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By Sarah Hapgood

Beatrix was hanging round the main entrance to the covered market, casting occasional anxious glances at a small clock tower nearby. She had assumed she would be meeting Adam everyday to do their marketing, but he had, without any warning or explanation, missed the previous day completely.

And then suddenly he rounded the corner of the street, large shopping-basket in hand. She was relieved to see that this was one of those days when he was alone. Sometimes he was accompanied by Joby, Bengo, Lonts or Toppy, but Beatrix preferred the days when she had him all to herself.

Adam had been deep in thought. He looked up and he gave a little inward moan of dismay. He didn’t object to Beatrix’s company, but he was starting to find it a drag that she insisted on accompanying him every single time he went shopping. He could of course vary the time he went, but 10 o’clock in the morning was very convenient for him, in a way that other times of the day weren’t. He got precious little time to himself, except for when he occasionally went out sketching, and he would have liked the chance to amble around the market on his own, relishing the sight and feel of the produce on display.

“Hello Bea”, he aid, burying his annoyance under his usual good manners.

“I didn’t see you yesterday”, she said, anxiously.

“I know, I was on the galleon all day”, he said “We’re moving to a more permanent mooring on the edge of town very soon, and so I expect my marketing days will be down to 2 or 3 times a week. That’s the way it shall be”.

“Yes of course”, said Beatrix, disappointedly “I know that you will be expected to have moments of spiritual retreat. I expect that’s what you were doing yesterday”.

“Sort of”, said Adam, and he forbore to say anymore.

In fact, he had spent his normal shopping time spanking Bardin in the galley. The Club had started up again, and he had had an exhilarating time laying his hand firmly on Bardin’s neatly starched behind. He was damned if he was going to tell Beatrix that though. Anyway, as far as they were concerned, spanking counted as a spiritual activity.

The memory of having Bardin across his knee once more had been occupying his thoughts, and he had hoped to re-enjoy the memory of it on a quiet amble around the stalls. It looked instead as if he would have to put up with Bea’s incessant chatter. The shopping became something of a penance. Once inside, he cast a longing look at a tiny secondhand book-stall which was shoe-horned into a tight corner. He had been hoping to have a browse in there too (the galleon’s small stock of books was badly in need of replenishing), but he wanted to be able to do that in peace too.

Beatrix sensed his distraction, and the feeling of unease she had had for the past couple of days intensified. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing Adam’s friendship, but it was becoming harder and harder to keep to the casual status the rules of it dictated. She missed him intensely when he wasn’t around. The truth was, that so few people in her life really listened to her. For no other reason than sheer thoughtlessness. Beatrix had the misfortune to be one of those people everybody else took for granted, assuming she would always be there to listen to them. Adam had shown an interest in her, in her life, in her feelings. The rarity of such a thing had turned her head.

When they had finished and emerged from the covered market, Adam noticed an old woman selling bunches of wild flowers nearby. He went up to her and purchased two bunches. Beatrix cursed herself for being a foolish, middle-aged woman, when she saw him place them carefully on top of his basket. They were not for her.

“For Lonts?” she asked, with unnatural brightness.

“One bunch for Lo-Lo”, he said “The other for Bardin”.

Beatrix was mystified as to why he was buying Bardin flowers, but assumed it was out of respect for Bardin being the Captain.

When he got back to the galleon Adam went into the clowns’ cabin. He pulled down Bardin’s trousers, and stuffed the flowers into Bardin’s shorts.

“Is this some new Club ritual?” said Bardin.

“Yes, why not?” said Adam “Anything goes with you, where the Club is concerned, old love. And a little thank you for submitting so dociley to such a really sound spanking yesterday”.

“Don’t I always?” said Bardin.

“Well yes, but it’s been a while”, said Adam “We were concerned you might be out of the habit”.

“Scarcely!” said Bardin.

Adam went into the galley. Meanwhile, Bardin carefully fished the flowers out of his shorts, and then pulled his trousers back up. He was putting the flowers into the shaving-jug when Kieran ran into the room.

“Hah, you get flowers as a reward”, he said, smacking Bardin on the behind “I don’t”.

“Then perhaps you should try wearing starchy shorts”, said Bardin, smacking him back.

They wrestled each other onto the sofa, and were generally fooling around when the engines started up.

“We’re moving to our new place?” said Kieran.

“I gave the order to get underway as soon as Adam got back”, said Bardin “We’re not going far. Still within walking-distance of the town, but hopefully private enough for us to be our usual decorous, charming selves. C’mon, let’s go up on deck, and watch progress”.

As they headed to the quarterdeck steps, Bardin gave Kieran another swipe on the behind. They ran to the far end of the main deck, and leaned on the bulwark. Some children ran out onto the quayside and waved at them as the galleon slid westwards. Kieran and Bardin waved back.

“Hey Bardin, you’ve got flowers stuffed down your trousers”, said Kieran, fishing out a couple of the wild flowers from Bardin’s pants.

“I’m going to make you a present”, said Bardin “I’m going to give you a couple of pairs of my old shorts. Stop you complaining that I’m so privileged because my underwear’s more sexy than yours!”

After a couple of days at their new mooring, Bardin felt it imperative to call a meeting in the dining-room. He dragged everybody in there for coffee one afternoon.

“It has been brought to my attention”, he began.

“Is it really necessary to have all this palava, old love?” said Adam.

“Yes”, said Bardin “I have heard grumbling since we got here. Some of you, incredibly to my mind, have been complaining about stopping here. Why, for God’s sake, it’s perfect! We have our own little beach, it’s within walking-distance of the town, what in hell is wrong with it?”

“Nothing”, said Rumble “Just we’ve got a bit nostalgic for the old clearing we were at this time last year, that’s all”.

“For months, no, YEARS”, said Bardin, gripping the edge of the table “I’ve had to listen to you lot moaning about being in the back of beyond. No shops to buy fresh produce at, no decent bar, in fact not any bar, for miles around, no boat-yard in case we need emergency repair-work doing, and now we’ve got all that, and yet you want to be back at the back of beyond! Give me strength!”

He grabbed a tea-towel off the table and put it over his head, like a disgruntled budgie shoving himself into seclusion.

“Now you’re just being silly”, said Adam, whipping the tea-towel off him.

“I feel like being silly!” said Bardin “Everybody else is! You want to go back to the clearing, eh? Demon-infested woods all around us, and Crowley lurking on the other side of the lake?”

“It was nice in the summer, Bardin”, said Lonts.

Ransey rapped on the table.

“I’d like to make a suggestion”, he said “We stay here for the time being. Adam can get his fill of the markets …”

“And stock up”, said Adam “Gradually replenish the hold”.

“And Hillyard and I can earn some money”, said Ransey “As we’re the only ones around here who can”.

“Not true”, said Bardin “Bengo and I could go back to clowning if needs be”.

Bengo looked horrified.

“Gawd”, said Joby “Hasn’t the world got enough problems as it is?!”

“I’m not going back to all that”, said Bengo “I’ve got a job. It just doesn’t pay anything that’s all”.

“No, but it performs a vital service”, said Adam.

“I haven’t finished yet”, said Ransey, rapping on the table again “We stay here for the rest of the summer, and next winter, and then, next year we head back to the clearing, and spend the summer there. We can tell everyone here we’re going off on a spiritual retreat”.

“That all sounds grand”, said Kieran.

“Good”, said Ransey “And being here shouldn’t stop anybody doing what they normally do. Business as usual”.

“Spanking Bardin”, said Hillyard, cheerfully.

“Yeah, that definitely still goes on”, said Joby.

They soon settled into life at their new mooring, and made the best of it. The thin slither of beach was rock-strewn, which meant caution had to be applied when exercising the horses, but otherwise it was quite satisfactory. The beach was backed by a rocky cliff-side which bordered the hills which ran round the back of the town.

Life on the galleon resumed in a relaxed manner. Adam cut down his shopping excursions to twice a week, and took to going in the afternoons. He hated doing this, not just because ten in the morning had been an ideal time to go, but because it made him feel bad for so blatantly avoiding Beatrix this way.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, mate”, said Joby, as he, Adam and Bengo had a tea-break up on deck one afternoon “She’s not exactly leaving you much choice! I don’t understand why she can’t understand the score. It’s not as if you were sending out conflicting signals!”

“Perhaps I was, without knowing it?” said Adam.

“Still not your fault”, said Joby.

“The worst thing is”, said Adam “She wants me to meet her new friends. I don’t want to meet up with a gaggle of women, and be One Of The Bloody Girls. I’ve never been that type of queer. And if you tell Julian what I’ve just said, I shall throttle you!”

“If anyone should be one of the girls it’s him!” said Joby “Or Bardin perhaps. They could have him trying on new nighties!”

“Bardy’d be no good”, said Bengo “He’s even ruder to women than he is to men. He wouldn’t know how to behave at all!”

Later that day, Kieran was busy brushing down the horses, until their coats shone. He was pretty much glistening himself too. Working in the heat of the hold had made him sweat profusely. This, combined with the delicious numbness brought on by a recent hiding from Joby, made him want to lie down in the hay, and while away the rest of the afternoon in a fuzzy glow. Suddenly he noticed Bardin approaching, bearing two mugs of tea.

“Don’t tell me you’ve been demoted to tea-boy, Bardin?” said Kieran, putting down the dandy-brush, and moving a stool so that Bardin could put the cups down.

“I volunteered”, said Bardin “I wanted somewhere that I couldn’t hear Beatrix jabbering on”.

“Is she here again then?” said Kieran.

“Oh she’s well dug in”, said Bardin “It’s going to take dynamite to blast her out”.

“No”, said Kieran “Come evening we’ll offer to walk her home”.

Bardin took in the way Kieran’s long, sweaty hair was sticking to the area around his nipples. He grabbed him and assaulted him with a kiss. Kieran’s trousers had slipped down to his waist during his horse-grooming exertions, revealing the top of the white shorts Bardin had given him.

“Enjoying them?” said Bardin, roguishly.

“Put it this way”, said Kieran “I’ve certainly been taught a lesson this afternoon! Well-spanked and no mistake”.

Bardin tugged down Kieran’s trousers until they landed around his ankles. Having recently been put over Joby’s knees and spanked firmly, first with a paddle and then the back of his hand, Kieran was completely without embarrassment.

“They’re a bit baggy on you though”, said Bardin, groping the back of Kieran’s buttocks through the cotton material “We need to get you tighter ones”.

“You’re the one with the mania for tight-knickers, Bardin”, said Kieran “Personally, I like a bit of breathing-space down there”.

“You should still try a tight pair”, said Bardin “They chafe the behind”.

“My behind doesn’t need chafing”, said Kieran “It feels like it’s been worked over with sandpaper as it is!”

“Tomorrow we’re going shopping”, said Bardin “Just you and me. The others want new shirts. We’ll look at tight shorts for you at the same time”.

They heard footsteps approaching down the steps. Just in case it was Beatrix, Kieran hastily pulled his trousers back up. They were both relieved to see it was Ransey.

“What are you two talking about?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Spanking”, said Kieran, throatily.

“That’s a relief”, said Ransey “I was worried you might be plotting something”.

“We’re not planning on doing another astral-projection, Ransey!” said Bardin “We haven’t done one in months. I wish you’d stop being so suspicious about us”.

“I’m sorry, but when I see you huddled together I instantly jump to that conclusion”, said Ransey.

“When you should really know we’re talking filth!” said Kieran.

“We’re going shopping tomorrow”, said Bardin “Kieran needs new underwear. I hope you don’t mind that?”

“Stop being snaky”, said Ransey “Anyway, it’s my day at the boat-yard tomorrow, I can keep an eye on you”.

“As a reward for keeping an eye on us”, said Kieran, cheekily “Would you like a look at my new knickers?”

“I’m sure I shall see them aplenty”, said Ransey, giving Kieran a deft smack on the behind before leaving again.

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