THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter Nineteen

27 Feb

19. JUST TOO LATE?

Before Imageous and his three companions arrive at Swanspottle and get on with their lives, let me provide the reader with a little history of the place. A few miles from the larger town of Brumpton and tucked tidily in the country, Swanspottle consists almost entirely of a pub, a church and a single row of cottages together with open countryside. It along that single row of coattages that one Griselda Entwhistle lives, but her stories are told elsewhere.

The pub, The Crown and Anchor is run by Thomas the Greek (who has never been Greek), a landlord who cares for the health of his best customers by diluting his draught beer in order to a) make it less toxic and b) increase his profits. Whether he achieves a) is uncertain, but he certainly manages to do b). It has also been noted that his standards of hygiene are, to be generous, filthy.

The pub has a large car-park with room for more cars than are ever likely to call at the place, and in order to further enhance his profit margin Thomas the Greek is perfectly happy to hire most of it out to all comers as long as they can afford his charges.

Which all goes to illustrate that when he’d let a travelling fairground hire it there was precious little room for customers to park and even less for Enid and her helicopter to find a cosy spot to land.

“There’s a spot. I think I can squeeze in. Just about.” she murmured, looking down as carefully as she could whilst Alphonse massaged her knee and as high up her thigh as propriety allowed. “Best be careful, though, there’s an ambulance just round the corner and I don’t think it’s there to rescue anyone scalped by my rotor-blades! So let’s squeeze in!”

“And I can squeeze in just here,” he perved, grinning in a most unmedical way.

“Now don’t forget you’re a doctor!” she reproved, “and let me concentrate or we’ll all end up as sausage meat.”

Enid eased the helicopter down towards a corner of the fairground. The down-draft from its blades created havoc on the Throw a Dart and Win a Teddy stall, and the toddler’s train was derailed on a tight corner. But downwards she eased her great metal bird until it had settled onto tarmac with only a few feet separating it from the Crown and Anchor wall and even less from the Ghost Train.

Thomas the Greek appeared in the doorway., his hands on his waist and rage on his face. He didn’t like the noise and the way the descending helicopter had sent waves of air-born dust though the door and into his already dusty lounge bar and he didn’t like the way that potential customers had been halted on their way to the inside of his pub out of a mixture of curiosity and fear and had consequently stayed on the outside, staring.

“What are you doing putting that thing there?” he bellowed, and Enid climbed out of the pilot seat, exposing far too much of her delicious legs and a patch of glimmering white silk as she did so. I doubt she did that deliberately, but bearing in mind her long history as a fallen woman it’s highly probable that she did. Either way, Thomas the Greek needed to use a greasy towel, the one he used for drying drinking glasses, to cover his embarrassment, and that barely proved sufficient when he remembered he’d left his flies undone.

“What a charming little pub,” enthused Enid.

“I don’t like it,” almost stammered Imageous as he put his second foot onto terra firma and breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’ll have a pint,” declared Bertie, who had almost recovered from his years as a novice at the old Monastery, where alcohol was unknown, as were all stimulants with the exception of prayer.

“Not too quick, my boy,” snarled Alphonse, “we’ve come here for a purpose and when that’s over and done with we’ll all have a hearty drink before Enid pilots us back home.”

“I think I can see something that might interest Imageous,” said Enid, “Look over there: at that tempting looking little stall with its mountain of fluffy toys as prizes all waiting to be won!”

“They’re fluffy ducks,” muttered the thirsty Bernie.

“And what does the sign say?” asked Enid, “surely that rings a great big bell inside your head?”

Imageous tried to focus his eyes, but unknown to him he was a little long-sighted and hadn’t seen anything in the distance properly since his teens. He’d grown up with the handicap and because he’d been cloistered in an unholy building with virtually no access to the outside world (with the exception of its rather large cabbage patch, where he was obliged to toil in summer and winter alike) he’d not really been greatly handicapped, though it may partly explain his earlier misunderstanding of helicopters.

“It says HOOK A DESERT DUCK” read Alphonse, who had twenty/twenty vision on account of his expensive spectacles and an intimate knowledge of his optician and some of her delightful ways.

“And I know who runs the hook a duck stall in this fair,” declared Bertie’s Mother, pushing her ample chest forwards. “ I think I told you, Imageous, didn’t I?”

“My mother?” asked Imageous, nervously.

“The very same! And before we go and greet her I’d better warn you. She’s not your average fairground operative because she’s a very wealthy woman and doesn’t need a penny for her labours. She does it all for fun.”

“That’s daft, if you ask me,” put in Bertie, “I mean, standing out here in all weathers come rain or shine when she doesn’t have to.

“You’ll find out.” Enid’s eyes were twinkling. “It’s years since I saw her but I hear she’s hardly changed even though she does have an elderly gentleman as a son…”

“I never thought this moment would come…” sighed Imageous “To meet mummy for the first time, and at my age too!”

“Don’t be too hasty!” almost shouted Alphonse, grabbing Imageous by one arm and pulling him back. “Look!”

And the son of the mother stared towards the hook a duck stall as two paramedics, purposeful and almost running as if to catch the dead, and carrying a stretcher between them, pushed their way through the thong towards that very stall.

“Quick!” one shouted, “the old lady’s flat-lining! Her croaky old heart’s stopped it’s pounding! She’s an ex-stall-holder, may her God bless her!”

“Let’s het her and pound some life back into her!” shouted his colleague, “I love that bit, pounding chests!”

And the little group of four watched as an obviously very old and possibly very dead woman was lain, as carefully as if she’d been alive and kicking, onto the stretcher, and carried slowly and with a certain majesty off, towards an ambulance.

“Oh, blast it!” croaked Enid sadly.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 12.02.17

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