"There, now you can't tell me I don't look sexy in this", said Tamaz, fluffing out the full orange skirt of his new dress "Only I can wear this. Finia couldn't. He hasn't got anything up top to put in it".
"He hasn't got anything down below either", said Joby, standing next to him in the middle of the ladies' dress shop "Whoever puts their hand up your skirt's gonna get a nasty surprise!"
Tamaz gave a yodel of amusement, and suddenly grabbing the hem of his frock, he pulled it up to his shoulders, exposing his unique genitals to a horrified clientele of women. Joby yelled and wrenched the skirt back down again.
"Where are your pants?" he bellowed.
"I took them off to try this on", Tamaz simpered "They're around here somewhere. I don't need them under this".
"All you need is your arse tanning!" said Joby.
"Ooh no, better not", said Tamaz "It might get the little blonde guy jealous".
Hillyard walked into the shop, and stood in the doorway pointedly. He wore a billed cap pulled down over his eyes against the glare of the Toondor Lanpin October sunshine.
"Come on!" he yelled "Julian's impatient enough as it is".
"You haven't said if you like my new frock", said Tamaz.
"You look terrific. Now come on. We're never going to get to the Watering Hole by sunset at this rate. Everyone keeps disappearing".
"Is the Indigo all tucked up in the boatyard now then?" said Joby.
"Yep", said Hillyard. He spotted Tamaz's drawers lying on the floor of the shop by the counter and picked them up.
"Hanging loose today eh, Tamaz?" he joked.
"Don't encourage him", said Joby, handing over a wad of notes to the woman behind the counter. Then, in his embarrassed haste to be out of the shop, he grabbed Tamaz's arm and made to yank him towards the door.
"My fur", said Tamaz, imperiously.
Joby gave a moan of exasperation and picked up the new white fur stole. He slung it round Tamaz's bare shoulders and then tied it as though he was throttling him.
"Have you got any money left from your share of this month's allowance?" said Hillyard.
"No, he's had the lot", Joby mumbled "I'll just have to hope Kieran takes pity on me and let's me have a bit of his".
"Shame you're not getting paid for your new bit-part in the show", said Hillyard "Never mind, you can always have some of mine ... for a consideration of course".
They went out into the street, where a hay-wagon was parked by the horse-trough. Chained to the shafts at the front of the cart was a beautiful and sturdy chestnut brown horse, with a docked tail and a plaited mane. She was going to pull them eventually to Woll's estate, two days journey away, where there was to be staged a special charity performance of the Hallowe'en Spectacular, via which the Toondories hoped to milk some of Woll's equally rich and influential friends of donations for the town.
The Indigo-ites were heavily involved in this event, and were taking the opportunity to have the Indigo put in the boatyard for a few days whilst they were away, so that she could have an overhaul.
It was now early afternoon and most of the participants had already moved off in their various wagons and carts. Julian was now chafing because getting everyone rounded up for their own send-off was proving to be a monumental task.
"Ah here's Joby at least", said Adam, climbing up onto the box at the front, next to Julian.
"What on earth has that creature got on?" said Julian, pushing back his panama to stare in appalled awe at Tamaz, who looked striking in his orange-skirted dress with black boned bodice, plus white fur stole. His feet were bare (Tamaz didn't possess any footwear), and his knickers were currently in Hillyard's trouser pocket.
"He looks as though he's off to a May ball!" Julian exclaimed.
"He's going to be awfully uncomfortable in that on the journey", said Adam.
"Serves him right", said Joby, getting closer "I hope he has trouble breathing in it! It's cost me a bloody fortune. I could get a couple of decent suits for what that dress has cost me!"
"There wouldn't be any point", said Adam "You'd never wear them. We used to have terrible trouble getting you to posh up when Patsy was President".
"Isn't the horse lovely, Joby?" said Lonts, who was standing at the front of the animal, stroking his nose.
"You can get in too", said Julian, irritably "Ten-thirty on the dot I said for lift-off. Four hours later and we're still here!"
"You didn't make it clear enough", said Ransey, sitting in the hay-cart behind him "You should've imposed penalties for late-comers".
"We're nearly ready now", said Adam.
"Where the hell is Gandhi?" Julian snapped "We're waiting on him now!"
Kieran came flying out of the tobacconists, clutching a large carton of cigarettes. He was hauled onto the back of the hay-cart just as Julian impatiently set it into motion.
The Watering Hole was in the middle of nowhere, a stopover between Toondor Lanpin and the Marsh Village, No-Name or Woll's estate. It was a blindingly simple hamlet of a few huts centred around the bar which gave the area its name. The popularity of the place wasn't merely due to its convenience as a stopover. A lot of it was because of the potency of its home-brewed cider, made out of apples from Woll's estate. Legends had grown out of the strength of this brew and its aphrodisiac qualities.
Very recently a rather foolish member of Codlik's cabinet had gone on television to claim that drugs were now such a serious problem that all distillers and breweries were going out of business. This might have been the case in the City (and quite frankly who cared what happened there?!), but it certainly wasn't the story in remoter areas.
The Indigo-ites reached the Watering Hole at dusk, long after the rest of the travelling show had camped for the night, which meant they had to set up their tee-pee at the very outskirts of the site, an inconveniently long way from the bar. Hillyard and Julian took the cart off to load up on essential supplies (several jars of the potent brew), to add to the hospitality selection which Glynis had obligingly left on their pitch.
All around them members of the travelling show were praticising their routines.
"Shouldn't you be memorising your lines, Joby?" said Lonts, who was sitting next to him by the camp-fire.
"I've only got about four", said Joby, who had been taken on as an extra in 'Murder At Nightmare Hall', playing the village idiot (and he'd heard all the jokes!) "My big scene is when I have to go and ask Hawkefish for my wages, which he has to try and diddle me out of. I could probably ad-lib most of it!"
"But you're also in the barn dance scene", said Lonts.
"Only to make up the numbers", said Joby "I just have to hang around in the background and look busy".
"Carrying a spear, as Shakespearian actors used to call it", said Adam.
Kieran and Tamaz had gone off to rehearse their roller-skating routine, and Joby began to get bored. The cider had made him restless, and he wondered off to see if he could find either of them, or meet the cart on its way back with supplies.
Hillyard had got delayed at the bar. This simple but pleasent one-roomed building did a lot of its business at the side-hatch, where two pretty young girls dispensed earthenware jars, along with plenty of giggles and saucy comments. They were both very taken with Hillyard, and told him that he should come back to them as soon as he'd sampled some of the cider.
"Good stuff ennit", he said, boisterously "We should get the whole world pissed on this at the same time".
"You've heard about the side-effects it can have?" said the dark-haired girl, coyly.
"Yeah, but I don't need it", said Hillyard, making them both jeer good-naturedly.
He ferried several jars to the cart, where he found Julian already in a state of intoxication, stumbling round the back of it, trying to find a way back up.
"What took you so long?" he snapped "I need you to help me into this contraption. You are supposed to be my faithful old retainer after all, here for my convenience".
Hillyard gave him a well-aimed kick in the pants for a reply. Then he got Julian onto the cart and left him to lounge in the straw.
"Adam'll have a few strong words to say to you when we get back", he said.
"Adam is getting far too shrewish by half", said Julian "We must nip it in the bud. We don't want him getting like that dreadful steward we had at Wolf Castle, the one you so foolishly got mixed up with. What was his name, Horrid?"
"Hirrid", said Hillyard "And I can't believe Adam could ever be like him".
"I know, God he was boring wasn't he?" said Julian "How on earth could you even consider having a relationship with a man who knits his own jumpers! But I'll tell you this, if Adam shows even the smallest tendency of being like him there will be trouble".
Hillyard steered the cart back to their encampment with some difficulty. Mainly because the cider was causing him to burp quite violently. Even so, he felt lightheaded and happy, if only for the fact that all the talk of Hirrid reminded him of what a lucky escape he'd had. He was still blissfully ignorant of Hirrid's true fate, because Kieran had managed to keep it from him all these years, so he could recall Hirrid's whingeing and whining without feeling any sense of guilt.
Halfway back to the camp they met Joby trudging along morosely.
"Hey Spotty!" Hillyard yelled down to him "Hop up and slurp the cider!"
He slowed the cart so that Joby could clamber onto the back of it. Julian surfaced out of the straw to see who the new passenger was.
"Ah the delectable Joby!" he said.
"How many have you had?" said Joby.
"Quite enough", Julian pulled him down into the straw "Why don't you relax with me, dear heart?"
"I'll try", said Joby, cautiously.
"Even after all these years you still bear the marks of being told to put up and shut up, know your place, from your childhood", said Julian, pulling at the cord on Joby's baggy pants "But with me I shall show you that isn't the case. I will grant you your every desire".
"What if I don't want it?" said Joby, now recumbent in the straw.
"I think after all these years I should be able to tell if a man is aroused or not", Julian yanked down Joby's pants and then flicked his erect penis in amusement.
"God, what a gorgeous gob-full of prick you do possess", Julian exclaimed.
Suddenly he bore down and crammed Joby's penis into his mouth. Joby had the dangerous and exquisite sensation of falling off a mountain backwards. Everything crowded into his head at once. The rumble of the wheels, the cool night air, and Julian's mouth.
"What are you up to on there, you little focker?!" came another voice.
Kieran and Tamaz were weaving about on the track behind the cart. Both were so drunk it was a wonder they were still able to stay on their rollerskates. Joby shouted this observation down to them.
"We skate better when we're rat-arsed!" Kieran cried back, managing to pursue the cart rather well.
Hillyard brought the car to a halt near their tee-pee.
"Oh God, it's that cider, Kiel", said Joby, sliding out and into his friend's arms "Killer stuff. Oh you look lovely. Your hair is so soft, and you're not as scrawny as you used to be".
"Oh cheers, thanks", said Kieran "Backhanded compliment".
"Let's stay drunk forever", said Joby, and they both collapsed giggling in each other's arms.
"That isn't too tight is it?" said Adam, fastening the pins on Lonts's nappy "Only I can't see too well in here, with just this one lamp".
"It's fine", said Lonts, drowsily.
He was practically asleep before Adam had even finished attending to him. Julian barged his way into the teepee soon after.
"You've obviously been up to something", Adam grumbled, trying to take off his own clothes "You've got that look about you".
"Right that does it!" said Julian, pointing at him accusingly "I won't have it, Ada. You sound just like Hirrid".
"Hirrid?" Adam exclaimed "That's a blast from the past. Where did you dig him up from?"
"I was saying to Hillyard earlier that I won't have you turning into an old shrew".
"I'm not an old shrew!" Adam protested "Am I?"
"Like one of those mean-minded old women".
"Jules, for heaven's sake ..."
"Well I'm not going to stand by and watch a delightful person go down the slippery slope. I will not allow it".
Julian smacked him on his bare buttocks a few times.
"Whey-hey!" Joby cried, as he came into the tent, followed by Kieran "That serves him right for what he did to me!"
"It's all too exciting", said Kieran, trying to get his words out.
"Adam, you sexy beast!" said Hillyard, dragging in Tamaz "Hold him there, whilst I get me dick out!"
"Oh no you don't!" said Adam.
Julian pulled him up and kissed his backside.
"What's going on?" said Lonts, blearily "Are you all having an orgy?"
"Chance'd be a fine thing", said Hillyard.
"Undress me", Tamaz ordered Joby, annoyed that he hadn't been noticed by him for some while.
"What the hell do they put in that stuff?" said Ransey, staggering into the tent, and looking green around the gills "I'm beginning to feel like I've been poisoned".
He dropped into a space near Julian's and took off his glasses.
"I was going to sleep there", said Hillyard.
"You can go by the door", Ransey groaned.
"I always end up by the fucking door", said Hillyard "What am I, the bloody draught-excluder?!"
This comment caused Lonts to erupt into uncontrollable giggles.
"You've made his evening", said Joby.
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