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“We might be the only ones left in the world”, said Lonts, sitting at the galleon’s dining-room table as supper was being set out.
“Oh don’t you start”, said Joby.
“Well we might be, Joby”, said Lonts “Everyone on the mainland might have set fire to themselves in a huge bonfire. It’s what happened at Kiskev”.
“Kiskev was weird”, said Joby “Full of nutters”.
“So’s the mainland, Joby”, Lonts pointed out.
“Nothing like a bit of cheery conversation during a day of darkness to keep things ticking along”, said Hillyard “And this is nothing like a cheery conversation!”
“I find it hard to believe that everyone has gone, Lo-Lo”, said Adam “Someone will survive. You did. And Joby, don’t you dare say anything!”
“Bit hard to resist”, said Joby.
Bardin walked in, wearing his pink nightie and carrying a stack of papers and a pencil.
“I thought”, he said “To keep up morale, we’d have a games evening after supper”.
“Grea idea”, said Hillyard “But what’s all the paperwork in aid of? We’re not having a meeting first are we?”
“That would be pretty intolerable, old love”, said Adam.
“It’s for scoring!” said Bardin, slapping the papers down on the table.
“That’s a bleedin’ relief”, said Joby.
The games night was a great success, although Joby and Kieran turned in early. They had to keep their window closed, because of the toxic atmosphere outside, so their cabin was sweltering. They both lay on their bunk, naked, and listened to the shouts and murmuring of voices coming from the dining-room.
“I hope that doesn’t go on all night”, said Joby.
“Ach I don’t know, I find it quite comforting”, said Kieran.
“I can see us heading back to the mainland soon you know”, said Joby “I can feel it in me bones”.
“Well there’s not much reason for us to stick around here”, said Kieran “We don’t really fit in, and the islands aren’t really our kind of thing”.
“You’re thinking what I’m thinking”, said Joby.
“The mainland’s a big place”, said Kieran “It’ll be better if we took our chances there than stayed holed up here at the edges of the Universe for Lord knows how many years”.
“And this time we won’t have the Cave4 to keep bothering about”, said Joby “The only thing is will you be sensible and not give Ransey any worries?”
“Well I’ll try me best”, said Kieran “If I was determined to get into trouble I could do it just as well out here as over there!”
If they had but known it, Bardin had been having the same thoughts all evening. When the games night drew to a close at around midnight, he beckoned Adam to follow him into his cabin. Adam did so and tried not to be too distracted by the swish of Bardin’s shorts under his nightie.
“When this ash-cloud clears”, said Bardin, pushing the cabin door shut behind them “We head back over the water”.
“But where do we drop anchor?” said Adam.
“That remains to be seen”, said Bardin “Though I suggest we patrol the coastline for a while, and see what’s what. I just refuse to believe everywhere is total carnage. We will have to be very careful, there’s no doubt about that”.
“Well it is worth remembering that we did have to flee the northern lands”, said Adam.
“Yes well I wasn’t planning on taking us back up there anyway”.
“Thank heavens for that! I did get rather sick of it towards the end”.
“No”, said Bardin “This time we’ll go south. See what’s happening there. And we’ll take every precaution”.
As is often the way with small communities the bush-telegraph ensured that the news spread like wildfire. By first thing in the morning everyone on the boat was in a ferment of excitement about the plans to move on. Hoowie had run into the dining-room and began to bang out a cacophonous tune on the piano, until a multitude of voices yelled at him to pipe down.
After breakfast Bardin demanded everyone’s attention.
“I have something serious to say”, he said.
“Well spit it out”, said Julian.
“This is a serious suggestion”, said Bardin “We have no idea what we will be going into on the mainland, so what I want to say is this … if anyone wants to stay here on Fire Island, they can”.
“Are you for real?” said Hal, one of the B-league clowns.
“Somehow I thought a few of you might want to”, said Bardin.
“Here?” said Hoowie “On Fire Island? What for?”
“Well that would be up to you”, said Bardin, impatiently.
“Nobody’s gonna stay, Bardy”, said ñ, thinking that all this was a complete waste of item.
“I have to ask though”, said Bardin “You lot keep banging on about democracy, and then when we have any you’re all stumped what to do with it Anyway, I’ll give you til 4 o’clock, teatime, to make up your minds”.
“Is that really necessary, old love?” said Adam.
“Yes!” said Bardin, preparing to leave the room “I have to be absolutely sure everyone’s in on this”.
“Why?” said Joby “You never have before”.
“Four o’clock!” was Bardin’s leaving-shot.
“I suppose we’d better humour him”, Adam sighed.
“And then shove the fruitcake up his nose”, said Bengo.
Bardin set the other clowns to work cleaning the topside of the boat, after its recent drenching in ash and soot. Then he went into the galley, and finding Joby and Bengo alone, let off steam about how no order could ever be executed simply on the galleon.
“Why, everytime”, he said “Do I have to get Adam saying ‘is that absolutely necessary, old love?’”
“Just his way innit”, said Joby.
“Yes, but it drives me mad!” said Bardin “I’m going to go and look at some maps”.
“And make another mess everywhere no doubt”, said Bengo, when he’d gone.
“‘Yes, but it drives me mad’”, said Joby, imitating Bardin “Great big fairy”.
“I know, he’s a total diva”, said Bengo “The trouble is, I suspect he’s hoping Hall will what to stay behind on Fire Island”.
“We’ve never managed to shed him yet”, said Joby.
“Huh”, said Bengo “And what’s the betting I get Shag and Mutton Broth pinning me in a corner later, and whining about how awful Bardy’s being to them. God, I feel like boycotting this damn 4 o’clock meeting in protest!”
To Bengo’s dismay, the meeting went as he had predicted. Mutton Broth got upset, and kept polishing his glasses and whining that “you keep trying to get rid of us, Bardin”.
“Yes, and it never bloody works!” was Bardin’s undiplomatic response.
“We do all that cleaning for you all the time”, Mutton went on.
“It’s called earning your keep”, said Bardin “We had to do enough of carrying you lot in the theatre”.
“Shall we wrap up this meeting now?” said Adam “And toodle over and say goodbye to Lord Robert and the Girls?”
“I’m not leaving this ship until we’ve set sail”, said Mutton, still vigorously polishing his glasses “I don’t trust him to leave us there on the island”.
“Oh well if you’re staying here you can clean the floor in the heads”, said Bardin, mercilessly.
They all thought it might be an emotional farewell to Lord Robert And The Girls, but then Kitty started prattling piously about something, and instead they took their leave with much relief.
“We will try and wireless you any information we can”, Bardin said to Lord Robert “When we can. If there’s any sign that things are safer there we will definately let you know”.
“This is cheerio not goodbye”, said Jane.
“Absolutely”, said Adam, although secretly he wished he could leave the Cave4 out of that promise.
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