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By Sarah Hapgood

Joby and Bengo were sunbathing on the main deck one Sunday afternoon.

“God, that sun is so strong”, said Joby “I feel like one of our sausages when we’re rolling ‘em around the frying-pan”.

“Can you rub some more oil on my back?” said Bengo, drowsily.

“What did your last slave die of?” said Joby, but he sat up on his haunches and began smearing Bengo’s back with it.

“Watch out, Jobe”, Hillyard chuckled “Or you’ll need some cream rubbing on your dick!”

“Behave yourself, Hillyard”, said Joby.

“Hillyard!” Adam shouted, from the top of the quarterdeck steps “Have you fetched the stuff up from the hold I asked you to?”

“It’s my day off!” Hillyard protested.

“I don’t get a day off”, said Adam “Come along, I’m relying on you”.

“Strewth”, said Hillyard, getting to his feet “I’ll be glad to go back to work for a rest”.

“Poor old Hillyard”, Bengo giggled, when Hillyard had gone.

“Poor old Hillyard, my foot”, said Joby “He have Julian a massage this morning - scarcely what I’d call work - and Adam’s asked him to bring some stuff up from the hold. Not exactly hard labour, but to hear him carrying on you’d think it was. There, how’s that?”

“Why didn’t Adam ask Lonts to bring the stuff up from below?” said Bengo.

“Darling little Lo-Lo is polishing up his chess skills for the Games Night tonight”, said Joby “Oh that’s really important that is, he mustn’t be interrupted at all. Jammy bugger”.

Joby pulled on his dressing-gown.

“Right, I shall go down and see where Kieran’s got to”, he said “He was in a funny mood earlier”.

“Aw, I hope he’s still coming with us tonight”, said Bengo.

“That’s what I’m gonna make sure of”, said Joby.

Kieran was changing the bedclothes in their cabin.

“Alright”, said Joby “What’s up? I know summat is”.

“I often change the sheets, Joby”, said Kieran “It doesn’t mean I’m ill!”

“I meant”, said Joby “You’ve been all preoccupied today. Come on, what’s the problem?”

“Alright”, Kieran paused in his labours “I’m not sure about coming into town this evening. Some of the locals aren’t pleased with me”.

“Eh?” Joby exclaimed “Since when? The one’s I’ve seen all think you’re a top-bloke. They was expecting some frightening Witchfinder-General figure, and instead they got you”.

“And for some that’s a problem”, said Kieran “Some want the Codlik-style figure”.

“They must be insane”, said Joby “Who are they?”

“Some of the old biddies”, said Kieran “They were all over me at first. Kissing my hands and such like. Then they see I’m just a little squirt of an Irishman, going round buying knickers and drinking beer, and they can’t hide their disappointment in me”.

“Well what do they want you to do?” said Joby “Drag a huge cross through the town whilst wearing a crown of thorns or some such load of old bollocks”.

“Now Joby, really …”

“All this is because of a few daft old mares who haven’t got anything better to do?”

“Those daft old mares have a lot of clout”, said Kieran “This place is reminding me of Ireland more and more”.

“And did anyone take any notice of ‘em there?” said Joby.

“Joby, I’m amazed you’ve even asked that question”, said Kieran, opening his blue eyes wide with astonishment “The Irish Mammies had a godlike status, all-seeing, all-knowing, and no one questioned them”.

“Yeah, and that’s what all this is coming from, innit?” said Joby “You’re frightened of upsetting a bunch of daft old bints who haven’t got enough to fill up their days! Really, what a complete barmpot you are! A total eejit!”

Kieran spluttered.

“That’s enough”, said Joby, firmly “You’re coming out with us tonight. Bengo will be upset if you don’t come, so will Hillyard. And Lonts will probably refuse to play, so don’t go wrecking it for everyone! Anyway, Adam and Julian are staying here to have an evening of Toff’s Debauchery together. You won’t wanna risk being here for that”.

“No, they might take me hostage or something”, said Kieran “And use me as their plaything”.

“And I wouldn’t be here to protect you”, said Joby “I’m glad commonsense has dawned at last. Was only a matter of time I spose”.

“Here, what do you think?” said Hoowie, appearing in Bengo and Bardin’s cabin, and giving a twirl in his new shirt “This is so cool isn’t it?”

“It’s just a shirt, Hoowie”, said Bengo.

“With respect Benje, you know nothing, right?” said Hoowie.

“With respect Hoo, you’re an idiot, right?” said Bengo.

“Pack it in, both of you”, said Bardin, carefully combing his hair in front of the shaving-mirror “Or you can stay here”.

“That’d be no good, Bardin”, said Hoowie “Who’d be there to keep an eye on you? Anyway, Julian’s thrown me out for the evening, so I have to go”.

“I’m amazed he doesn’t do it more often!” said Bardin.

Lonts, Umbert and Ransey were the ones taking part in the bar’s chess games. Everyone else arranged themselves around the room, and drank and talked. A mini-sensation was caused when another customer bowled in on a uni-cycle. The clowns got uproariously excited, and all clamoured to have a go.

“Are you sure it’s wise you getting on it?” said Bardin, as Bengo eagerly grabbed the bike “You’re so damn clumsy”.

“Shut up, Bardy”, said Bengo “Just because I was always better at this than you”.

Nevertheless, many of the other customers discreetly removed their glasses from the tables within Bengo’s range. Bengo did prove surprisingly adept at it though, quite deftly bowling up and down the room.

“Do you like it?” said the man with long, grey hair who had brought it in “Have it”.

“Oh no we couldn’t”, said Bengo, immediately trying to hand the uni-cycle back as though it was diseased.

“I thought you liked it”, said the man “Take it”.

It became clear that it would hurt the man’s feelings if he didn’t, so Bengo sheepishly accepted the bike.

“Better be careful what we say we like round here in future”, said Joby, when Bengo and Bardin went over to join him.

“At least try and say you like something useful in future”, Bardin snapped.

“This is more use than that hunting-horn you got from Wesley!” Bengo retorted “At least this doesn’t make an irritating noise!”

“Here!” said Hillyard, looking excitedly out of the window “Take a look at that!”

‘That’ was a beaten-up old cattle-truck that another customer was parking outside. Hillyard was in raptures over it.

“I wonder if I could buy it off him”, he said.

“What with?” said Joby “You ent earning THAT much, Hillyard! Anyway, Adam relies on your wages”.

“For years and years we’ve lived in the wilderness, spending no money at all”, said Hillyard “Now suddenly, ’cos we’re in civilisation, everybody’s got to have new clothes and fresh food everyday!”

“The new clothes was a one-off dire necessity”, said Bardin.

“New knickers for Kieran?” said Hillyard.

“Oh speak up, Hillyard”, said Kieran “I don’t think they heard you a couple of streets away!”

“We won’t be buying new clothes again until the autumn”, said Bardin “When we get the winter ones in”.

“I was thinking”, Hillyard dropped his voice and they all craned in to listen “What about selling what’s left of the Starhanger jewels?”

“That is for emergency use only”, said Bardin, firmly “Like repairs to the ship, that sort of thing”.

“What would you do with the damn truck anyway?” said Joby.

“Trips into the country”, said Hillyard “Load you lot in the back …”

“Bah!” said Bengo.

“We’ve got the horses for trips into the country”, said Bardin “And don’t go saying you want it round here, they’ll probably give it to us! And we couldn’t possibly reciprocate a gift like that!”

“They’re back”, said Adam, waking up abruptly in Julian’s bunk.

Julian sat up, and pulled his fob-watch out of his trouser pocket.

“It’s twenty past eleven”, he said.

“That bar doesn’t stay open very late”, said Adam.

He got up and walked across the room, rescuing his pants fro the chair. Outside the door came the most tremendous racket. It sounded like somebody riding a bike up and down the corridor.

“Sounds like they had a good evening”, said Julian.

“So did we”, said Adam.

“Why on earth couldn’t we have got on this well when we were younger?” said Julian.

“We were too young”, said Adam, pulling on his dressing-gown “You were too busy trying to impress everybody all the time, and I was damaged from my father. It is true what they say: time is a great healer. Just sometimes it drags its feet somewhat”.

“If you think that’s bad enough”, said Joby, pointing at the uni-cycle which had been rested against the galley door-jamb “Just be thankful we didn’t come hoe with a truck! Left to Hillyard we would have done!”

“He does like his trucks”, said Adam “I’ll make us all some cocoa”.

“I won a game!” Lonts boomed.

“Lo-Lo that’s marvellous”, said Adam.

“I don’t see what’s the harm in getting a truck”, said Hillyard, who had been perusing this theme all the way home.

“You won’t be happy until you get one will yer!” said Joby.

“Isn’t it time you were in bed?” said Hillyard.

“I’m waiting for me cocoa”, said Joby.

“Joby”, Bardin barked from the doorway “Kieran’s in our cabin”.

“So?” said Joby.

“Asleep”, said Bardin “In our bunk! Come and get him out”.

“Blimey”, said Joby, clambering down from the stool “No peace for the wicked“.

In Bengo and Bardin’s cabin, he found Kieran lying peacefully on their bunk. He had taken his boots off and lined them up neatly on the floor.

“Ach, can’t I stay here?” said Kieran, when Joby woke him “I’m not in the way”.

“Of course you’re in the way!” said Joby “You’re in their bed! C’mon, get up. I haven’t got the energy to carry you at this time of the night”.

“Oh God”, said Hoowie “I wish I was more like Kieran”.

“What? Asleep?” said Bardin, pointedly.

“No”, said Hoowie “A complete nutcase”.

“Am I hearing you right?” said Joby “You ARE a complete nutcase!”

“Kieran is one naturally, that’s what I meant”, said Hoowie “I have to work at it“.

“Could’ve fooled me”, said Joby.

“I just act up to get attention”, said Hoowie “But with Kieran it comes naturally”.

“That’s debatable”, Bardin glowered “You can’t seem to avoid being a nutter”.

“I have a feeling someone’s paid me a compliment”, said Kieran “But I’m not sure. I’ll try and remember it in the morning”.

“I wouldn’t bank on it”, said Joby.

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