Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Chapter 22 - About a Hat

In the distance, kicking up piles of fallen leaves from the line of trees that demarcated the border of the grounds of Much Malarkey Manor, there was a pure white chicken with a pink bottom and an even purer white silky bantam with a blue comb. Gloria Pumphrey and Bob Frapples were taking the air. Autumn had created the kind of crisp but warm day when the clear, blue skies lent themselves to brisk country walks.

'So, said Mrs Pumphrey, linking her wing through Bob's, 'how did 'Boom Penguin' come to split up? You all see to get on really well.'

They stopped by a fallen tree trunk and Bob removed his scarf, spreading it gallantly on the rough bark, so Mrs Pumphrey could sit in comfort. He sighed.
'It was over something very silly,' he said. 'In fact, looking back a it now, ridiculously silly. I doubt you'd believe me even if I told you.'
'Try me,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who had seen some pretty ridiculous things in her time, especially since she'd met Mrs Slocombe.
'Oh, it was crazy. You won't believe a word,' said Bob.
'No, really, try me,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'Oh no...'
'Go on...'
'No really...'
'BOB!' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'I insist you tell me why 'Boom Penguin' split up.' And she whacked him across the wing to ram home her determination to know the truth.

'All right,' said Bob, picking himself up from the ground. 'If you insist.'
'I do,' said Mrs Pumphrey, severly, in case Bob decided to start any of that argumentative malarkey again.

'It was all over a hat,' said Bob.
'That's ridiculous,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'See,' said Bob. 'I told you that's what you'd think.'
'But carry on,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'Minto?'
'Thank you,' said Bob, taking a sweet from the proffered packet. 'You see, Boom had this hat. His 'lucky hat' he called it.'
'Did it save him from being killed by a tortoise that was dropped from the sky by a golden eagle?' asked Mrs Pumphrey, who was an avid consumer of the urban myth.
'No,' said Bob, looking a liitle puzzled. 'It was supposedly given to him when he was an egg by his father.'
'Ah,' said Mrs Pumphrey, sensing some of the romance leaking from the tale.
'He never knew his father,' said Bob. 'What with kakapos being even rarer back in those days than they are now. But he was very close to his mother. And when he decided to leave New Zealand to seek his fortune in England...'
'How odd,' interrupted Mrs Pumphrey.
'Indeed,' said Bob,'she presented him with this hat. 'This belonged to your father,' she said. 'He wore it to cover his bald spot. Well, after that Boom wore it too, and was convinced that it was the magic in the hat that kept him from inheriting his father's tendency to baldness.'
'Like a 'guardian-angel-of-the-hair hat?' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'But I thought male pattern baldness was inherited from the maternal grandparent's side of the family, not the father's?'
'It is,' said Bob, who was glad that his own mother's family were as hairy as they come. 'But Boom didn't know this. He was convinced his father was looking after his hair via the magic of the hat. And then one day, the hat went missing.'
'Oh dear,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'We turned the place upside-down looking for it. Boom even ordered the tour bus to be stripped back to the metal in case it had fallen down the back of a seat or the chemical toilet. But it couldn't be found. The hat had gone for good.'

Bob leant back and sucked thoughtfully on his Minto.

'And then the rumours began,' he said. 'That the hat hadn't been simply lost. That it had been stolen.'
'Good Lord,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'By then, Boom had started to lose some of the hair on his head. Of course, he thought it was because he was no longer being protected by the magic of the hat.'
'And is this what you thought?' said Mrs Pumphrey.
Bob shook his head. 'I rather thought it was more to do with the stress of Honeybun and Laetita being in his life at the same time. All the bitching and sniping that was going on, well it'd cause even the most robust of birds to lose a feather or two. I tried to explain this to Boom, but he wouldn't listen.'

'And what about the rumour? Who started that?' asked Mrs Miggins.
'That we aren't sure,' Bob said. 'It was either Honeybun or Laetitia. Both blamed each other. And then Dave took Laetitia's side, accusing Boom and Honeybun of behaving like shameless bullies. He even suggested to Laetitia that they ran away together. To Rio, I think. Or was it Newport Pagnell? Either way, Boom suddenly accused Dave of stealing the hat, which I personally think was a euphemism for Dave's intention to steal Laetitia away.'
'And that's how the band split?' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'In a nut-shell,' said Bob. 'Tension got so much that even Stix and I got to the point where we'd had enough of the squabbling. So we called it a day. Boom and Dave tried to carry as a duet for a while, with Honeybun and Laetitia on backing vocals, but it all got too acrimonious. Pity really. They're a very talented team, Boom and Shiplap.'

'I would never have thought hats could cause so much trouble,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'If you think that was bad I should tell you the story of the nutcrackers,' said Bob.
'Another day, maybe,' said Mrs Pumphrey. She nodded towards the marquee arena. 'Listen, they've started rehearsing again. We'd better get back. Be on hand to keep the peace.'

'Indeed, dearest Gloria,' said Bob. Standing, he picked up his scraf and wrapped it around his neck. It was still warm from Mrs Pumphrey's bottom. Bob allowed himself a tiny, thrilled sigh, before trotting after Mrs Pumphrey back towards the Manor.

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