lying under the door-mat. He got out of bed and went over to it. Someone had obviously pushed it through the side of the door whilst they were sleeping, and it had gone unnoticed in all the hubbub of the others turning up. When he unfolded it he found it was a pencil sketch of Tamaz done up to look like the Gorgon, with evil staring eyes and snakes for hair.

"There are some nasty people around", said Adam.

"I suspect it might be one of the chorus-girls", said Bardin, tearing it into little pieces "Some of them are jealous of the attention he gets. Ignore it".

"I can't", said Tamaz "I don't want to be here anymore".

"Now put some clothes on", said Adam "I can't take you out to breakfast at the golf-club if you're wearing only your drawers, you little monster".

"I'm not performing anymore", said Tamaz, getting himself into a state "I'm not. It's not a circus, it's a freak-show, with me as the biggest freak!"

Bardin gripped him by the shoulders and shook him gently but firmly.

"Don't get hysterical", said Bardin "'Cos if you do I'll chuck a bucket of cold water over you, do you hear me? You are performing, because if you don't you'll let the rest of us down. Whoever sent this drawing is just jealous, that's all. Backstage rivalry, it's nothing new under the sun. I expect as far as they're concerned Hawkefish has been praising you too much, and you're not even on the Little Theatre payroll, which'll make it worse in their eyes. It means you're free".

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