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By Sarah Hapgood

Peridot was a confusing place. A hurly-burly of colours and noises. After so long out in the isolation of the ocean, for the Indigo-ites it could be hugely disorientating. Children ran up to them in the streets with their hands outstretched for any things that could be on offer. As for the adults, some greeted them with friendliness, and a few with a reserved distrustfulness.

The main bar in the town seemed to take the title “public house” to a new level. People wandered in and out, often with no clear purpose in mind. Animals also occasionally drifted in off the street, and were unceremoniously shooed out again. In here the begging children gave way to adults, usually with something to sell. Carpets, watches, quack medicines, cooking-pots, pornographic playing-cards … all were on offer at regular intervals. To the relief of the Indigo-ites, the locals seemed to have no interest in them other than as a potential source of income.

“At least we shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to fix the engine”, said Hillyard, wedged in a corner of the bar.

“I spect we’ll end up with half the town offering to help us!” said Joby.

“I’ll do a bit of asking round on the waterfront first thing tomorrow morning”, said Hillyard.

He looked across with some concern at Bardin, who had been unnervingly silent all evening.

“All that OK with you, Bard?” said Hillyard.

“I can’t say I’m overjoyed at the thought of having a complete stranger poking around on the ship”, Bardin began.

Hillyard lost his cool.

“Oh for crissakes”, he said “It’s gotta be done, mate. I’m going to be with whoever-does-it all the time they’re on board. Even if they want to go to the heads I’ll escort them there and stand outside the door, it it’ll please you”.

“Hillyard”, said Ransey, trying to apply a restraining hand.

“I don’t know why you don’t copy Finia and take up knitting, Bardin”, Hillyard went on “You’re turning into such an old woman!”

Bardin’s little round brown eyes were blazing.

“Hillyard”, said Ransey, firmly “Go and get another round of drinks in”.

Fortunately, Hillyard obeyed without a murmur. Bengo had his hand on Bardin’s wrist, as though to stop him from flying out of his chair.

“I think this trip is taking its toll on everyone”, said Kieran.

“Not half”, said Joby.

“But I’m sure you’ll agree with me, Bardin”, said Kieran “That we’re not going to go much further unless we get the engine fixed”.

“I never disputed that”, said Bardin, in an icy voice.

Hillyard apologised to Bardin as soon as they got back to the galleon. Bardin accepted the apology with chilly grace and went to his cabin.

“Bengo, for god’s sake put in a good word for me”, said Hillyard “Or he’ll be having me shot at dawn tomorrow!”

“Ooh”, said Bengo “The trouble is, Bardy’s always got a bit of a bee in his bonnet about you. He keeps thinking you and me are flirting. I’ll tell him he’s being stupid”.

“Probably best not to say that tonight, Bengo”, said Kieran, hastily.

“Let sleeping Bardins lie”, said Joby.

“Oh dear it’s really quite pathetic”, said Adam, the next morning “Hillyard’s trying so hard to win Brownie points with Bardin, by getting the engineer in so promptly. And Bardin’s acting like a glacier”.

“It’s weird”, said Joby “If Bengo had told Bardin he was acting like an old woman he’d have forgotten about it by now, but ’cos it was bloody Hillyard, we have to have a major diplomatic incident made out of it!”

“Really men can be so tiresome”, said Adam “It astonishes me I’m gay sometimes, it really does”.

“It don’t astonish me”, said Joby, who couldn’t imagine Adam being anything else.

“All this is about testosterone”, said Adam “Bardin likes to pride himself on being so practical, and yet Hillyard’s more practical than him, that’s all this is about I think. It can’t still be the Bengo nonsense after all these years”.

“Ah, but Hillyard can’t dance as well as Bardin”, said Joby “He can’t keep the other clowns in order like Bardin does either. I don’t think Hillyard could keep anyone in order!”

“Hillyard has no interest in being bossy that’s why”, said Adam “Well if things don’t lighten up soon, I can see Julian getting dragged into this little disagreement, and that really will be a nightmare!”

To get away from the noise of the maintenance work that afternoon, Adam went for a walk around the waterfront. Lonts came with him for part of it, but got distracted by a performing monkey on an accordion. Adam meanwhile got annoyed by the sight of Julian being rude to an extremely timid waitress at a pavement café. Adam went over to remonstrate with him.

“How dare you be so unspeakably rude to that poor girl!” he said.

“That’s the 3rd time she’s got my order wrong”, said Julian, unrepentant “I only want an extra strong coffee for god’s sake. Anyone would think I was asking for something complicated. Don’t loom over me like that, sit down”.

“I’m not sure I want to”, said Adam, sitting down all the same “It’s not like you to be rude to women, it’s normally men you’re an unspeakable swine to!”

The timid waitress came out with another cup for Adam, who tried to make it up to her for Julian’s rudeness by thanking her sweetly. The girl stammered a terrified “thank you sir” before scurrying away again.

“You see what I mean?” said Julian “Frightened as a jack-rabbit”.

“Has it not occurred to you that YOU just may have something to do with that, Jules”, said Adam.

“Rubbish”, said Julian “The whole town’s like it. Scared of their own shadows”.

“I don’t see that at all”, said Adam, looking around him at the noisy bustle everywhere “They seem a very gregarious lot to me”. “Oh will you stop being so damn obtuse”, said Julian, impatiently.

“Yegods!” said Adam “How one earth nobody managed to throttle you when you were still a mortal is little short of a miracle!”

“That’s it, give away all our dark secrets why don’t you”.

“Nobody could hear anything above this racket”.

“Try looking below the surface for a change”, said Julian, in what Adam considered to be a completely insufferable way “Ignore the children and the ever-hopefuls trying to flog us things, and what have you got?”

“A small community living by the ocean”, said Adam.

“If you didn’t have such good legs I’d wonder why I ever bothered spending any time with you”, Julian snapped “Look closely around you”.

Adam glanced around him. He saw that they were being closely scrutinised by a thickset man standing some distance away.

“Let’s not go getting overly-paranoid”, he said “That could just be an age-old distrust of strangers. Compared to some places we’ve been on our travels this lot aren’t too bad at all in that department”.

“Take it from me”, said Julian “Unlike you I don’t walk around with my head in the clouds, I notice things. These people are afraid of something”.

“If Lo-Lo hadn’t come and joined us at that point”, Adam said in the galley later “I think I would have kicked his chair out from underneath him. The old fool!”

“You still should’ve done”, said Joby.

“Lo-Lo is a calming influence on me”, said Adam.

“Not on me he ent”, said Joby, stoutly “Not when he comes in here smoking that filthy old pipe of his”.

Kieran was the other person in the galley at that moment. He was perched on the edge of a stool reading the local paper, which seemed to be about the size of a 4-person tent.

“It must be nearly Easter”, he said “There’s a recipe in here for simnel cake”.

“I hate simnel cake”, said Joby “It’s got too much marzipan in it”.

“Is it Easter already?” said Adam “The last time we knew the date was back in Zilligot Bay, and then it was November. Have we been at sea that long?”

“Probably find we’ve slipped into another bleedin’ time-warp!” said Joby.

Bengo breezed into the room, looking fresh of face and full of the joys of spring.

“What have you done to Bardy?” he asked Adam, giggling “He’s like a bear with a sore head”.

“Sore behind more like”, said Adam “I had had a basinful of Julian behaving difficultly, and then I come home and find Bardin’s being just as bad. He’s been upsetting poor Hillyard again about the engine, so I followed him into his cabin and gave him what-for”.

“Good for you”, Bengo laughed.

“That man needs his butt smacking very hard very frequently”, said Adam.

“I thought that’s what he got!” said Joby.

“Plainly not as frequently as he should”, said Adam.

“That’s it!” said Kieran, crunching up the newspaper enthusiastically.

“Here, I haven’t read that yet!” said Joby.

“I’ll get Toppy to iron it for you”, said Kieran “Jayz, I’ve been so dense! That’s the answer to sorting out all our problems with Bardin that we’ve had the past few weeks. He needs therapy, to be walloped on a regular basis at set times, say 2 or 3 afternoons a week”.

“Adam, can I have 2 or 3 afternoons off a week to do it?” said Bengo.

“No you can’t!” said Joby “Kieran, you think a bit of bum-smacking is the answer to everything”.

“Not for everyone I admit”, said Kieran “But for some of us here it is. It helps to keep me focussed and on the rails. A bit like alternative therapy sessions”.

“Yeah but you’re kinky”, said Joby.

“So’s Bardin”, said Bengo “Oh Kieran, it’s a wonderful idea!”

“I should’ve thought of it before”, said Kieran “As the ship’s spiritual guardian it’s my duty to think up these things, and I’ve been falling down on the job. Bardin normally only gets walloped as a punishment, or as sexual horseplay, not as medicine. That’s why, with all respect Bengo, I don’t think you should do it”.

“No, not as medicine”, said Bengo “I couldn’t bring the gravitas to the role that’d be needed”.

“Who then?” Joby barked.

“Me”, said Kieran “I can dish it out as well as take it you know, and I think I can safely say I’m an expert on the subject”.

“A-ho”, said Bengo “Wait til Hoowie hears about this, he’ll be jubilant”.

“Tell Hoowie not to break open the champagne just yet”, said Adam “I’ve got a considerable bone to pick with him. He should be keeping an eye on Julian, not allowing him to wander about the town on his own, upsetting people willy-nilly”.

“Oh that was my fault” said Bengo “Hoowie offered to come and help me buy some vegetables so I let him. He was very good, didn’t get up to any mischief. I was going to tell Bardy that just now, but he was in such a bad mood that I didn’t see the point!”

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