Thursday, 12 November 2009

Chapter 14 - The Boys Are Back In Town

With a rumble and a thump, and some big old headlights sweeping through the gates, the peace and quiet at Much Malarkey Manor was broken, just as everyone was getting to sleep.
'What on earth?' I said, leaping out of bed and flinging open the window,peering into the dark, inky night.
'It's all right,' yelled Mrs Pumphrey, from where she was standing on the drive in her Zsa Zsa Gabor fashion jim-jams and matching dressing gown, 'go back to sleep. We've got it all under control.'
'What's going on?' said Andy, half awake, half asleep and fighting to hang on to the dream where he was playing the latest incarnation of Doctor Who.
'Two enormous pantechnicons have arrived,' I said. 'And Mrs Slocombe is guiding them up the drive with what appears to be two ping-pong bats.'
'Part of the archealogical dig,I expect,' said Andy, yawning.
'At twenty past midnight?' I said. I was thinking, he's become very blase about this whole finding-rare-marble-under-the-lawn malarkey.
'Italians keep very odd hours,' said Andy.
I climbed back into bed, and tried to ignore the thunderous rumble of the lorries as they made their way to the back of the Manor.
'Don't you think it's a bit odd to have a parrot as Professor of Archaeology at the University of Rome?' I said.
Andy shrugged. 'To be honest, nothing surprises me these days. Besides, he wasn't a parrot.'
'Looked like a parrot to me,' I said. 'What is he, then?'
'Kakapo,' said Andy.
'All right, 'I said. 'I was only asking.'
'The Professor is a Kakapo. It's an endangered species from New Zealand. Nests on the ground and goes 'Boom.'
'Well I'm not surprised it's endangered,' I said. 'Nesting on the ground seems a pretty stupid thing to do. Wouldn't they get stood on by elephants?'
'They don't have elephants in New Zealand,' said Andy.
'Don't they?' I said, but then natural history was never my strong point. Nor was Maths, but let's not change the subject.

At the back of the grounds, by the newly tarmacked Japanese water garden, the two pantechnicons came to a halt.
'Welcome!' called Mrs Pumphrey. 'Welcome to Much Malarkey Manor.'
She stood back as the cab door of the first lorry swung open and a magnificent goose jumped to the ground, shaking his tail feathers as he landed.
'Phwoar!' said Mrs Slocombe, as the goose stepped forward and puffed out his chest.
'Evening, ladies,' said the goose. 'Steve 'Stix' Stubbins, drummer extraordinaire at your service.' And he gave a bow, taking Mrs Pumphrey's wing and kissing the tip.
Mrs Pumphrey giggled girlishly, but only because the author can't countenance the use of the word 'Chickenly,'
'Me too, me too,' said Mrs Slocombe, leaping forward and holding out her wing. Unfortunately, she still had a hold of her ping-pong bats and managed to catch Steve 'Stix' Stubbins a swipe across his beak.
'Ooufff!' he said, but remained the gentleman and kissed Mrs Slocombe's wing, too.
'So,' he said. 'Where's old Boom? Where's me old mate, me old pal, the two-timing, shallow git?'
'Hello Stix,' said Boom, emerging from the shadows of the marquee arena where he'd been pacing out the area waiting to receive the stage.
'Boom!' yelled Stix, and flung himself at the kakapo, and two friends hugged each other in a manly embrace until quite a few of their feathers fell out.
'So where's Bob?' said Boom.

Stix flicked his head back to the lorry cab. 'In there,' he said. 'He's been travel sick all the way here. Cab smells like a sewer. Bob's in the bunk, sleeping it off.'
'Better leave him to it, then,' said Boom. 'We can catch up with him in the morning. Come and see the arena. See what you think.'

The two strutted off in blokish fashion, followed closely by a smitten Mrs Slocombe. Mrs Pumphrey lingered on the driveway. It seemed somehow heartless to leave the third member of Boom Penguin languishing in the bunk, travel sick and alone.
She hoiked herself onto the footplate of the cab and tapped gingerly on the cab window.
'Mr Frapples?' she called softly. 'Coo-eee, are you there, Mr Frapples?'
Strange gurgling noises emitted from behind the stained flora curtain.
'My name's Gloria,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Gloria Pumphrey. Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee? Ginger nut biscuits?'

The curtains slowly parted and a tiny head ventured forth. White fluffy feathers, a pale blue comb, and the tiniest pair of squinty eyes Mrs Pumphrey had ever seen.

'Yuuurghhhh,' said Bob Frapples, bantam weight keyboard player of Boom Penguin.

'Hello,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'You look awful.'
'Thank you,' said Bob Frapples.
'Sorry,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'I didn't mean it quite like that. I hear you've had a bad journey.'
'The worst since we went to Norway in a coracle for a laugh,' said Bob. 'But we were young and, if I remember correctly, drunk at the time.'
'Nasty,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Look, come into Cluckinghen Palace. I've made up the bed in the Chinese Green Room for you. Hot water bottle's already in, and I can make you a mug of peppermint tea, to settle your tum.'

Bob Frapples pulled himself free from the bunk. 'You're too kind, my dear lady,' he said.
Mrs Pumphrey blushed. 'It's the least I can do,' she said. 'I know what delicate creatures you Silky bantams are.'
'Such sensitivity,' said Bob. 'So rare in the world today.'
'Then follow me,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'Lead on, Macduff,' said Bob.

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